Canine hip dysplasia is a common condition in puppies. In fact, it is one of the most common orthopaedic conditions seen in dogs. But what is hip dysplasia in dogs, and how is it treated?
Hip dysplasia is an inherited orthopaedic condition seen in dogs, affecting the coxofemoral joint (hip joint). Over time, it affects the hips, legs, and spine, often leading to painful osteoarthritis. These changes cause pain, lameness, and stiffness. Other symptoms include joint deformity and trouble getting up.
While there is no cure for hip dysplasia in dogs, many treatments are available to help manage symptoms. Early detection and treatment can help prevent the development of arthritis later in life.
Treatment options vary depending on the severity of the condition. Your vet might recommend surgery, physical therapy, or medication.
If you think your pet might have hip dysplasia, contact a veterinarian like Paws and More Vet Centre. We’ll perform a thorough exam and give you some tips on how to keep your dog healthy and happy. If your furry friend needs to go under the knife, you can trust us to handle this dog orthopaedic surgery.
Read on to learn all about hip dysplasia in dogs.
What Is Dog Hip Dysplasia?
Hip dysplasia in dogs is a hereditary disease in which the hip ball joint becomes loose, traumatising the joint. This leads to pain, inflammation and arthritic changes over time, causing the leg bone to slip out of place. If untreated, it leads to inflammation of the cartilage in the hip joint, arthritis and pain.
It’s most commonly found in large breed dogs, but small and medium dog breeds can also develop hip dysplasia.
There are three types of hip dysplasia: developmental, traumatic and degenerative. Developmental hip dysplasia is caused by genetics and happens during gestation. Traumatic hip dysplasia usually occurs due to injury. Degenerative hip dysplasia is common among older dogs and is believed to be hereditary.
Hip dysplasia is typically a progressive disorder that begins during puppyhood, but can be diagnosed as ‘juvenile’ or ‘mature’ depending on when it’s detected. Typically the joint looks and functions normally at birth, but signs develop as the dog ages.
Symptoms of dog hip dysplasia include limpness, limping or stiffness in the hindquarters. These symptoms often become apparent within weeks of birth. However, some dogs do not show signs until later in life. Other signs include pain, difficulty climbing stairs, and trouble jumping.
What Are the Symptoms of Dog Hip Dysplasia?
Signs of dog hip dysplasia are often subtle, making diagnosis difficult. However, there are some symptoms that you can look out for.
Signs and symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs include:
- Painful movement of the leg
- Muscle atrophy in the hind legs, causing your dog to lean forward more noticeably
- Difficulty rising, especially after sitting for a while
- Swollen legs
- An inability to jump
- A limp while walking
- Difficulty climbing stairs
If your dog exhibits any of these signs, they could be suffering from hip dysplasia.
In mild cases, dogs show signs of discomfort while walking or running. They may limp, stumble, or even fall over. Some owners report that their dog walks stiffly and noticeably limps when they get up from sitting or lying down. A dog may occasionally cry out in pain during movement or become reluctant to walk or run.
Severe cases of hip dysplasia cause lameness. This may lead to difficulty getting up and down stairs and climbing onto furniture. Lameness may progress to total immobility. As the disease progresses, the affected leg may twist inward toward the body. Eventually, the leg may turn outward away from the body. This is called luxating patella. If untreated, the hip joints eventually wear out and fail.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to spot when your dog is actually presenting with symptoms. Many identifying symptoms like difficulty rising or walking become less apparent when they are exercising. When a dog is running around and playing, the joints warm up, meaning there are fewer visible symptoms that your dog has joint pain or discomfort.
That’s why it’s important to monitor their behaviour when they get up the first time in the morning or after resting for a while, to spot signs of discomfort or pain that might otherwise be difficult to identify.
Part of what makes hip dysplasia difficult to diagnose is overlapping symptoms. For example, IVDD in dogs can present similarly to hip dysplasia. That’s why if your dog displays any of these symptoms, it’s crucial to talk to your veterinarian about diagnosing their condition immediately.
