Large and giant breeds are susceptible to hip dysplasia with Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherds being well known for this problem. Dogs suffering from dysplasia have two things that are commonly abnormal. First, the head of the femur ( the top bone of the leg) is not deeply and tightly held by the acetabulum ( or socket ). Instead of being a snug fit, it is a loose fit, or a partial fit. Secondly, the acetabulum is not smooth and round, but are misshapen, causing abnormal wear and tear or friction within the joint as it moves.
To reduce pain, the animal will typically reduce its movement of that hip. This may be visible as “bunny hopping”, where both legs move together, or less running and jumping , or stiffness. Since the hip cannot move fully, the body compensates by overuse of the spine, knee joints or other soft tissues. Hip dysplasia is considered an inherited trait although the environment plays a considerable part in the outcome of dogs with hip dysplasia. If a dog that is susceptible to hip dysplasia is overweight or at a young age is injured or overworked, hip dysplasia can result. Jogging a puppy under a year of age can lead to this problem. In dogs, the problem almost always appears by the time the dog is 18 months old. Hip dysplasia can be anywhere from mild to severely crippling, and can eventually cause severe osteoarthritis.
What can be done about it? Most conventional veterinarians will recommend pain control meds and when these no longer work surgery. Clearly acupuncture , Chinese and Western herbs, vitamin therapy and homeopathics can help with the pain ( See earlier post on Musculoskeletal herbs). Glucosamine and glucosamine mixtures can help with decreasing arthritis but manual and physical therapy show the most promise to keep this problem at bay. More on this tomorrow