Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Mention hip dysplasia and it conjures up pictures of puppy mills indiscriminately breeding dogs.  However, hip dysplasia can occur in any dog.  It is a malformation of the ball and socket of the hip joint.  Causes include a multigene inheritance, an interaction of genetic and environmental factors, or the gradual malformation of the joint due to osteoarthritis.  Rapid weight gain and obesity can cause the problem, especially in large and giant dogs.  Nutritional factors such as too much protein are also suspected.

Hip dysplasia is one of the most common skeletal problems seen in dogs.  It does not favor one gender over another, but is predominant in large and giant breeds.  Small dogs rarely have hip dysplasia, and when they do have it, the disease is mild and symptoms are minimal.

Hip dysplasia often begins while a dog is young and physically immature.  It usually develops after four months of age.  If it has not developed by two years of age, this type of hip dysplasia probably will not develop.  Later onset hip dysplasia usually occurs due to injury or osteoarthritis.

Hip dysplasia is a strange disease.  Some dogs can have horribly malformed joints and show no clinical signs of the disease, while other dogs can have relatively intact joints and be in great pain.  Early in the disease, clinical signs are related to joint looseness or laxity, while later in the disease, signs are related to joint degeneration and osteoarthritis.  Other symptoms include: decreased activity, difficulty rising, reluctance to run, jump, or climb stairs, intermittent or persistent hind-limb lameness, bunny hopping, narrow stance in the hind limbs, pain in the hip joints, grating detected with joint movement, decreased range of motion in the hip joints, loss of

The veterinarian will do the usual examination, including blood work and an urinalysis.  He will also go over the dog’s history, particularly any injuries or incidents that may have caused your dog’s symptoms.  Any information you have on your dog’s parentage will be helpful as well, especially if the parents or any other puppy they have had has been diagnosed with hip dysplasia.

X-rays are absolutely necessary for seeing signs of hip dysplasia.  Some other findings may be degenerative disease of the spinal cord, lumbar vertebral instability, bilateral stifle disease and other bone diseases, and only x-rays can rule these out.

Hip dysplasia can be treated with medication to control inflammation and pain, or surgery can be performed to fix the problem.  There are several types of surgery that may be performed.  Dogs under a year may have TPO surgery, which rotates the sockets.  Dogs under six months may undergo juvenile pubic symphysiodesis surgery, fusing part of the pelvis to improve hip joint stability.  Older dogs may have a total hip replacement.  If the dog is less than 44 pounds and the cost of total hip replacement surgery is prohibitive, the ball of the femur may be cut off and muscle used for the joint.

Any dog with hip dysplasia should not be bred, as there is a genetic component to the disease.  The dog’s parents should not be bred again, either.