What Causes Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?
Hip dysplasia in dogs is genetic; however, cases can be caused or exacerbated by environmental factors such as diet and exercise. Some breeds are especially prone to developing hip dysplasia.
A puppy inherits a defective gene from their parents. As a result, they can develop a weak joint structure. When the dog walks, they put too much pressure on the affected leg, causing pain and inflammation. The ball joint in the hip socket becomes worn out over time, and causes pain and stiffness in one or both hips.
The physiological cause of dog hip dysplasia is related to hip laxity. Joint laxity occurs when ligaments become loose, allowing excessive movement of the hips. Another contributing factor to hip dysplasia is soft tissue failure. Soft tissues include muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and synovial fluid. They are what hold the bones together.
When soft tissues fail, the bone can move out of place. This kind of genetic trait can also predispose dogs to other medical conditions like hernias in puppies.
In addition to genetic predisposition, rapid growth rate and improper nutrition can contribute to hip dysplasia. Large purebred and mixed-breed dogs require a suitable and specialised diet during their first year to avoid problems.
Some dog breeds are more prone to hip dysplasia than others. Here are some of the breeds that are known to suffer from the disease:
- Golden Retriever
- German Shepherd
- Labrador Retriever
- Saint Bernard
- Great Dane
Although hip dysplasia is most common in larger dogs, it also affects a variety of smaller dog breeds such as:
- French Bulldog
When buying a puppy, you can ask your breeder about hip scoring and diet, as well as any family history of hip dysplasia or osteoarthritis. Because of its prevalence in certain breeds, there is an increased risk of developing hip dysplasia if breeding two affected animals.
How Is Dog Hip Dysplasia Diagnosed?
The most common way to detect dog hip dysplasia is during a routine checkup. Your veterinarian might recommend an x-ray to look for abnormal signs.
There are several methods used to measure the severity of hip dysplasia. One method uses a scoring system called PennHip. Another involves taking an x-ray. Both tests give veterinarians information about how severe the problem is.
In most cases, the severity of the disease depends on how early it is detected and treated, so early intervention is crucial.
What Is the Treatment for Dog Hip Dysplasia?
There are different methods of treating hip dysplasia including surgery, physical therapy, medication, and other non-invasive therapies. Your vet will determine which option is most appropriate for your dog based on their age, breed, activity level, overall health, and any existing medical conditions.
Depending on the severity of the case, one option might work better than another. If caught and treated early, only 30% of dogs require surgical intervention later in life. Your veterinarian can help you decide what is best for your pet.
If your dog is struggling with hip dysplasia, surgical options exist. For dogs with mild cases of hip dysplasia, it is possible to correct the problem without surgery. However, most dogs with severe cases will require some form of orthopaedic surgery.
Conservative therapies include diet changes, resting, pain medications, and anti-inflammatory drugs. NSAIDs and analgesics (pain relief) are used to reduce inflammation and control pain. Injectable medications can also be used to replace the joint fluid.
Dog Hip Dysplasia Surgery
Surgery is usually recommended for severe cases. Surgery is also sometimes necessary to correct problems associated with hip dysplasia, such as dislocation, fracture or infection. When it comes to adult dogs, surgery is often considered a last resort option. It is recommended by vets when conservative therapies and treatment methods have proven ineffective or sufficient.
Before surgical solutions are considered, first-line treatments include weight loss, moderating physical activity, and supplements such as 4Cyte™ and Cartrophen.
Types of Dog Hip Dysplasia Surgery
Depending on the severity of the case, several options are available, including arthroscopic surgery, open surgery, percutaneous techniques, and combinations thereof. These surgeries vary depending on what part of the joint needs repair. Recovery times vary depending on the technique used. The surgical techniques are as follows:
- Femoral Head Ostectomy – This surgical technique involves the removal of the upper portion of the hip bone (known as the femur), which leaves behind an empty socket. After some time, scar tissue will form what is called a ‘false joint’. This is more commonly performed on small dogs who are light enough to be supported by the false joint. The technique gives a significant amount of pain relief to the dog and is considered to be the most affordable technique, with the only downside being that the dog may limp or have an abnormal stride.
