Hip Dysplasia

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What is Hip Dysplasia?

Hip Dysplasia (HD) is caused by a poorly conformed coxofemoral joint (the “ball and socket” joint of the hip).   There are two parts to the joint that can have conformation issues; the “ball” part that is the top of the thigh bone (femoral head) and the “socket” part that is part of the pelvis (acetabulum).  Often times with hip dysplasia there is a problem in both those areas; the femoral head is flattened instead of round and smooth and the acetabulum is too shallow not forming a deep enough “socket” area.  Additionally there is usually a laxity to the joint so the hip can partially, or fully, “pop” in and out.   Over time this joint will develop arthritic changes and can be crippling and painful.  This is a condition that is most common in all large breeds of dogs, but can also occur in small breeds and even cats.

What does it look like?

Clinically these dogs tend to show difficulty getting into and out of a seated or laying position.  They also tend to “bunny hop” when running and can be reluctant to go up and down stairs or jump up into a car or onto the bed.

How do you diagnose HD?

The “gold standard” for diagnosing HD is with radiographs (x-rays).  Often times with large dogs we need to sedate them because holding them into the proper position for radiographs can be painful since their hips hurt. 

How do you prevent HD?

The best way to prevent HD is to purchase large dogs from breeders that have screened all their breeding dogs for HD.  Historically this was through a series of radiographs that were evaluated by a panel of veterinarians called OFA Certification, but now there is also PENN Hip Certification which may provide even better information.   PENN Hip radiographs can be taken in a dog as young as 4 months of age. 

Purchasing a dog from a breeder that is responsibly breeding will greatly reduce your chances of buying a dog with HD.  We recommend never buying any large breed dog from a breeder unless they show proof of OFA Certification, or even better PENN Hip Certification of their breeding stock. 

Nutrition, specifically OVER nutrition, can greatly worsen or predispose a young dog to developing HD.  Therefore, it is very important to feed large breed puppies a specific diet while they are growing and to keep them very thin.  Our saying here for large breed dogs is “it is better to be 5lbs underweight than 5lbs overweight”.    It is also important for large breed puppies to not be over-exercised during their growing phase to not over-tax their joints.

Is HD only genetic?

The quick answer is no, but genetics is the greatest factor for a dog to develop HD.   Other factors that can contribute are nutrition as a puppy, exercise as a puppy, trauma and obesity.   

How do I treat my dog if they have HD?

Often times surgery will be recommended, especially if your dog is young and otherwise healthy.  There are two main possible surgical options including Femoral Head Osteotomy (FHO) and Total Hip Replacement (THP). 

If surgery is not an option due to finances and/ or other health concerns with the pet then medical management can be pursued.This includes pain medications, chondroprotective agents, acupuncture, laser, massage, PT and often times weight control if they are overweight.For more information about medical management please click the link below and read our article on Arthritis.