Hip Dysplasia In Dogs

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Hip dysplasia is a term used to describe the improper development of the coxofemoral joints (hip joints). The hip joint is normally a nice form fitting ball and socket joint. With hip dysplasia, the abnormal development occurs as the femoral head (ball) and the acetabulum (socket) pull apart from each other, creating space, looseness/laxity, and subluxation (partial dislocation) of the joint. Hip dysplasia is a complex disease caused by a genetic predisposition and can be influenced by environmental factors. It is more commonly seen in young large breed dogs: German shepherds, Newfoundlands, Rottweilers, Labrador, Golden retrievers, etc. Smaller breeds can be affected but are more difficult to diagnose, as they are less likely to show clinical signs.

The most common clinical signs noted by owners will include difficulty getting up stairs or jumping up, limping with a back leg after strenuous activity, bunny hopping, difficulty getting up after lying down for a while, stiff back legs, and reluctance to exercise. The underlying cause for hip dysplasia is a genetic predisposition in the breed of the dog. Other causes that will contribute to the development of hip dysplasia are poor muscle mass, unbalanced nutrition, too much weight gain, decreased exercise, etc. As hip dysplasia persists, what happens is a series of events that will eventually lead to degenerative joint disease or arthritis of the hips.

Hip dysplasia is a conditioned best evaluated early on in dogs. Physical examination, history, and a thorough orthopedic evaluation is the best way to start. On examination pain can be noted when trying to flex or extend the back legs, poor range of motion of the hips, poor hind limb muscle tone, and as arthritis develops, you will be able to feel crepitus (friction) at the hip joints. Imaging with orthopedic X-rays is still the gold standard to diagnose hip dysplasia, as it will demonstrate the subluxation of the hip joints and evidence of arthritis. Treatment for hip dysplasia is based on the age of the animal when diagnosed, as there are surgical options. Home care consists of weight management; exercise to help maintain muscle tone; joint supplements like glucosamines, chondroitins, and polysulfated glycosaminoglycans; pain medication as indicated; and other methods to reduce the onset of progression of arthritis. Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be allowed to reproduce, as the disease can be passed on