hip dysplasia in dogs can affect these young pups without being symptomatic puppies li

The Ins and Outs of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs


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Hip dysplasia in dogs is a common concern for our canine friends. Especially bigger breeds like the German Shepherd, Golden Retriever and Labrador, to name a few. It’s a joint disorder that occurs when the hip joint doesn’t develop properly.

Like many other hereditary conditions, this condition tends to be more prevalent in purebred dogs, though it can occur in any pooch. Knowing yours is a breed that’s more likely to have it can help encourage you to look for signs and get in early with managing the onset.

Find out how in this article.

hip dysplasia in dogs happens when the ball and the socket grow at different rates

What is hip dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is a skeletal disorder that begins in puppies and is progressive. The hip has two parts that work and fit together to allow movement – the ball and the socket. When they develop at different rates the resulting condition is called hip dysplasia.

Like so many conditions, hip dysplasia is a medical condition that can occur in pups and people. Interestingly, hip dysplasia in humans is more likely in firstborn children and girls.

Hip dysplasia causes the joint to be too loose and, as a result, creates abnormal movement. And it’s precisely that hip movement your dog depends on for each step they take. Gradually this wears away at the cartilage, often causing scar tissue and bone spurs. As your pup ages, hip dysplasia can eventually cause degenerative joint disease and arthritis.

Healthy Pets New Zealand has funded research using New Zealand Veterinary Association data to help reduce hip dysplasia in dogs. Watch this video from PD and Dr Cath Watson to find out more about the research:

Hip dysplasia in dogs is genetic

Hip dysplasia in dogs is a genetic illness. And the reason it’s more common in purebreds is that their gene pool tends to be more limited to achieve certain breed traits. Although hip dysplasia is a condition passed from parent to pup, there are also external factors that can exacerbate the issue.

That sounds bad, but it can also be a good thing. Because once you know what these factors are, you can safeguard your pup from them. In fact, our lifestyle management options further down can, in some cases, help your dog live an entirely normal life.

Find out about the difference between hereditary and congenital conditions in dogs. Now back to affecting factors that worsen hip dysplasia in dogs…

Large breed puppies, growth rate and diet

The rate at which your dog grows plays a significant role in whether they get hip dysplasia and/or how severe it becomes. This may seem under mother nature’s control, but in fact, you can help to regulate your puppy’s growth.

How? Your vet needs to be your advisor on the matter – ask them about food specially formulated for large breed puppies.

A large breed puppy has a 70-fold increase in size during its first year. During this time, getting the mix of vitamins, minerals and nutrients just right is crucial. Feeding your fast-growing puppy the appropriate diet will help prevent excessive growth that can cause hip dysplasia. And of course, too much goodness doesn’t help – so it’s about what you feed them, when you feed them and how much.

Other factors that can affect hip dysplasia in dogs include weight, muscle mass and exercise/fitness. Read about puppy games to play and how to do so in moderation.

And if you’re not sure how big your dog will grow, read how to project your puppy’s adult dog size.

Ethical dog breeders

An important factor when buying a purebred pup is identifying an ethical dog breeder who openly shares the health status of both dog parents. Good dog breeders will do tests before breeding a pair, to ensure they minimise any hereditary illness being passed on.

A breeder who genuinely cares about their dogs wants to breed healthy puppies who live a long successful life.

hip dysplasia in dogs can start in puppies this young

Signs and symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs

Because there are so many influencing factors, and each dog is different, symptoms can vary greatly. The effect of hip dysplasia tends to worsen as your dog ages.

Although hip dysplasia starts while dogs are young, they often only show outward signs when they’re older.

Here are signs to look for:

  • A weak, swaying or wobbly walk
  • Limping or pain when moving around (on the back legs)
  • Inability to endure long periods of exercise
  • Bunny hopping (where a dog’s hind legs move together in small hops instead of normal running)
  • Popping or clicking sounds in the hips (especially when getting up or moving around)

As hip dysplasia in dogs worsens with age, you may also notice:

  • Difficulty jumping
  • Difficulty climbing stairs and getting onto furniture
  • Muscle weakness in one or both back legs (often a visible lack of muscle)

Luxating patella in a dog is another condition that can cause many of these symptoms too.

