Hip dysplasia is a chronic condition that often occurs in large-breed dogs (and, to a lesser extent, overweight small dogs and cats) in which the ball and socket joint of the hip is misaligned or malformed, resulting in a joint that grinds rather than sliding smoothly. This can lead to severe pain for your dog, especially very active breeds. The key to successful treatment of hip dysplasia is recognizing the signs and taking steps to alleviate them as soon as possible.
Signs and Symptoms
In the earliest stages of dysplasia, dogs will begin to engage in less activity and will have difficulty standing from a sitting or sleeping position. You may notice your dog become reluctant to run, fetch, jump or even climb up on his favorite piece of furniture. In later stages, your dog may be unable to use her hind legs at all after periods of intense activity and may adopt a “bunny hop” way of walking that seems unnatural and painful to the dog. You may also notice an enlargement of your dog’s forward shoulder muscles as he shifts his weight to compensate for the pain in his hips. If you notice these symptoms in your pet, consult your veterinarian right away.
Dysplasia could be caused by genetic factors; larger breed dogs are more susceptible to the condition, especially if they are very active. Rapid weight gain and obesity can contribute to or exacerbate the condition, as well as nutritional and environmental factors.
Your veterinarian will complete a thorough exam to diagnose hip dysplasia, which may include X-rays. Dysplasia can be treated on an outpatient basis in mild or moderate cases, while severe and progressed cases may require invasive surgery. Swimming is an excellent exercise for dogs with dysplasia, as it provides high muscle and joint activity with very little impact or risk of further injury. Your vet may recommend this for mild to moderate cases or if surgery is not a financial option. Additionally, weight control is critical in managing your dog’s pain. Losing excess weight can help decrease the pressure on the hip joint and allows for greater range of movement.
Surgical options will focus on improving joint stability in younger dogs, and total hip replacement is an option for older dogs that are not responding to non-invasive treatments. Most dogs will handle these interventions well and recover have normal range of function after healing.
If you suspect your pet may have hip dysplasia, consult your veterinarian as soon as possible to begin diagnostics and treatment. Catching the condition early and providing appropriate interventions is critical to minimizing the pain and discomfort your pet experiences from this disease. PetFirst covers hip dysplasia treatments with no waiting period so you can get your pet back on her feet in no time.