My dog was just diagnosed with hip dysplasia! Now what?

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My dog was just diagnosed with hip dysplasia! Now what?

If you think your dog has hip dysplasia, or your vet recently diagnosed your dog with this condition, you may be wondering about the best ways to care for your friend. We’re here to help! Keep reading to learn all about the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for hip dysplasia in dogs.

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What is hip dysplasia?

Simply put, hip dysplasia is the abnormal development of the hip joint. The hip joint is composed of a ball (head of the femur or thigh bone) and socket (acetabulum). This abnormal development causes the hip to be malformed – the ball and socket do not fit together properly resulting in a loose hip joint.

The body responds by trying to stabilize the joint, which leads to degenerative joint disease (DJD) or osteoarthritis (OA). Most of the time, both hips are affected. Hip dysplasia is also referred to as hip laxity, coxofemoral laxity, and subluxating hips.

What dog breeds are affected by hip dysplasia?

Any breed, including mixed-breeds, and any size dog can be affected. Medium and large breeds are most at risk. Affected dogs may appear completely normal at birth. Changes can begin as early as 4-12 months of age. Many dogs don’t show signs until middle age.

What is the cause of hip dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is a genetic condition. This means that it’s passed from parents to offspring. Diet and rapid growth can contribute to the severity of the disease.

What are the signs of hip dysplasia in dogs?

Every dog is different. Some may initially show no signs, whereas others may display signs from a very early age.

Signs that your dog may have hip dysplasia:

  • Decreased willingness to play or run
  • Slow to rise in hind legs
  • Difficulty getting comfortable when laying down
  • Reluctance to jump or climb stairs
  • Abnormal hind leg movement or lameness such as “bunny-hopping”. Bunny-hopping describes the lifting of both hind legs at the same time, similar to a jumping rabbit.
  • Decreased muscle size (atrophy) in the hind legs
  • Weight shifted from the hind legs to front legs
  • Pain

How does my vet know my dog has hip dysplasia?

Your vet will ask you questions about what you’ve observed at home. He or she will perform a thorough physical exam, including specific hip movements to help aid in diagnosis.

Radiographs (x-rays) will confirm the diagnosis. PennHip or OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) are specific types of radiographs necessary for diagnosing hip dysplasia. Sedation of your pet is required to perform these radiographs.

Can dip dysplasia be prevented?

Hip dysplasia is a genetic condition in dogs and therefore cannot be prevented. The following are steps you can take to lessen the severity of clinical signs:

Feeding dog foods that prevent rapid and excessive growth will help to decrease strain on joints as puppies grow. Talk to your vet about diets specifically formulated with nutrients to benefit large breed puppies.

Do not feed puppies or adults free-choice. Free-choice feeding leads to overeating and weight gain. This places more stress on joints, leading to increased discomfort. Instead, feed a set amount of dog food at each meal. Your vet can help calculate the proper amount of food to feed at each meal. For more information on obesity and diet recommendations, check out the following articles:

Obesity in Dogs: What You Need to Know if Your Favorite Canine is Overweight

How to Choose the Right Food for Your Dog

Keep your puppy or dog active. Low impact, controlled exercise can help to keep joints moving and as healthy as possible.

Can hip dysplasia be treated?

Hip dysplasia in dogs is a serious orthopedic condition. Your vet can help educate you to make the best decisions to keep your furry companion happy and comfortable. Treating your dog’s hip dysplasia will depend on the level of discomfort, the signs exhibited, and the age of your pet.

If possible, your vet may recommend medical management (treatment that doesn’t require surgery).

Medical Management Options for Hip Dysplasia

  1. Keep your dog thin. The less weight he or she has to carry around, the less stress on affected joints. Discuss proper caloric requirements with your vet.
  2. Consistent, low impact, controlled exercise can help to strengthen weak muscles, prevent unwanted weight gain, and keep joints as healthy as possible. Exercises may include leash walks (including slow, controlled hill-walking) or swimming.
  3. Home environment modification, such as ramps to assist with entrance or exit of the house or automobile are ideal. Yoga mats or non-skid area rugs prevent slipping on tile or hardwood flooring. Slings or specifically designed harnesses allow you to assist your companion when rising or climbing stairs.
  4. If your pet enjoys sleeping on a dog bed, high-quality orthopedic bedding can be very beneficial.
  5. Dog-specific dietary supplements, such as Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Glucosamine, Chondroitin Sulfate, and MSM provide anti-inflammatory benefits as well as properties that maintain joint health. It’s best to discuss these with your vet before adding to your dog’s treatment plan.
  6. Dog-specific non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs). Your vet can advise what NSAIDs are most effective and if your pet is a candidate for this medication.
  7. Veterinary physical rehabilitation can be tremendously beneficial in keeping affected dogs comfortable while focusing on strengthening hind limb muscles. Rehabilitation specialists use a variety of modalities, hands-on techniques, and therapeutic exercises.

Surgical Treatment Options for Hip Dysplasia

The two most common surgical procedures to treat hip dysplasia are total hip replacement (THR) and femoral head ostectomy (FHO).

As these are technically challenging orthopedic procedures, your vet may refer you to a board-certified veterinary surgeon. Other surgeries that may be performed are triple pelvic osteotomy (TPO) and juvenile pubic symphysiodesis (JPS).

Read more:

Arthritis in Dogs

Joint Supplements for Pets

Need to speak with a veterinarian regarding your dog’s hip or another condition?

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Published: 1/26/2021
Last updated: 9/14/2021

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