An owner hugs their dog who's recovered from surgery

How to treat hip dysplasia in dogs

Identifying hip dysplasia in dogs early on, along with getting the right treatment can decrease (and sometimes prevent) long-term complications. Like, for example, arthritis. A range of surgical and non-surgical treatments exist. Your vet can guide you according to your dog’s condition, age as well as your budget.

Of course, if you get puppy insurance prior to the emergence of a hereditary illness, once the waiting period passes you’ll have cover to pay for many of the treatment costs. So if you’re wondering is dog insurance worth it, the answer is the sooner the better.

Vets will likely also prescribe anti-inflammatories to reduce pain and inflammation. They may also recommend joint supplements like glucosamine, along with physiotherapy or hydrotherapy. If conditions like arthritis are prevalent, they might suggest injections to help manage this.

Read exercising dogs without walking to find what DIY activities might be safe for dogs with hip dysplasia.

Non-surgical lifestyle tips

Lifestyle plays an enormous role in keeping your dog healthy and hopefully preventing hereditary ailments from setting in. While your dog’s genes can make them prone to certain issues, your knowledge is power. A comprehensive understanding of triggers gives you the ultimate toolkit for lifestyle changes to protect your pup.

Here are some examples:

  • Diet. Diet is the bedrock of health. It may seem like a lifestyle choice, but a well-managed diet is truly a health plan that can avert numerous severe conditions. Like hip dysplasia in dogs. Diet management also protects against weight gain, which can eventually lead to diabetes in dogs
  • Rest periods. Use these as needed. It’s great to keep your pet fit and well-exercised while also knowing how much of a workout their breed needs. Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Read about IVDD in Dachshunds and other dogs to learn about ramps and more that take the strain off your dog’s skeletal system.
  • Supplements. Getting your dog the right dog supplements at the right time in their life is ideal. Just be sure to consult with your vet, because it’s easy to also over-nutrify – which is why a balance of diet and supplements always needs to be met.

In many cases dogs respond well to lifestyle management, which is ongoing rather than one-off or occasional. If not, then surgical intervention might be necessary.

hip dysplasia in dogs in common in large breeds like this one

Surgical options

In cases of severe hip dysplasia in dogs, surgical intervention can be the best treatment option. There are several surgical options available, so discuss your vet’s prognosis in detail to understand the pros and cons before deciding.

Here’s a list of surgical options to give you a brief overview:

  • Puppies under 18 weeks. Early diagnosis of hip dysplasia in dogs means early treatment. When a diagnosis is made for puppies under 18 weeks old, they can undergo a joint-saving procedure called juvenile pubic symphysiodesis. This involves two pelvic bones being fused together to allow the rest of the hip to develop normally, increasing movement in the hips.
  • Puppies under 10 months. Dogs younger than 10 months can undergo surgery called a triple pelvic osteotomy (TPO). With TPO the ball and socket joint are realigned so they can develop correctly. While this procedure has a good success rate, it needs to be done before there’s damage to the socket.
  • Adult dogs. Severe cases of hip dysplasia in dogs can warrant total hip replacement. While this procedure is costly and invasive, replacing the hip joint with an artificial can, in some cases, restore normal function to the hip.
  • Adult dogs. Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO) is an option generally recommended for older and smaller dogs. FHO involves removing part of the hip joint to create scar tissue (over time). The scar tissue acts as a replacement to the joint, holding the bones in place. This procedure can relieve pain but doesn’t lead to the same level of restoration and movement as a hip replacement.

Surgical treatment, when needed, can make an enormous difference to your dog’s quality of life. Many of these procedures have very good success rates and can allow your pup to return to a fairly normal life.

Dog insurance to give your dog a soft landing

Hip dysplasia in dogs and many other health issues can easily eat up your entire life savings with vet visits, prescription medicine, surgery and hospital stays.

You never want to decide between your pup and your purse strings, right? If you get your pet plan early, before any conditions develop, your policy can help pay for a wide range of treatment costs.

Plus, depending on the age of your pup, when you sign up with PD Insurance online we’ll give you one or more months of dog insurance free! Go on try it out – get a quote today by clicking below – it’s easy, fast and reliable. Just like our claims process.

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