- Triple Pelvic Osteotomy – This surgical technique involves the cutting of the pelvic bone in three separate places and the rotation of the segments of bone to make way for the creation of a better-aligned hip socket. The technique is generally performed on very young dogs who are still rapidly growing, and have yet to show major symptoms or complications of hip dysplasia While this type of surgery is sometimes performed on dogs less than seven months old, it’s generally reserved for dogs that are under three months of age. Despite being an expensive surgical technique, it is able to give back full long-term function to the hip joint.
- Total Hip Replacement – This surgical technique involves the removal of the entire hip joint and having it replaced with an implant (a false hip that is made from plastic or metal). It is usually performed on fully grown adult dogs suffering from severe hip degeneration but are still in relatively good health overall. It entails a very high cost and is the most invasive procedure, but it is known to be highly successful in restoring normal hip motion and eliminating discomfort and pain.
Cost of Dog Hip Dysplasia Surgery
The average estimated cost of dog hip dysplasia surgery in Australia is approximately $8,500. However, the exact cost of dog hip dysplasia surgery varies greatly and depends on the particular surgical methods used, the area where you reside, and the hospital in which the surgery will be done.
Total hip replacement is the most expensive surgical technique, while femur head ostectomy (FHO) is the most affordable option. If there are financial constraints, FHO should be considered.
Dog Hip Dysplasia Surgery Recovery
Postoperative rehabilitation is important to ensure a full recovery. Medication and physiotherapy can assist in improving the dog’s mobility and range of motion. In addition to treating symptoms, physiotherapy can also help rehabilitate dogs following surgery.
Dogs who receive proper care will generally recover well following hip dysplasia surgery. However, there is always a risk associated with every procedure, so you’ll want to confirm with your local veterinary surgeon that it’s a good option for your pet.
There are several types of non-surgical treatments used to treat dogs with hip dysplasia, including physiotherapy, massage, ultrasound, electrical stimulation and hydrotherapy. Each type of therapy has its own benefits, depending on the dog’s specific needs.
Physiotherapy: Physical therapy is a treatment that helps strengthen the hips and improve mobility. It involves using exercises to strengthen muscles, joints and tendons. This helps prevent further damage to the joint and reduces stiffness. Dogs suffering from hip dysplasia often develop muscle imbalances around the hips, causing abnormal movement patterns. These movements can become increasingly painful over time. As a result, they may avoid certain activities, leading to decreased mobility and exercise tolerance. The goal of physiotherapy is to restore normal movement patterns and increase flexibility.
Other alternative therapies can be used for dog hip dysplasia, though evidence on their efficacy is limited:
- Massage: can reduce inflammation and relieve soreness.
- Ultrasound: can promote healing and stimulate blood flow.
- Electrical stimulation: can help improve coordination and balance.
- Hydrotherapy: uses water to loosen tight muscles and decrease stress on the body.
- Laser therapy: uses light energy to break down scar tissue and encourage healthy cell growth.
- PRP therapy: uses the patient’s own blood cells to heal damaged tissues.
- Acupuncture: stimulates nerve endings to promote healing.
However, it’s important to note that these ancillary therapies should always be used alongside mainstream treatment. There is little to no evidence that they have the efficacy to properly treat hip dysplasia in dogs.
Most vets will recommend mainstream treatment methods, including supplements and surgical treatment if required. However, you’re welcome to discuss with your vet whether these non-surgical treatments will benefit your dog alongside traditional treatment methods.
Weight loss is often recommended to treat obesity, which can worsen the condition. Make sure that your dog gets plenty of exercise (without being too physically taxing on them). This can be complemented with a healthy diet containing a high amount of Omega acids and other dietary prescriptions from your veterinarian.
Not all dogs are the same, which also means the dietary routine of one dog may differ from another. As such, always consult your veterinarian on the optimal weight loss routine that ensures your dog gets a balanced diet.
