Our Somerset veterinarians are discussing treatment options and ways to alleviate the painful effects of hip dysplasia in dogs. This degenerative disease typically starts during a dog's puppyhood but is commonly diagnosed only after noticeable symptoms arise in adulthood.
The Mechanics of Hip Dysplasia
When a dog is diagnosed with hip dysplasia, their hip joint - which functions like a ball and socket - may not have developed properly.
This results in the ball and socket rubbing against each other, causing pain, breakdown, and eventual loss of function in the affected hip.
Although this condition is commonly seen in giant or large breed dogs, it can also occur in smaller breeds and may be detected as early as four months of age. I
f left untreated, hip dysplasia can significantly diminish your dog's quality of life by causing pain and reducing its mobility.
The Causes of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
Hip dysplasia is mainly a genetic condition in dogs, with large and giant breeds such as mastiffs, St. Bernards, retrievers, and bulldogs being the most affected.
However, some smaller breeds like French bulldogs and pugs are also susceptible. Early detection and treatment of hip dysplasia are crucial.
It worsens over time and can affect both hips, especially when compounded with other conditions, such as osteoarthritis in senior dogs.
In addition to genetics, factors such as poor weight management and nutrition, rapid growth rate, and certain types of exercise can exacerbate the development of hip dysplasia.
Obesity, in particular, can increase stress on a dog's joints, aggravate pre-existing hip dysplasia, or even cause the condition. To prevent hip dysplasia in your dog, it's important to consult your veterinarian about their daily exercise needs and the most appropriate diet for their breed, age, and size.
Signs of Hip Dysplasia to Watch For
Each dog is different regarding the hip dysplasia symptoms they exhibit. The condition generally starts to develop when the puppy is about five months old, but it may not become apparent until your dog reaches their middle or senior years. The severity and the extent of the symptoms also depend on how serious the condition is and where it is in its progression. Pet parents should watch for the following symptoms as their puppy grows into adulthood:
- Stiffness when running or rising from a resting position
- Decreased range of motion
- Grating or grinding of the joint when they move
- Pain while exercising (or a reluctance to exercise, run, jump, or climb stairs)
- Their back legs are stiff when they walk
- Running with a 'bunny hop'
- Lameness in the hind end
- Loss of muscle tone in back legs or thighs
Treating Hip Dysplasia in Puppies & Dogs
Treatment options for hip dysplasia range based on the severity of your dog's condition. Your vet may recommend simple changes in lifestyle, such as diet and exercise, or more intensive treatments such as pain meds or orthopedic surgery for your dog.
The Types of Hip Dysplasia Surgery
When it comes to the surgical treatment of hip dysplasia in dogs, there are 3 main surgical options available:
Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO)
FHO surgery is a viable option for both puppies/young dogs. It matures dogs with hip dysplasia, as it involves the removal of the femoral head (ball) from the hip joint to create a "false" joint that reduces pain associated with the condition. Although FHO surgery doesn't restore normal hip function, it can effectively manage discomfort.
Following FHO surgery, your dog may need to stay at the hospital for a few hours or several days, depending on their health and other factors. Your veterinarian will give you specific instructions for caring for your dog after the surgery, which will include preventing them from engaging in strenuous physical activity for at least 30 days. In most cases, dogs can expect to fully recover within six weeks and resume their usual physical activity.
Double or triple pelvic osteotomy (DPO/TPO)
DPO/TPO surgeries are most commonly performed in puppies and young dogs under 10 months old and involve cutting the pelvic bone in specific locations and then rotating the segments, improving the ball and socket joint.
Following these surgeries, your pup will require several weeks of reduced activity before they'll be able to enjoy properly leashed walks again and will need regular physical rehabilitation (physio for dogs) in order for full mobility to return (although you may notice an improvement in joint stability within as little as four weeks). Most dogs will recover within four to six weeks after DPO/TPO surgery.
Total Hip Replacement (THR)
In many cases, total hip replacement is the best surgical treatment option for hip dysplasia in dogs since it is typically the most effective. THR involves using plastic and metal implants to replace the entire hip joint, bringing hip function back to a more normal range and eliminating most hip dysplasia-related discomfort.
However, THP surgery is a drastic option and the most expensive. Most vets recommend this surgery for dogs experiencing considerable pain or those that have lost their mobility. The artificial components used in THR are custom-made for your puppy, and a certified veterinary surgeon performs the surgery.
Total hip replacement surgery usually takes about two to three hours, and your dog may need to be hospitalized for one to three days following the surgery. Expect a 12-week recovery period. Even if your dog's hip dysplasia appears in both hips, surgery may only be performed on one hip at a time, allowing between 3 - 6 months of recovery time between surgeries.
Preventing Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
Although hip dysplasia is largely a genetic condition inherited from previous generations, there are a few things that pet parents can do to help reduce the risk of their dog suffering from the debilitating effects of this condition.
Choose a Reputable Breeder
To avoid the need to care for a dog with hip dysplasia, it is best to choose a puppy from a reputable breeder since hip dysplasia is mainly an inherited condition. A responsible breeder will have knowledge of the medical history of the puppy's parents and grandparents, including any family history of hip dysplasia. Researching and finding a reputable breeder can save both heartache and money in the long run.
Help Your Dog Maintain a Healthy Weight
If you're already a pet parent, the best way to help prevent hip dysplasia in dogs is to help your puppy maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts additional stress on your pup's joints and can lead to unnecessary discomfort and joint pain.
Slow The Growth of Giant Breed Puppies
If you have a large or giant breed puppy, it is essential to slow the growth of these breeds in order to allow their joints to develop properly without putting too much strain on them. Excellerated growth and weight gain before your dog's joints can handle it can lead to hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and other painful joint conditions.
Supplements & Diet
If your dog is experiencing joint pain or has a high risk of developing hip dysplasia, speak to your vet about supplements such as glucosamine and fish oils that could help your dog's joints stay healthy. There are a number of readily available, high-quality dog foods on the market that contain ingredients to help your dog retain comfortable mobility. Speak to your vet to determine if this is an appropriate option for your dog.
Appropriate Exercise & Play
Dogs of varying breeds and sizes require different activity levels to keep their minds and bodies healthy. The exercise requirements of a Border Collie are vastly different from those of an Irish Wolfhound. Avoiding excessive or inappropriate exercise that could exacerbate a dog's genetic predisposition to hip dysplasia is important. To ensure the right exercise for your dog, do your research, speak to your breeder, and consult with your veterinarian. Avoid encouraging your dog to engage in exercise unsuitable for their body type.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.