Hip Dysplasia is scary for pet parents. Will my dog lead a good life with Hip Dysplasia? Will he be in pain? Could I have prevented this from happening? Is managing Hip Dysplasia expensive? We will try to answer all your questions, some in this post and some over time.
Let's start with the basics.
How does a Hip work? What is Hip Dysplasia?
A dog's hip is a classic ball and socket joint where the head of the thigh bone (femur) is shaped like a ball and it is fits tightly into the hip socket (acetabulum). 👇 is a great video of human hip and pelvis, this part of anatomy is very similar in dogs.
The word meaning of 'Dysplasia' is Abnormal Growth. Dog Hip Dysplasia is abnormal development of the hip joint.
In the image above, we can see that the socket (on the right) is shallower than normal. The ball cannot fit tightly in the socket. As a result, the ball may get flattened or distorted. In advanced cases, vets can see excess calcium deposits on the rim of the socket or the ball.
When the ball and socket do not function like a well-oiled joint, it causes pain when your dog tries to do any activity where the joint is involved. Getting up from a seated position or jumping on a sofa/car or climbing down the stairs are some of the everyday activities that heavily engage their hip joint.
What are the early signs of Hip Dysplasia?
If you suspect that your dog is in pain, check for the following symptoms:
- Is he finding it difficult to get up? Does he tend to slip when he tries to get up?
- Does he avoid jumping on the couch or car? Does he avoid stairs?
- Is he bunny hopping? Dogs typically do this to shift their weight on the front legs to compensate for the pain in their rear part.
- Do you hear grating/clicking noise when he tries to do activities involving his hips?
If you observe any one of the above, it may be Hip Dysplasia. A vet would be able to confirm after looking at his X-ray reports.
What is not Hip Dysplasia?
Often a ruptured or improperly healed ligaments or lower back arthritis get misdiagnosed with Hip Dysplasia. Vets cannot clinically deduce Hip Dysplasia by symptoms, it is a radiographic diagnosis (X-ray). Also, severity of the symptoms is not perfectly correlated with stage of Hip Dysplasia.
In some cases dogs with advanced Hip Dysplasia show minimal pain or discomfort. This is because that specific dog may have high tolerance for pain. On the other hand, dogs with severe lameness may show only minimal changes in their hips. In this case, it is best to keep looking for other causes of hip pain.
Is Hip Dysplasia a large breed problem?
No, It is not a large breed problem. According to The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals' statistics on hip dysplasia, the top two breeds with the highest frequency of Hip Dysplasia are Pug and Bulldog. Labradors, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, and Saint Bernards are on the top of the list too but Hip Dysplasia is more of a 'heavy for their bone structure' problem. Indies (medium breed), Grey Hounds (large breed) have a lower probability of developing Hip Dysplasia because of their lean structure.
How do dogs develop Hip Dysplasia? Are they born with the condition?
No, your puppy was not born with hip dysplasia. Though hip laxity is a predisposed condition, all puppies are born with perfect hips. They do not have any joints at birth - just soft cartilages. As the puppy grows, bone structures develop. The forces on the joints determine if the ball and socket joint gets formed properly.
A puppy’s muscles, ligaments, and tendons keep the ball (femur) tightly seated in its developing socket. As long as the ball (head of the femur) stays seated where it belongs in the developing hip socket, the hip joint should form perfectly. However, if the pup has hip laxity (where the ball loosely fits the socket) and there are excessive forces on the joint, the puppy muscles may not be able to stabilize the joint, and hip dysplasia occurs.
Can Hip Dysplasia be prevented?
Let's understand how puppies’ hips develop over time.
At Birth: Puppies are born with normal hips. Based on their genetics, they may tend to develop loose hips or tight hips.
Between 0-8 weeks: If the puppy has loose hips and he is provided with the appropriate nutrition and environment, the probability of developing Hip Dysplasia reduces significantly
Right nutrition (not less, not more). Less would lead to nutritional deficiencies. More would lead to faster growth rate/ obesity leading to extra stress on the already loose hips.
What to do? Consult a puppy nutritionist and get a diet chart.
No slippery floors, no stairs, and no long walks. All of this could lead to pushing the ball out of the socket and causing deformation. Puppies slipping on marble/tile flooring while chasing a ball or puppies tumbling down the stairs look super cute but it is a recipe for disaster.
What to do? Limit your puppy's area with a puppy fence and lay carpets / anti-slip mats to prevent slipping. Do not let your puppy jump from a couch or bed. Do not let them near the stairs. If you have young children, make sure to educate them as well.
Between 2-12 months
If you suspect that your pup has hip issues, get an X-ray done. Your vet should be able to tell you the severity of the problem. If the displacement is minor, you can still manage to keep the ball in the socket by doing the following:
- Weight management. Do not let your pup overeat. In a 14-year study conducted by Purina, it was observed that lean-fed puppies had healthier hips.
- Make sure your house has anti-slip flooring. Or, get your pup indoor Anti-slip shoes like Zoof Grips to make sure that they do not slip at home.
- Engage in low-impact exercises. Take them for a slow run on a beach or grassy land. Swimming once a week helps in strengthening the muscle around the hip joint providing higher stability.
Although we have no control over preventing hip laxity in growing puppies, we can control their environment and diet to minimize the risk of developing Hip Dysplasia. Between 2 to 12 months is very critical as most pet parents unknowingly make the mistake of over-feeding (table scraps, can't resist those puppy eyes) or letting them slip on the floor or stairs (we can partially blame YouTube videos for this).
Once the pup turns one and hip dysplasia has advanced to the next stage, there is only little we can do to reverse the condition without surgery.
- Hip dysplasia is when the ball or socket gets deformed and does not fit tightly into each other causing pain to the dog.
- If you notice early signs, take your dog to your vet for a radiographic diagnosis.
- Hip Dysplasia is not a large breed problem. It is a ‘heavy for the bone structure’ problem. Hence keeping your dogs lean reduces the risk of Hip Dysplasia (irrespective of breed).
- Even if your pup has a tendency for hip laxity, you can considerably reduce the risk of developing Hip dysplasia by providing the right nutrition and not letting your pup indulge in high-impact activities like slipping indoors or climbing stairs.
Educating new pet parents is a very critical step here. If you know of a friend who has recently got a puppy home, do share this article.
We would be covering topics like - Surgery for Hip Dysplasia, Alternative treatments, Medical Insurance for Hip Dysplasia, Benefits of Hydrotherapy, Nutrition & Hip Dysplasia in the following months.
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