The Mechanics of Hip Dysplasia
Your dog's hip joints function similarly to a ball and socket joint. If your dog has hip dysplasia, the ball and socket that make up their hip have not developed properly and are not functioning as they should. Instead, the ball and socket grind and rub against each other, resulting in continued breakdown, pain, and eventual loss of hip function.
Hip dysplasia is a condition most commonly seen in giant or large breed dogs, however smaller breeds can also suffer from this painful joint condition. Even though dogs are usually diagnosed with this issue when they are adults if the hip dysplasia is severe, it can be seen in puppies as young as four months old.
If hip dysplasia is left untreated it can drastically reduce your dog's quality of life, as the condition causes significant pain and reduces your dog's ability to move normally.
The Causes of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
In dogs, hip dysplasia is predominantly a hereditary condition, with genetics being the leading contributor to the development of the condition. Breeds that commonly suffer from hip dysplasia include large and giant dogs such as mastiffs, St. Bernards, Rottweilers, retrievers, and bulldogs, but several smaller breeds such as French bulldogs and pugs may also be susceptible.
If hip dysplasia is left untreated in the early stages, it will likely continue to worsen with age and affect both hips. Hip dysplasia may also be compounded by other painful conditions such as osteoarthritis in senior dogs.
While hip dysplasia is a genetic condition, other factors can exacerbate it. Poor weight management and nutrition, accelerated growth rate, and certain types of exercise can all contribute to the condition's development. Obesity puts an abnormal amount of strain on your dog's joints, which may aggravate or even cause hip dysplasia.
To help prevent your dog from developing hip dysplasia, it’s important to consult your vet regarding the amount of daily exercise your dog requires, and the most appropriate diet for their breed, age, and size.
Signs of Hip Dysplasia to Watch For
When it comes to the symptoms of hip dysplasia, each dog is unique. The condition usually manifests itself around the age of five months, but it may not become apparent until your dog is in their middle or senior years. The severity and extent of the symptoms are also affected by the severity of the condition and where it is in its progression. As their dog matures, pet parents should keep an eye out for the following signs:
- 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.
How much does hip dysplasia surgery in dogs cost?
This question is better posed directly to you veterinarian. They should be able to give you a more accurate estimate.
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 can often benefit both puppies/young dogs and mature dogs. This type of surgery entails removing the femoral head (ball) of the hip joint, allowing the body to create a “false” joint, which decreases the discomfort related to hip dysplasia. Dogs undergoing FHO are unlikely to see the return of normal hip function; however, it can be an effective method of managing pain.
Depending on their health and other factors, your dog may be required to stay in the hospital for several hours to several days following the surgery. Your veterinary surgeon will give you specific instructions for caring for your dog after FHO surgery, but you must keep him away from strenuous physical activity for at least 30 days. In most cases, your dog will be completely recovered within six weeks. They can resume their normal physical activity once they have fully recovered.
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 dog will need several weeks of reduced activity before they can enjoy properly leashed walks again, as well as regular physical rehabilitation (physio for dogs) for full mobility to return (although you may notice an improvement in joint stability as soon as four weeks). The majority of dogs will recover within four to six weeks of 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 that are experiencing considerable pain or for those that have lost their mobility. The artificial components used in THR are custom-made for your dog, and the surgery is performed by a certified veterinary surgeon.
Total hip replacement surgery usually takes two to three hours, and your dog may need to be hospitalized for one to three days afterward. After hip dysplasia surgery, expect a 12-week recovery period. Even if your dog has hip dysplasia in both hips, surgery may only be performed on one hip at a time, with 3 - 6 months between surgeries.
Preventing Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
Although hip dysplasia is largely a genetic condition passed down through generations, there are a few things pet parents can do to help reduce the risk of their dog developing the debilitating effects of this condition.
Choose a Reputable Breeder
Because hip dysplasia is primarily a hereditary condition, choosing a puppy from a reputable breeder is the best way to avoid having to care for a dog with hip dysplasia. A good breeder will be familiar with the parents' and grandparents' medical histories, as well as any family history of hip dysplasia. In the long run, researching your breeder could save you a lot of heartache and money.
Help Your Dog Maintain a Healthy Weight
If you already have a dog, the best way to help prevent hip dysplasia is to keep your dog at a healthy weight. Excess weight places additional strain on your dog's joints, causing unnecessary discomfort and pain.
Slow The Growth of Giant Breed Puppies
If you have a large or giant breed puppy, it is critical that you slow their growth so that their joints develop properly without putting too much strain on them. Accelerated growth and weight gain before your dog's joints are capable of handling it can result in hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and other painful joint conditions.
Supplements & Diet
If your dog has joint pain or is at high risk of developing hip dysplasia, talk to your vet about supplements like glucosamine and fish oils that could help your dog's joints stay healthy. There are several high-quality dog foods on the market that contain ingredients that will help your dog maintain comfortable mobility. Consult your veterinarian to see if this is an option for your dog.
Appropriate Exercise & Play
Dogs of various breeds and sizes require varying levels of activity to keep their minds occupied and their bodies healthy. An Irish Wolfhound's exercise requirements will be vastly different from those of a Border Collie. Excessive or inappropriate exercise may amplify your dog's genetic proclivity for hip dysplasia. Do your research, talk to your breeder, and consult your veterinarian to get a clear picture of the best exercise for your dog. Do not encourage your dog to engage in exercise that is not suitable 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.