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Hip Dysplasia in Dogs: Is There a Treatment and a Cure?

by Vetic Editorial

The term “hip dysplasia” brings terror in the hearts of dog parents. It is a very common condition vets are now observing among large and medium-large breed dogs in cities. Hip dysplasia in dogs is not just common in adult dogs but also among puppies. 

Hip dysplasia in dogs can be painful and uncomfortable for all pups and dogs. When it remains undiagnosed and untreated, hip dysplasia can reduce the quality of a dog’s life irrespective of their age, breed and size. 

The good news is that you can learn all about dog hip dysplasia right here including the signs/symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, management and prevention. 

What is Hip Dysplasia in Dogs and Puppies?

One Great Dane puppy looking directly at the camera with a slight head tilt. The puppy has grey-brown eyes and a white line along the mid-central chest and large paws. Hip dysplasia in dogs is particularly common among larger breeds

Hip dysplasia is a rather common skeletal condition in dogs and pups. 

That’s right! Even puppies can have hip dysplasia. In fact, this condition begins during the growth stage of a pup, especially of a medium-large and large breed. 

Hip dysplasia results in the loosening of the hip joint that causes pain and discomfort during movement. 

The hip joint is a ball-and-socket joint. Think of it as a disproportionate growth that does not allow the ball and the socket to grow in sync. The ball and socket of the joint grind instead of sliding smoothly!

When it remains undiagnosed in puppyhood, it leads to arthritis, limited range of mobility and muscle atrophy in the back legs in adulthood. 

What Causes Hip Dysplasia in Dogs and Pups?

A bulk of research shows that hip dysplasia in dogs and pups is controlled by genetic factors. 

Although it is more common in large breed dogs, not all large breed dogs experience this condition. 

At the same time, a small breed dog whose parents suffer(ed) from hip dysplasia has a higher chance of developing the condition. 

Other factors such as sudden growth spurts, obesity, unbalanced nutrition and type of exercise do increase the chances of an already at-risk pup developing hip dysplasia. 

Which Breeds are More Prone to Hip Dysplasia?

It is common knowledge that large dog breeds are more likely to develop hip dysplasia, but some small breeds may also develop the condition due to genetics. 

Here are 10 popular breeds prone to hip dysplasia –

  1. German Shepherds
  2. Labrador Retrievers
  3. Golden Retrievers
  4. Great Dane
  5. Corgi (Pembroke Welsh and Cardigan)
  6. French Bulldog
  7. English Bulldog
  8. Saint Bernard
  9. American Staffordshire Terrier
  10. Rottweilers

Several other breeds may also experience hip dysplasia. If you own a dog of another breed or a mixed breed, you need to get their joint health checked up when they are growing puppies.

What are Some Visible Signs and Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?

Large dogs may sit in a funny or unusual manner. It is a sign of hip dysplasia in dogs.

Puppies and young adult dogs are too busy playing around and being silly to show severe signs of joint distress. However, you need to develop a keen eye to see the telltale signs of hip dysplasia, such as –

  1. Reduced range of motion 
  2. Difficulty in getting up, jumping and climbing stairs
  3. Lameness of the back legs (may be occasional)
  4. Loss of muscle mass from the back legs
  5. Excess enlargement of shoulder muscles
  6. Stiffness of the back joints
  7. Limping or “bunny hop” gait
  8. Cracking and popping sound of the joints
  9. Unnatural sitting positions

Some of these signs are only visible in cases of severe discomfort in adult dogs. Puppies with hip dysplasia may not show any of these signs. 

You should consult a veterinarian near you to learn more about the joint health of your pup. 

How is Hip Dysplasia Diagnosed?

Your veterinarian will confirm hip dysplasia only after doing a thorough physical examination followed by imaging tests (X-ray). 

The veterinarian should also recommend blood tests. If your dog’s joints are painful and swollen, there will be multiple biomarkers in their blood. 

The veterinarian can confirm the level of pain and swelling, and decide the course of treatment for hip dysplasia from the results of all these tests. 

What are the Available Treatment Options for Hip Dysplasia in Dogs (Pups and Adults)?

Hip dysplasia is a treatable and, sometimes, curable condition in puppies and dogs. Your veterinarian is the best person to decide the course of treatment for your dog. 

Get your large breed pup checked by a veterinarian frequently to ensure he doesn't have any signs of hip dysplasia in dogs. In the image, we can see a vet checking the joints of a German Shepherd puppy.

Oral Medication and Supplements

Early diagnosis often means oral medication and supplements along with rehabilitative therapy to minimise the damage. However, medication and supplements cannot undo the damage already experienced by the hip joint. 

Any puppy or dog with hip dysplasia may receive medication for pain and swelling management. Some of these medications and supplements may continue for months or even years. 

