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Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Hip Dysplasia in Dogs: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Hip dysplasia in dogs is the abnormal development or growth of the hip joint. The disease manifests in pelvic and hindlimb abnormalities and complete or partial loss of function. 

Pet owners asking, “What is hip dysplasia in dogs?” must know that it is a disease that occurs due to skeletal, muscular, or nervous degeneration to any part of the hip. 

Symptoms of canine hip dysplasia include limping, reduced activity, soreness, signs of pain, and depression. 

The diagnosis of hip dysplasia is based on an in-depth physical examination with radiographic signs. 

Treatment for hip dysplasia in dogs is either conservative therapy with anti-inflammatories and painkillers or surgery. 

What is Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?

Hip dysplasia in dogs is the abnormal development of the hip joint. The disease affects the right and left joints but periodically starts unilaterally. The hips comprise several structures, such as the pelvic bone and acetabulum, the femoral head, and associated soft tissue and muscles. 

Commonly observed deformities of hip dysplasia are the increased laxity of the femoral attachments to the pelvic bone. Deformities are due to lack of vascularity in the joint, regression of the femoral head, poor mineralization of the bones, arthritis, or a shallow hip socket. 

A hip dysplasia dog condition involves a “bunny-hopping” gait that becomes prominent during running. 

How is hip dysplasia in dogs compared to osteoarthritis?

Hip dysplasia in dogs is a more complex disease than osteoarthritis and is caused by several factors, including cartilaginous issues. 

Osteoarthritis, or “degenerative joint disease,” is the thinning of the cartilage in between two bones that causes them to rub against each other. 

Osteoarthritis is a complication of hip dysplasia. The lack of a secure attachment of the acetabulum fossa and femoral head causes higher contact pressure on the socket, wearing down the cartilage. The two conditions cause significant pain, inflammation, and discomfort, as evidenced by swelling, irregularities in gait, and lack of activity. 

How common is hip dysplasia in dogs?

Hip dysplasia in dogs is one of the most prevalent disorders of the canine hip. Statistics state that the incidence ranges from “0.9 % for the Borzoi to 47.4% for Saint Bernard in dogs radiographically evaluated by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA)”, according to DeCamp et al., in the Handbook of Small Animal and Orthopedics and Fracture Repair 5th edition, 2016. The disease occurs more frequently in heavier dogs compared to smaller dog breeds, and cats. 

Which Dog breeds are most likely to get hip dysplasia?

The dog breeds most likely to get hip dysplasia are listed below.

  • German Shepherds: German Shepherds are 24-26 inches tall and weigh up to 90 pounds. Over 19.8% of German shepherds suffer from hip dysplasia, according to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals.
  • Golden Retrievers: Golden Retrievers are sturdy, muscular dogs that are 23-24 inches in height and weigh up to 75 pounds. Roughly 19.6% of the breed suffer from hip dysplasia, according to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals.
  • Labrador Retrievers: Labrador Retrievers are large, energetic dogs that are  22-25 inches in height and weigh up to 80 pounds. Approximately 11.6% of all Retrievers have hip dysplasia, according to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals.
  • Saint Bernards: Saint Bernards are massive dogs measuring 28-30 inches and weighing up to 180 pounds. About 47.4% of all Saint Bernards have hip dysplasia, according to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals.
  • Bulldogs: Bulldogs are muscular breeds that stand 14-15 inches and weigh up to 50 pounds. Bulldogs have a high prevalence of hip dysplasia, with 72.6 percent of Bulldogs studied being affected, according to the OFA.

What Causes Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?

The causes of hip dysplasia in dogs are listed below.

  • Breed predisposition: The hereditary factor in large-breed dogs is one of the most well-established answers to what causes hip dysplasia in dogs. Breeds such as Labrador and Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Saint Bernards, and other large-breed dogs have a higher chance of developing the disease. 
  • Obesity: Poor weight management contributes to exacerbating the effects of hip laxity. The increased body mass increases stress on the hip muscles and bones, worsening hip dysplasia. The disease rarely occurs in dogs with a mature body weight of 11-12 kg.
  • Poor nutrition: Lack of proper dog nutrition contributes to poor bone and joint health. