Primary Blog/Joint Health/Understanding Canine Hip Dysplasia and it’s Prevention

Understanding Canine Hip Dysplasia and its Prevention

Canine hip dysplasia is a pretty common orthopedic condition that affects dogs, particularly larger and giant breeds. It involves abnormal development of the hip joint, leading to a loose and unstable connection between the hip joint’s ball and socket joint. This instability can cause gradual wear and tear of the cartilage, leading to arthritis and discomfort. While hip dysplasia is mainly considered a genetic condition, environmental factors like nutrition and exercise have influence over its severity.

Types of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs:

Subluxation: This type involves a partial dislocation of the hip joint, where the femoral head is partially displaced from the hip joint(acetabulum).

Luxation: In this more severe form, the hip joint completely dislocates, with the femoral head moving entirely out of the hip joint (acetabulum).

Early-Onset CHD: Some dogs may show signs of hip dysplasia as early as a few months old. This is known as early-onset CHD and often requires prompt management to minimize joint damage.

Late-Onset CHD: In other cases, hip dysplasia may not become apparent until the the dog’s condition is severed to they are older.

Hip dysplasia is graded based on its severity using a scoring system developed by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and the British Veterinary Association (BVA):

  • Grade 0: Normal hips.
  • Grade 1: Near-normal hips with minimal changes.
  • Grade 2: Mild hip dysplasia.
  • ​Grade 3: Moderate hip dysplasia.
  • ​Grade 4: Severe hip dysplasia.

Dogs with more severe hip dysplasia (higher grades) are more likely to experience discomfort, lameness especially in their hind legs, and joint problems as they age.

It’s essential to note that not all dogs with hip dysplasia will show clinical signs or develop severe arthritis or other degenerative joint disease. Some dogs with mild dysplasia may remain asymptomatic throughout their lives. Early detection, proper management, and appropriate treatment can help improve the quality of life for many dogs affected by hip dysplasia. Veterinary care, weight management, exercise moderation, and joint supplements are common components of the management plan. In severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to alleviate pain and improve joint function.

Early Signs and Symptoms

Accurately diagnosing hip dysplasia in dogs is the first step when it comes to treatment! Here are a few clinical signs to look out for.

  • Abnormal gait and difficulty in running or jumping.
  • Reluctance to exercise or play.
  • Joint stiffness and discomfort.
  • Bunny hopping or swaying while walking.
  • ​Hind leg lameness.
  • ​Physical examination and observation of gait.
  • ​Radiographic evaluation and diagnostic imaging.

The symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs do overlap with other degenerative joint diseases. If you notice even the slightest of these signs, hop along to the vet, they will conduct a physical exam and a few other tests if needed to confirm the condition.

Are mixed-breed dogs more likely to develop hip dysplasia when compared to pure-bred dogs?

In general, mixed-bred dogs are often considered to have a lower risk of developing hip dysplasia when compared to certain purebred dogs. This is primarily because mixed-bred dogs have a more diverse genetic background, which can potentially reduce the concentration of breed-specific genetic traits linked to hip dysplasia in the canine population. However, it’s important to note that hip dysplasia can still occur in mixed-breed dogs, especially if they inherit genes from the breeds in their lineage.

At what age does hip dysplasia show in dogs?

Hip dysplasia in dogs can manifest at different ages and are dependent on factors such as breed, genetics, growth rate, and environmental conditions.

Puppies and Young Dogs: In some cases, especially for breeds prone to hip dysplasia, puppies may show subtle signs of discomfort or lameness as early as a few months old. This is often due to the rapid growth and development phase, which can exacerbate joint issues.

Young to Middle-Aged Dogs: Dogs in the age range of 1 to 5 years old may also exhibit symptoms, particularly during times of increased activity or strenuous exercise. Signs might include limping, stiffness, reluctance to move, or the bunny-hopping gait.

Senior Dogs: As dogs age, especially around the age of 7 years and older, the wear and tear on the hip joints add up and can cause hip dysplasia, while existing hip dysplasia on the other hand can lead to the development of secondary conditions like arthritis.

It’s important to note that the timing of when hip dysplasia shows up in dogs can vary widely, and the symptoms in some dogs go unnoticed and only become clear when they get older.

How to prevent hip dysplasia in dogs?

Preventing hip dysplasia in dogs involves proactive measures and responsible pet care. While some risk factors, such as genetics, cannot be fully controlled, there are several steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of dysplasia and promote better joint health in your furry companion:

1. Responsible Breeding:​

Genetic predisposition greatly influences the chance of your dog developing hip dysplasia. Large breed dogs like Labrador Retrievers and German shepherds have an increased chance to develop hip dysplasia. If you are considering getting a dog, choose a reputable and responsible breeder who conducts genetic testing for common dysplasia-related conditions in their breeding dogs to ensure those genes don’t get transferred into future generations.

