Hip Dysplasia in Dogs: Signs, Symptoms & Treatment
Hip dysplasia is a disease that unfortunately, is a common problem in several popular dog breeds. Indeed the U.K’s favourite breed, the Labrador is susceptible to this most unpleasant of afflictions.
Avoidance is always better than cure. When buying puppies it is important to check that both parents and grandparents have no history of hip troubles. The best way to do this for pedigree dogs is to ask to see parents official hip score certificates before you purchase. Although these puppies may be a little more expensive, this check at least goes some way to ensuring you have tried to prevent the very expensive condition of hip dysplasia. Even so, the disease may still strike many unfortunate offspring including those who do not appear to have a hereditary link to it. Learning to live with hip dysplasia is something that we as dog owners sometimes have to adapt to along with our pets.
Hip Dysplasia is an extremely painful condition and if diagnosed, should always be managed. Mild cases can be controlled through treatments such as NSAID’s, glucosamine supplements, controlled exercise and weight loss with the aim to limit deleterious effects on the dogs life sytle. Anything over and above a mild case may require surgery of some form, for example hip replacement (just like humans).
The vet’s confirmation that your dog is suffering from hip dysplasia is an enormous blow to come to terms with. You will have many questions that need immediate answers. Can your dog live with this condition and be free from pain and suffering? Will ongoing treatment be required? Can we afford the vet fees? Will my dog have to be put to sleep? It is at this time when you should really lean on your vet and ask them to thoroughly explain your options and the impact that hip dysplasia will have on your pet.
Hip dysplasia is a polygenetic disease, meaning several genes in certain environments cause it. Some dogs may be predisposed to hip dysplasia, however, they will not develop the disease unless certain other factors come into play. Can you prevent hip dysplasia in your dog? No, not completely. Certainly only breeding/buying animals without a history of hip disease helps, but the the condition can still occur. Can you ease the pain suffered by a dog with hip dysplasia? Certainly.
There are varying degrees of hip dysplasia. When a dog is tested for good hips it is called a “Hip Score”. This involves taking 2 x-rays taken under sedation or anaesthesia of an adult animal, with the condition of the hips being assessed and graded by a board of official vets. The higher the score the worse the state of the hips or, more to the point, the worse the fitting between ball of the hip joint (femoral head) and the socket (acetabulum). Ideally, the ball and socket should fit snugly together with the cup nicely covering and holding on to the ball, thus preventing looseness of the joint, or a grinding or popping action which could lead to inflammation and pain for the dog. This is the first test where you would hope to score 0, as this means the hips are perfect.
An example of a canine hip (almost) normal, closeup
Dogs can suffer from either one bad hip or both with varying degrees of discomfort. Obviously if the socket and ball are severely misaligned there will be a far greater degree of inflammation, arthritis and therefore pain.
There are many forms of treatment available, including surgery. Your vet will be able to recommend what is most appropriate for your pet. In severe cases vets can remove the top of the femur completely so there is no bone in the hip joint. This can be suitable for smaller animals, with the muscles around the hip then acting as the actual joint. As there is no longer bone rubbing together, there is no inflammation, so long term pain is relieved. The most successful surgery however, is the total hip replacement, where the old diseased joint is removed completely and replaced with an artificial version.
Hip Dysplasia is a regrettable disease mostly derived from man’s domestication and selective breeding of dogs. Be fully aware however, that although it is an extremely painful condition, it is only in the very worse cases that a dog cannot live with hip dysplasia. Dogs, by nature are more resilient in many ways than us humans, they cope with some terrible afflictions with courage and without a solitary trace of self-pity. We, as responsible dog owners should do all that we can to ensure that a dog with hip dysplasia is cared for in as kind a way as possible.
An example of a diseased canine hip joint
Treatment For Hip Dysplasia In Dogs
In far too many cases dysplastic dogs are overweight. Simply reducing the dog’s diet will ease a large amount of stress on the hip joint and keep the dog in better overall health. Exercise and other forms of physical excursion should be kept manageable, with the ethos “little and often” being key.
It may seem harsh to restrict a dog from what they crave to do naturally, roaming for miles on end, running marathon distances every day. But if they could, they would thank you for it in later life.
As with humans, when a dog suffers pain in a particular joint or muscle they will shift the balance to another joint or muscle to compensate. This can very easily lead to problems developing in joints other than just the hips. This means care should be taken of the pet as a whole and not just always concentrated on the hips.
Learning how to give regular stretching exercises will give the dog some relief and added freedom of movement. Seek professional advice from your vet on stretching exercises. Water treatment or hydrotherapy is a fast growing method of treating injured or muscle damaged animals.
Racehorses have used this form of treatment for many years and now there are a wide range of dog friendly hydrotherapy pools at the disposal of pet owners. Again, ask your vet for advice. Drug treatment mainly consists of anti-inflammatories which are available in different forms (oral suspensions, tablets, etc) and work by targeting the inflammation and reducing pain discomfort. Nutraceutical products have also been shown to help lubricate stiff joints and improve the mobility of arthritic animals.
Using complimentary or ‘alternative’ medicines to ease the pain of hip dysplasia should be done on the advice of a suitably qualified expert in the field. Some dog owners have reported great improvements in their dogs after using various complimentary treatments, such as massage, swim treatment, acupuncture etc.
Finally, coping with a dysplastic dog will mean accepting the limitations on the dog’s own lifestyle. Long walks in the park may be a struggle, but this doesn’t mean exercise should be stopped. In fact, shorter walks will actually help to keep the dog’s joints supple and maintain muscle strength. The dog’s weight also needs to be very carefully monitored, this can be achieved through sensible exercise and diet. Dogs don’t have the sort of aversion to hardships as we do so in many cases it is us dog owners that need to make sure our dog is getting the most from life though coping with this terrible disease.