It may take several weeks and multiple medications to reduce the pain and discomfort. 

If your pup or dog is already on medication for hip dysplasia do not stop them without consulting the veterinarian. 

Prescription Food and Special Diet

Thankfully, pet parents now have the option of choosing from multiple brands and types of food that cater to joint health. 

Your veterinarian will recommend special joint health management food (dry, wet or both) for your dog/pupper depending on their health needs. 

Many of the veterinary prescription foods have omega-3-fatty acids, chondroitin and glucosamine that modify joint fluids. 

Your dog may also receive weight management food that helps control their weight in case obesity is a contributing factor to their distress. 

Surgical Options

If your dog’s hip dysplasia is severe your veterinarian may recommend surgery. While there are multiple surgery options available, senior veterinarians and veterinary surgeons typically recommend the following for dogs depending on their health, age and other physiological conditions. 

  • Femur Head/Neck Osteotomy (FHO/FHNO)

The entire femur head is removed from the socket to minimise the grinding and the bones are readjusted to give the dog better mobility and strength in the back legs. 

  • Double/Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (DPO/TPO)

The way the hip socket is positioned is changed to help puppies with hip problems move better, feel less pain, and prevent future damage. This surgery is typically recommended for young dogs (puppies) and it can prevent the degeneration of the hip joint later in life. 

  • Juvenile Pubic Symphysiodesis (JPS)

Juvenile Public Symphysiodesis changes hip socket shape in young puppies as the pelvis grows, making more of the hip joint touch the leg bone for better support. It helps improve the range of motion and reduces pain. 

Physiotherapy and Hydrotherapy

Photo of a Golden Labrador in a life jacket swimming in a pool. Goldens are particularly susceptible to hip dysplasia and hydrotherapy is one effective way to reduce their pain and discomfort.

Physiotherapy and hydrotherapy should only be performed after the veterinarian has recommended it. The intensity and duration of the therapies should be strictly as per recommendations. 

The exercises should be guided by professional canine therapists. You should restrict your dog from running, jumping, leaping and excess walking. 

Your veterinary surgeon may recommend physiotherapy and/or hydrotherapy for your dog after a successful surgery as well. Do not stop or change the exercises suddenly without talking to your veterinarian. 

What is The Cost of Hip Dysplasia Surgery in India?

The cost of hip dysplasia surgery in India can vary dramatically depending upon – 

  • The chosen procedure 
  • The dog’s size, breed, age and health condition
  • The dog’s pre-existing conditions and comorbidities 
  • The additional medications, laboratory tests and imaging tests

These are some costs that very few people are ready to bear no matter how much they love their pupper. Many have to forego surgical options even though a surgery can reduce the pain and discomfort permanently. 

Therefore, it is always prudent to opt for pet health insurance once you adopt a new puppy. 

Is Long-term Oral Medication a Viable Treatment for Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?

Medical management of hip dysplasia in dogs includes more than just painkillers. It has to be a multi-factorial approach that includes joint supplements, prescription food and physiotherapy. 

Long-term oral medication for hip dysplasia can include non-steroidal pain killers (NSAIDs) and supplements for joint health. 

Now, some medications lose efficiency in the long-term. So, if your veterinarian has recommended any medicine and supplements for your dog’s joint and bone health, you need to continue that. At the same time, repeat blood tests to track the inflammation parameters. 

You must visit your doctor once every 4 to 6 months to ensure that your dog is free from pain and discomfort caused by canine hip dysplasia. 

Your Dog Has Hip Dysplasia. Now, What?

(prognosis and quality of life with prolonged treatment – age, breed, activity level and care)

Hip dysplasia has the power to reduce the quality of a dog’s life but it is definitely not the end of a journey. Your dog can live a healthy, mobile and pain-free life with the correct treatment. 

Always listen to the veterinarian. Complete the prescribed tests. Follow the recommended diet and do not miss out doses of prescribed meds and supplements. 

With medical management and surgical intervention there is no reason for a dog to not live a normal, happy and healthy life. 

Is it Possible to Prevent Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?

Sadly, it is not possible to prevent all cases of hip dysplasia in dogs. However, here are a few pointers you can follow to ensure good joint health of your pup. 

  • Give them appropriate levels of exercise according to their age, size and breed.
  • Feed them a proper canine diet that prevents excess weight gain. 
  • Give them bone and joint health supplements for prescribed periods of time as per the vet’s instructions only!

Do enough research on the breed of your choice to ensure that you remain updated regarding potential hip joint issues that can affect your pupper. 

Speak to an experienced veterinarian near you soon after you adopt a puppy. Early and regular physical check-ups can help you understand if your puppy is at risk of developing hip dysplasia and related joint complications.

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