When considering whether to add a purebred pooch to your home, it makes sense to consider the possibility of canine hip dysplasia. While not limited only to certain breeds, this condition is a common finding, especially in large breed dogs.
While canine hip dysplasia is nothing for the average pet owner to lose sleep over, it is important to understand. Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital wants you to be educated, no bones about it.
The Basics of Canine Hip Dysplasia
The hip joint, referred to in professional company as the coxofemoral joint, is a basic ball and socket. The pelvis forms the socket, called the acetabulum, which fits the ball portion at the top of the femur. Because of its ball and socket set-up, the coxofemoral joint has a unique and wide range of motion.
Dysplasia refers to abnormal development. In canine hip dysplasia, the ball and socket coxofemoral joint is abnormally formed. This results in a less-than-perfect fit that causes laxity and sometimes even leads to the hip intermittently or permanently popping out of joint (luxation). This problem leads to a decreased range of motion, pain, and joint instability that eventually causes the development of osteoarthritis.
Any animal with a hip joint can have hip dysplasia. Humans suffer from this condition and it has also been diagnosed in cats. Most commonly, however, our veterinarians see it in large breed dogs such as Labradors and German Shepherds.
There are several factors involved with the development of canine hip dysplasia. These include genetics, overall conformation, rapid growth rate, nutritional imbalances, and the rate of weight gain.
Symptoms of hip dysplasia may include:
- Bunny-hopping during running
- Reluctance to rise from a down or sitting position
- Hesitance to jump up on things or go up stairs
- Loss of muscling in the rear limb(s)
What Smart Pet Owners Want to Know
Canine hip dysplasia is often manageable, but, short of major orthopedic surgery, it isn’t really fixable. Helping your pet to steer clear of this diagnosis is the best case scenario. You can:
- Research the incidence of canine hip dysplasia in the breed(s) you are interested in
- Choose a puppy from a lineage without hip dysplasia
- Choose a puppy from stock that has been certified free of hip dysplasia
- Feed a diet formulated for large breed growing puppies
- Avoid supplementing your large breed puppy’s diet with additional protein or nutrients
- Do not allow your large breed puppy to freely feed
There has also been some research that indicated that neutering before puberty can lead to growth changes that may increase the incidence of orthopedic disease including hip dysplasia. This risk is often weighed with other concerns and our recommendations will vary from dog to dog. Ask us at what age we recommend spaying or neutering your pet.
If your pet has been diagnosed with hip dysplasia, it is not necessarily the end of the world. A great many dogs do just fine with careful weight management strategies, nutritional joint supplements, and treatments such as rehabilitation therapy. Even with the onset of osteoarthritis, we have a great many treatment options at our disposal.
While some pets with canine hip dysplasia may require surgery (such as a hip replacement) to be comfortable, most do not. Trying to choose a pet who is not genetically predisposed to the problem and nutritionally managing growth are the best bets to steer clear of this orthopedic obstacle.
Canine hip dysplasia is not a diagnosis that we ever want to give, but rest assured that we are here to help if that happens. Your pets are our priority, orthopedic problems or otherwise.