2. Controlled Growth:

Large-breed puppies experience rapid growth during their developmental phase. Overfeeding and excessive exercise can add undue stress on your dog’s hips, joints increasing the risk of dysplasia. Follow your veterinarian’s guidelines for portion control and appropriate exercise and understand what a healthy diet for your breed looks like. Overweight dogs can develop hip dysplasia at an early age, they also experience increased systemic inflammation caused by the excess fat.

3. Balanced Nutrition:​

Feed your dog a balanced and age-appropriate diet to support their overall health and proper growth. Large and giant breed dogs tend to require specific nutritional requirements to suit their large size, these are sometimes not met with their everyday diet. Analyse your dog’s food for gaps in their diet and consider adding dietary supplements to ensure they get the right amount of essential nutrients to maintain healthy muscle mass and joints.

4.Exercise and Physical Therapy:​

As your dog ages, adjust their exercise routine to accommodate their changing needs. Provide regular, low-impact exercise to keep your dog’s joints and muscles strong without putting excessive strain on the developing bones.

Avoid activities that involve sudden, high-impact movements or excessive jumping, as they can increase the chances of hip dysplasia.

5. Joint Supplements:

Supplements containing glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM and omega-3 fatty help support healthy normal hip function while reducing the risk of developing degenerative joint diseases, especially when added to their diet during the time their hip joint develops.

6. Veterinary Check-ups:​

Schedule regular veterinary check-ups to monitor your dog’s overall health and identify any early signs of dysplasia or other orthopedic issues. Early detection allows for prompt intervention and management.

7. Orthopedic Evaluation:

If you plan to adopt or purchase a dog, consider seeking an orthopedic evaluation from a veterinarian with expertise in musculoskeletal health. This can help identify any pre-existing orthopedic conditions, including potential dysplasia.

8. Environmental Modifications:

You can use rugs, carpets or even toe grips to reduce the risk of injuries that come about with slippery surfaces or restrict playtime to be strictly outdoors where your dog has a better grip and is less likely to slip and injure themselves. You can also add ramps near stairs or other elevated areas to reduce any hard jumps.

​By implementing these measures, you can promote better joint health and reduce the risk and to a certain extent even prevent hip dysplasia, allowing your furry friend to lead a happy, active, and comfortable life. Remember that early detection and proper management of any orthopedic issues are essential for ensuring the best possible outcome for your your dog’s health and overall well-being.

How to slow down the progression of hip dysplasia in dogs

There are different stages of progression of hip dysplasia and here are a few preventative techniques used as part of their treatment to slow down the progression and in some cases prevent it altogether.

1. Pain Management and Medications​

Pain management is an essential aspect of caring for dogs with hip dysplasia. Several medications and supplements can help alleviate hip pain and support joint health.

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs are commonly prescribed by veterinarians to reduce inflammation and provide pain relief for dogs with hip dysplasia. These medications help slow down the progression by making your dog more comfortable with their everyday activities as limping, etc. can cause additional stress on the other healthy joints. It also help have a smoother physical therapy session.

Joint Supplements: Supplements containing glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM help reduce the impact of everyday wear and tear significantly slowing down the progression. They also help boost the production of cartilage and relieve joint pain keeping your dog’s skeletal system healthy.

2. Physical Therapy:

In addition to medications and supplements, physical therapy techniques, such as massage, range-of-motion exercises, and hydrotherapy, can help relieve pain and improve joint mobility and prevent further issues like muscle atrophy.

3. Weight Management:

Keeping your dog at a healthy weight is crucial for reducing stress on the hip joints as excess weight can speed up the progression of hip dysplasia.

4. Surgical options:

Treating hip dysplasia can be hard, in cases where conservative management approaches have not provided sufficient relief or when the condition is severe surgical procedures are used. Here are some common surgical options to treat hip dysplasia:

​Total Hip Replacement (THR): THR involves replacing the entire hip joint with prosthetic components to create a false joint. This procedure is typically reserved for severe cases of hip dysplasia usually seen in adult dogs.

Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO): FHO involves removing the head of the femur in the ball and socket joint of the hip, which eliminates the painful bone-on-bone contact between the thigh bone and your dog’s hip joint. This procedure is often considered for smaller dogs or when total hip replacement is not feasible.

Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (TPO): TPO is performed in young dogs with hip dysplasia. It involves cutting and realigning the pelvic bones to provide better coverage and support for the femoral head within the hip.

Juvenile pubic symphysiodesis (JPS):
JPS is a surgical procedure performed in dogs of young age, usually before they reach sexual maturity, to address cases of instability in the hip and joints and prevent the development of hip dysplasia.

It’s crucial to consult with a veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary surgeon to discuss surgical considerations and recommendations for your dog’s specific case. They can assess the severity of the dog’s hip dysplasia, their age, overall health, and lifestyle to determine the most suitable surgical option, if necessary.

​In conclusion, understanding and addressing canine hip dysplasia requires a multi-faceted approach. By combining responsible breeding practices, proper nutrition, exercise moderation, and early intervention, you can work to proactively manage, and improve the quality of life of your dog.

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