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Hip dysplasia is a progressive, degenerative disease. In this article, our Fort Collins vets discuss treatment options for hip dysplasia in dogs and ways to help reduce the impact of this painful condition.

The Mechanics of Hip Dysplasia

When it comes to your dog, their hip joints function similarly to a ball and socket. However, if your furry friend is diagnosed with hip dysplasia, it means that the ball and socket in their hip haven't developed properly and aren't functioning as they should. As a result, the ball and socket grind and rub against each other, leading to ongoing deterioration, pain, and eventual loss of function in the affected hip.

Although hip dysplasia is commonly observed in giant or large breed dogs, it can also affect smaller breeds, causing this distressing joint condition. While dogs typically receive a diagnosis as adults, severe cases of hip dysplasia can be detected in puppies as young as four months old.

Failure to address hip dysplasia can have a profound impact on your dog's overall well-being since the condition induces significant pain and hampers their ability to move normally. Hence, it is crucial to seek proper treatment to prevent a substantial decline in your dog's quality of life.

The Causes of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Hip dysplasia in dogs is primarily a hereditary condition, with genetics being the primary factor contributing to its development. Although large and giant breeds such as mastiffs, St. Bernards, Rottweilers, retrievers, and bulldogs are commonly affected, certain smaller breeds like French bulldogs and pugs can also be susceptible.

If left untreated during the early stages, hip dysplasia tends to worsen over time and can impact both hips. Additionally, senior dogs may experience the compounding effects of hip dysplasia along with other painful conditions like osteoarthritis.

While hip dysplasia has a genetic basis, various factors can exacerbate the inherited predisposition. Inadequate weight management and nutrition, rapid growth rates, and certain types of exercise can all contribute to its development. Obesity, in particular, places excessive strain on your dog's joints and has the potential to worsen pre-existing hip dysplasia or even trigger the condition.

To help prevent the onset of hip dysplasia in your dog, it's essential to consult with your veterinarian regarding the appropriate amount of daily exercise and the most suitable diet for your dog's breed, age, and size. By following their guidance, you can take proactive measures to safeguard your dog's joint health.

Signs of Hip Dysplasia to Watch For

Every dog is different when it comes to 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 pooch grows into adulthood:

  • 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
  • Stiffness when running or rising from a resting position
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Grating or grinding of the joint when they move

Treating Hip Dysplasia in Puppies & Dogs

Treatment options for hip dysplasia range 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)

Femoral head ostectomy (FHO) is a surgical procedure that can be beneficial for both puppies/young dogs and mature dogs. This intervention involves the removal of the femoral head (the ball portion) of the hip joint, allowing the body to form a "false" joint, which helps alleviate the discomfort associated with hip dysplasia. While dogs undergoing FHO won't regain normal hip function, it can effectively manage their pain.

Following the surgery, the duration of your dog's hospital stay can vary from a few hours to several days, depending on their overall health and other factors. Your veterinary surgeon will provide you with specific instructions for post-operative care after FHO surgery. It is crucial to ensure that your dog avoids any strenuous physical activity for a minimum of 30 days. In most cases, complete recovery can be expected within approximately six weeks. Once fully healed, your dog can resume their regular physical activities without restrictions.

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, resulting in an improvement of 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)

Total hip replacement (THR) is often considered the optimal surgical treatment for dogs with hip dysplasia, as it is highly effective in most cases. This procedure involves the utilization of plastic and metal implants to replace the entire hip joint, restoring hip function to a more normal state and alleviating the majority of discomfort associated with hip dysplasia.

Nevertheless, it's important to note that THR is a significant and costly surgical option. Veterinarians typically recommend this procedure for dogs experiencing significant pain or those who have lost their mobility. The artificial components used in THR are specifically tailored for your dog, and the surgery is performed by a certified veterinary surgeon.

Total hip replacement surgery typically lasts around two to three hours, and your dog may require hospitalization for one to three days post-surgery. The recovery period is expected to span 12 weeks. Even if hip dysplasia affects both hips, the surgeries are usually performed one hip at a time, allowing for a recovery period of three to six months between surgeries.

Preventing Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

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

Since hip dysplasia is predominately a hereditary condition, the best way to avoid having to care for a dog with hip dysplasia is to select a puppy from a reputable breeder. A good breeder will know the medical history of the parents and grandparents and be aware of any family history of hip dysplasia. Spending time researching your breeder could save you a lot of 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 pooch 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 are able to handle it can lead to hip dysplasia as well as elbow dysplasia and other painful joint conditions.

Supplements & Diet

If your dog is experiencing joint pain or faces 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 to 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 find out if this is an appropriate option for your dog.

Appropriate Exercise & Play

The exercise requirements for dogs vary depending on their breed and size, as it plays a crucial role in stimulating their minds and maintaining their physical health. The activity needs of an Irish Wolfhound, for instance, differ significantly from those of a Border Collie. It's essential to recognize that excessive or improper exercise has the potential to exacerbate a dog's genetic predisposition to hip dysplasia.

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.

Is your dog showing signs of hip dysplasia? Contact our Fort Collins vets to book an examination for your pup. Our vets have experience helping  dogs move comfortably.

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South Mesa Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients to our veterinary hospital! Our team is passionate about the health of Fort Collins pets. Reach out today to book your pet's first appointment.

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