Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Hip Dysplasia is a skeletal condition that tends to affect larger breeds, some smaller breeds, and is a hereditary condition. Dogs such as, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Great Danes, and St. Bernard’s are more likely to suffer from this joint problem, so there is probably a genetic underlying component . Hip dysplasia occurs when the hip joint fails to develop properly, causing it to rub and grind instead of sliding smoothly eventually causing osteoarthritic changes. Over time, the deterioration of the joint results in a reduced function. However, though the cause can’t be controlled, the effects can be modified by environmental factors, such as proper weight, the right diet and exercise program. 

Maintain an appropriate diet
It’s important that you feed your dog the right food for their age and size. For example, larger breeds have puppy food intended for them, which helps control their growth rate. By slowing down the breeds’ growth, it puts less pressure on their joints as they continue to grow. Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet also prevent obesity. Any excess weight on your dog adds pressure to their joints, especially if they’re pre-disposed to hip dysplasia. Other preventative ways include giving your large breed food that contains glucosamine and other glucosamine supplements to protect their joints. Although the supplements don’t guarantee that your dog won’t develop hip dysplasia, it may lessen the discomfort that comes with it.  Talk to your vet about the best diet for your dog and the appropriate amount of exercise your dog needs each day to keep him in good physical condition.

It appears that excessive, prolonged training programs are best to wait until your puppy has finished his growth.  Excessive jogging on hard surfaces can be tough on large, rapidly growing dogs.  Waiting until adolescence, and finding softer surfaces, such as grass and sand, can be beneficial to prevent excessive trauma of these sensitive joints.

Symptoms to Look out for
As with any health condition, there are symptoms that dog owners should know about hip dysplasia. Some dogs may display issues with hip dysplasia as puppies, while others will show symptoms as they age. These symptoms may vary depending on the severity of the disease, the inflammation level, looseness in the joint, and how long the dog has suffered from hip dysplasia. If you think your dog has hip dysplasia, there are some of the symptoms to look out for:
• Decreased activity
• Decreased range of motion
• Difficulty or reluctance rising, jumping, running, or climbing stairs
• Lameness in the hind end
• Looseness in the joint
• Narrow stance
• Swaying, “bunny hopping” gait
• Grating in the joint during movement
• Loss of thigh muscle mass
• Noticeable enlargement of the shoulder muscles as they compensate for the hind end
• Pain
• Stiffness

Treatment for Hip Dysplasia
If you think your dog is suffering from hip dysplasia, as with any other health concerns, it’s key to see his vet. The vet will go through a physical exam to determine if your dog’s joints are at risk or already experiencing the effects of hip dysplasia. Usually an x-ray is the best way to catch if your dog is suffering from this condition. 
Often times vets may initially manage these conditions with modified activity and anti-inflammatory medications and joint fluid modifiers.   More severe cases may  eventually require surgical intervention such as Double or triple pelvic osteotomy (DPO/TPO), Femoral head osteotomy (FHO), or total hip replacement (THR).   These are best performed by an experienced veterinary orthopedic surgeon.

Have a question for Dr. Klein? Email him at CVO@akc.org