Hip dysplasia in dogs is one of the most common diseases faced by dogs and refers to a misalignment of the hip joint. The disease often arises because the hip joint—be it the head of the femur (the ball) or the pelvic bone (the socket) or both— is misshapen and no longer able to provide the structural support and freedom of movement it normally does.
In most cases, the hip misalignment develops gradually and worsens over time. In other cases, puppies with hip dysplasia have been identified from as early as four months of age. As a degenerative joint disease and “silent” condition, diagnoses of hip dysplasia often take place way later than they could have been.
Dysplastic joints can deteriorate on a number of fronts: the joint cartilage (necessary to cushion the bones and allow them to move fluidly) the joint ligaments, and the joint bones are all susceptible to inflammatory damage and oxidative stress. Breaking down the components of hip joints can end up extensively loosening the joint and even dislocating the hip, among other consequences.
In some scenarios, canine hip dysplasia comes up as a secondary disease to other joint issues, most of which are categorized under the umbrella of arthritis. Similar to hip dysplasia, osteoarthritis is a joint disease in which inflammation slowly deteriorates joints and causes discomfort and pain in the hip.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?
Even though canine hip dysplasia tends to slowly develop over time, there are plenty of ways for cautious dog owners to spot it before irreparable damage takes place. Most of the signs and symptoms are related to either joint strength and flexibility or joint pain.
Researchers and veterinarians have classified the symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs and believe they stem from three main categories:
- Joint laxity. A loose joint is a major structural complication that inevitably takes place with misshapen bone connections, cartilage breakdown, weak musculature, and any sort of deterioration in joint parts.
- Joint inflammation. Inflammation is one of the main causes of overheating, swelling, degradation of joint parts, as well as pain around joints.
- Duration. Signs differ as the disease spends more time in the body. Later stages of the disease can lead to serious dog hip problems, like hip dislocation, whereas early stages of the disease present less jarring symptoms.
Listed in no particular order are tell-tale signs of hip dysplasia in dogs that can be used to pinpoint joint problems.
- Reduced physical activity or a reluctance to run, jump, or go up and down stairs are early signs of hip problems in dogs.
- Reduced range of motion along with reduced flexibility can be spotted out with decreased or abnormal stretching and scratching, stiffness, and altered movement patterns.
- Having a hard time getting up.
- Irregular or consistent lameness. Lameness can make hip problems very apparent. It is especially obvious after exercise. Long term lameness commonly forces dogs to “bunny-hop” instead of walk normally.
- Narrow stance, where the hind (back) legs move closer together.
- Stronger shoulder muscles often form in dogs who subconsciously apply more weight on their front, as opposed to back, legs when their hip joints are deteriorating.
- Popping or grating sounds during movement indicate that bones are inappropriately clicking against one another.
- Complaining via yelping, barking, or sniffing usually suggests pain.
- Bone jutting out or other distortions in figure.
What Causes Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?
Hip dysplasia in dogs are, most often than not, a result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The two most widely shared traits of dogs with hip dysplasia are large size and breeding. The most common external factors may be diet and activity.
- Gene mutations. Researchers have recently located key genetic mutations, known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP), in several genes (PTPRD, PARD3B, COL15A1) that have been linked to joint diseases, including hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis.
- Certain dog breeds, especially those large in stature and those made to participate in human activities, seem to be particularly susceptible to hip dysplasia.
- Inbreeding has long been charged as a contributor to disease development, including canine hip dysplasia in Bulldogs.
- Poor nutrition. Obesity is one of the biggest risk factors associated with dog hip problems. High body fat has negative consequences on most organs and blood vessels, especially the heart, and can gradually wear down joints due to added weight. Excess fat, sugar, carbohydrates, and a lack of essential vitamins and minerals, is harmful to joints.
- Improper exercise. Excessive anaerobic exercise (like sprinting and jumping) cause a slow wear-and-tear on joints that can eventually trigger disease progression. Low exercise, on the other hand, can lead to obesity and weak muscles, both of which also cause hip problems in dogs.
- Trauma and accidents, plainly enough, can break, dislocate, or damage joints or any of their structural pieces.
What Dog Breeds are Most Affected?
The dog breeds most commonly suffering from hip dysplasia are naturally large in size, historically trained to actively assist humans, or both. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) has a full list of the percentage of certain dog breeds that get canine hip dysplasia. Among the most common are Bulldogs, Labradors, Beagles, German Shepherds, and Great Danes.
Bulldogs (and pugs) have, by far, the highest likelihood of acquiring hip dysplasia at a shocking 71.8%. Most other common breeds are about 20% to 50% likely to suffer from canine hip dysplasia.
What are the Best Treatment Options for Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?
While there is currently no single cure for hip dysplasia in dogs, there definitely exist ways to reduce disease severity and make life a whole lot easier for patients. The key, as with treatment for most diseases, really is prevention. Once chronic hip dysplasia sets in, the only alternative could end up being major surgery.
Here are the top treatments for hip dysplasia in dogs:
- A healthy diet for dogs usually means a high meat content (raw meat, if possible) with a mixture of safe fruits and vegetables, and low amounts of fat, carbohydrates, and sugars.
- Exercise and physical therapy is a great way to reduce the risk of obesity and minimize weight pressure, which is horrible for joint cartilage. Strengthening muscles around the hip is also crucial for stabilizing joints and increasing longevity and flexibility.
- Acupuncture and chiropractic care can help stimulate cells, nerves, and muscles in order to promote the wellbeing of joints as well as surrounding vessels. While acupuncture may ease away pain, poor technique can result in more health complications.
- Supplements. There are tons of organic supplements, such as yucca, garlic, turmeric, alfalfa, and primrose oil, as well as cartilage nurturing supplements, especially glucosamine and chondroitin, that may potentially improve joint conditions.
- Medicine and injections. Aspirin is sometimes prescribed to reduce joint pain and inflammation. Shots of glycosaminoglycans might be offered to help repair cartilage. Medication should be taken cautiously, as it may trigger adverse side effects.
- Surgery is generally the last resort and is meant for very severe cases of canine hip dysplasia. A total hip replacement can provide an entirely new opportunity for formerly lame dogs to walk again.