Hip dysplasia is an unfortunately common disease in dogs where the ball and socket joint do not properly engage. Because of this, the bones of the hip grind against each other instead of sliding against each other smoothly. Hip dysplasia is especially common in larger dogs such as Great Danes and Saint Bernards. Little dogs can also develop hip dysplasia, but the condition is sometimes asymptomatic.
Hip dysplasia usually begins when the dog is a puppy, though some dogs get the disease when they’re adults. Then it’s likely caused by osteoarthritis. This is when the cartilage between the ball and socket in the hip starts to degenerate.
Some dogs are genetically predisposed to hip dysplasia, while other develop it due to other factors. Sometimes both causes are involved. A dog can develop the condition if they become obese or have a mass in their pelvic muscles.
Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms depend on how loose the joint is, how inflamed the joint is and how long the dog has had the problem. The dog may not be as playful or active as it used to be and may have difficulty getting up. The owner may notice that the dog favors one of its hind legs. They may hold their back legs too close together, and when the joint does move the owner may hear a grating sound.
Other signs and symptoms are loss of range of motion in the hips. The dog’s thighs may lose muscle mass while their shoulder muscles bulk up. This is because the dog uses his shoulder muscles to avoid using the muscles in its hips.
Diagnosing Hip Dysplasia
The veterinarian runs a series of tests on the dog after giving it a physical examination. They’ll do a CBC or complete blood count, a profile of the blood chemicals, urinalysis and an electrolyte panel. They’ll also order X-rays. The dog’s owner will need to give the vet the dog’s medical history, tell them when the symptoms began, and tell them if the dog has had an injuries that could have brought on the hip dysplasia. If the owner knows who their dog’s parents were, this information should also be given to the veterinarian.
Whether the dog has surgery or not depends on the extent of the disease, the dog’s age, size and activity level. Surgeries include the TPO surgery and juvenile pubic symphysiodesis for puppies and hip replacement for older dogs. As in people, some dogs with hip dysplasia respond well to physiotherapy, exercises such as swimming and a special diet that helps them lose weight.