Owning a dog is a serious responsibility, there’s more to it than cuddles. You become their primary caregiver. It is your responsibility to monitor and maintain their health.
The old adage that a dog is for life remains true. It’s highly likely that you’ll outlive your dog, that’s why they rely on you for everything. You should note this includes care as they near the end of their lives and things stop functioning properly.
That is why it is essential to be aware of the most common issues facing dogs. How to identify them, and what to do regarding them. Understanding hip dysplasia in dogs comes under this category and helps to make good dog owners.
What Is Hip Dysplasia In Dogs?
Put simply the thigh bone fails to fit snugly into the hip joint. Unfortunately, It usually starts when they are just a few months of age. Uniform growth of the pelvic ball and socket (the head of the femur), fails to occur. This results in looseness in the joint.
Young dogs developing hip dysplasia may show occasional stiffness in their joints and legs, specifically at the rear. However, due to their young age, it can be pain free with no visible symptoms.
As the dog ages, the looseness in the joint triggers degenerative joint disease and osteoarthritis, pain levels will increase and mobility will be affected. It is worth noting that hip dysplasia in dogs is a genetic condition or a result of trauma.
By itself, without treating hip dysplasia, it simply causes your dog to move differently. However, the ensuing compensation efforts by their body will cause damage that decreases their range of motion. It can even affect joint development.
This is when they will most appreciate a good grooming tool or a chew toy, allowing them to maintain a semblance of normality. These dogs will still want to walk with you and be active. It can be beneficial to massage their legs and hip area in advance of walking them.
This can ease the joint pain and help your dog to remain active. Unfortunately, this is only a viable solution during the early stages of hip dysplasia.
Which Breeds Are Affected?
Generally, the large breed dog is most likely to be affected. Dogs such as the Labrador retriever, Newfoundland, or even the Great Dane. The likelihood of hip dysplasia occurring increases directly in line with years of age. If left untreated it can have a detrimental effect on quality of life.
Although larger dog breeds are most susceptible. It can affect any dog and you should be aware of the symptoms and potential treatment options.
Symptoms Of Hip Dysplasia In Dogs
If your usually energetic dog starts to be reluctant to rise and is less interested in their daily walk you need to start suspecting there is something wrong. They will be unwilling to climb stairs, may appear to have lameness in their hind legs, reduced thigh muscle mass size, general stiffness, and will adopt a swaying gait, also known as bunny hopping.
You may also notice their shoulder muscles are getting larger as they place more weight and emphasis on the front legs. The general stiffness they exhibit will probably be accompanied by pain, Although, it can be difficult to confirm whether your dog is in pain or not.
When you suspect that these features are present and hip dysplasia is the potential cause, you will need to attend the veterinary office and have your dog properly assessed. The consequential examination will involve manipulation of the legs to verify the looseness of the joint, (joint laxity).
Also testing for grinding, reduced motion range, and pain. It is also likely that blood will be taken to confirm inflammation. This is one of the common clinical signs of joint disease, a long term effect of hip dysplasia.
Parental history is beneficial, especially in dogs with hip issues in their breeding line. To finalize the diagnosis your vet will conduct an X-ray. This also confirms the severity of the issue which is instrumental in deciding treatment.
Of course, the earlier the disease is spotted the more effective treatment can be. you’ll be able to utilize all available options, including pain killers, massage therapy, or surgery. However, all surgery carries an inherent risk, it’s important to exhaust other possibilities first.
Treatment Of Hip Dysplasia In Dogs
Treatment options range widely depending on the severity of your dog’s hip dysplasia. They include pain medication, joint supplements, a false joint, or simply a lifestyle change. Naturally, your ability or willingness to pay for veterinary care also affects the most appropriate course of treatment for your dog.
If your dog is carrying excess weight your vet will recommend they lose weight to ease the pressure on their hips. They may also dictate less exercise on hard surfaces or shorter periods of exercise but more regularly. Physical therapy from a specialist can also be beneficial during this period.
Administering joint supplements can be beneficial and is easy to do at home, these can include anti-inflammatory such as corticosteroids or even joint fluid modifiers as administered by your vet.
Moving into surgical options you will find the prognosis is good, expert opinion should be sought before opting for a total hip replacement as opposed to a femoral head ostectomy or even the double pelvic osteotomy.
Both ostectomy approaches require the vet to cut the bones in order to establish a better fitting joint, in young dogs it can eliminate the issue while older dogs will benefit from a reduction in pain.
Naturally, the total hip replacement is the most effective solution and returns a normal range of movement, correspondingly it is the most expensive and your dog needs to be healthy enough to undertake surgery.
You should be aware that very young dogs can benefit from juvenile pubic symphysiodesis which performs surgery before the hip settles into position, effectively preventing hip dysplasia from occurring. Unfortunately, it must be diagnosed and the operation performed before the puppy is 20 weeks old.
It is not always possible to prevent hip dysplasia from occurring but maintaining a healthy weight and a nutritious diet are two major steps to decreasing the risk. Additionally, your dog should have plenty of exercise, another factor that prevents obesity which is a prominent contributing factor to occurrences of hip dysplasia.
You will also find it beneficial to research dog breeds before you commit to purchasing one, if you choose a larger breed then it is advisable to have an X-ray done at a young age. This will provide an awareness of any issue allowing you to contemplate surgery while they are a puppy or, at the least, be mindful of this developing as your puppy matures into a beautiful adult dog.
Remember, you are their primary caregiver and best friend, you need to do everything possible to maintain their quality of life. It’s worth noting that anti inflammatory drugs, nsaid, can help.
It can be hard to live with your beloved pet slowly losing their mobility. But, if you continue to love them and care for them you can be assured they will be content. Their loyalty and love for you will go unchanged.
The key to building a lasting relationship is to be there when they need you. Of course, your dog will be unable to converse with you but they will appreciate it.
If you would like to read more about symptoms and solutions for your pet, please click this link.