Oral and injectable supplements are often recommended for dogs with hip dysplasia or signs of DJD. Vet-approved supplements contain natural substances which can help reduce inflammation around the joints before and even after corrective surgery.
4Cyte™ is an oral supplement used in dogs, and also cats and horses, that contains the active ingredient EPIITALIS®. This plant extract is proven to improve the joint, reducing arthritis and minimising pain.
Cartrophen (or Pentosan Polysulfate Sodium) is an injectable compound that also builds the joint and reduces pain. Often used alongside other supplements such as 4Cyte, Cartophen helps remove inflammatory components around the joint, helping to build the joint itself.
Glucosamine, Chondroitin, and omega-3 fatty acid supplements benefit dogs with hip dysplasia. These joint supplements have certain properties that help mitigate the further degradation of your dog’s hip dysplasia. Glucosamine helps alleviate pain and stiffness and inhibits cartilage degradation. Chondroitin, on the other hand, stimulates cartilage repair and improves joint function and mobility.
Green Lipped Mussel (GLM) extract is another supplement to consider for dogs with hip dysplasia. The extract is native to New Zealand and a proven joint supplement ingredient for dogs and humans. It has omega-3 fatty acids, essential amino acids, and natural joint-protecting and anti-inflammatory properties. Ask your vet about these as they can make a significant difference even if surgery is still needed.
How to Treat a Dog With Hip Dysplasia at Home
While you should always seek veterinary care, there are also several things you can do to help prevent hip dysplasia from worsening. You can start early by making sure your puppy gets plenty of light exercise and proper nutrition.
You can also make sure your dog isn’t overexerting themself by taking them hiking, swimming, playing fetch, etc. If they over exercise their joints, it could lead to joint laxity, which is the second major factor in causing hip dysplasia.
High-impact exercises like jumping up onto furniture should be avoided until after surgery. This helps prevent further damage to the joint and reduces the risk of complications during recovery.
Avoid Stairs and Other Hazards
Until your pup reaches six months of age, avoid stairs, ramps, ladders, and anything else that puts pressure on their joints. If you do have stairs, make sure they wear a harness while climbing. Also, keep them away from furniture and objects that could hurt them.
Exercise is important for maintaining good health and preventing problems. A sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of developing arthritis later in life. Regular walking is great for keeping your dog fit and trim. You can take them out for short walks around the neighbourhood.
Dogs with hip dysplasia should be fed a nutritious and well-balanced diet. Good quality food will contain enough protein, calcium and phosphorus to support bone development. Large dog breeds, in particular, need sufficient nutrient intake during their first year of growth.
Concerned Your Dog Has Hip Dysplasia?
If your dog has signs or symptoms of hip dysplasia, make an appointment with your vet. Dogs who receive early treatment and intervention have the best prognosis with hip dysplasia.
A diagnosis is necessary before any treatment can begin. A vet will evaluate your dog’s condition before recommending any specific treatment plan.
Can My Dog Have Hip Dysplasia if They’re Not Limping?
Yes, because hip dysplasia occurs during growth, resulting in uneven growth of certain parts of the hip, hip dysplasia may have formed without your dog limping. Lameness depends on the extent of the deformity and may not visually affect the hip joint, leading to some cases where signs of hip dysplasia do not show.
Is Dog Hip Dysplasia Surgery Covered by Pet Insurance?
Some pet insurance covers genetic and hereditary conditions like hip dysplasia, as long as it can be proven that the condition isn’t pre-existing. However, each insurance policy is different, so it’s best to consult your insurance company to determine to what extent hip dysplasia is covered.
What Is the Difference Between Hip Dysplasia and Arthritis in Dogs?
Hip dysplasia is a common cause of osteoarthritis in dogs, so they are often co-occurring.
This article is published in good faith, for general informational and educational purposes only. Paws and More Vet Centre does not make any warranties about the ongoing completeness and reliability of this information. This article should not be used as a substitute for veterinary advice, including for diagnosis or treatment of a pet’s medical condition. Always consult a veterinary professional before making decisions on your pet’s health.