Hip dysplasia is a genetic condition in dogs in which the hip joint does not develop properly. The hip joint is a ball and socket joint. In hip dysplasia either the socket is not properly formed or the ball is not the right shape so there is not a good fit. This leads to instability and causes the soft cartilage of the joint to erode or wear away leading to arthritis. Hip dysplasia can affect one or both hip and cause limping, pain and difficulty walking. This can occur even in the first year of life.
Any breed can develop hip dysplasia but it is most common in the large breed dogs such as the Labrador retriever and German Shepherd. Although there is an inherited tendency towards hip dysplasia, environmental factors can influence the severity of the problem and in some cases whether it is clinically apparent. Large breed dogs that are overexercised or fed too much when they are puppies can develop hip dysplasia.
Clinical signs of hip dysplasia are limping, pain on sitting, difficulty rising and a hip swaying gait. Since these signs are non specific and can occur from other causes, radiographs are needed to make a final diagnosis.
Treatment depends on the severity of the condition. In some severe cases surgery is needed. Surgical procedures such as total hip replacement or femoral head osteotomy can be done depending on the case. Medical therapy is very common. Conventional treatments include Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs ( in the aspirin category),opiate pain killers or steroids. New and alternative treatments include physical therapy to build muscle, laser therapy, acupuncture, Chinese and Western herbs, nutraceuticals such as glucosamine, and stem cell therapy. Pet Wellbeing has a formula for dogs with hip dysplasia called Joint Rescue.
If your dog has been diagnosed with hip dysplasia, it is important that he keeps active to build up hind end muscles. Swimming and backward walking are very good muscle building exercises. Guard your dog from obesity as those extra pounds put greater stress on bones and joints. Remember if your dog has hip dysplasia he or she should not be bred as this just passes the problem along to the next generation. Any dog which is to be bred should be screened by way of radiographs at the age of 18 months. Some special radiographs called Penn Hip can be taken much earlier and these can be offered for susceptible breeds.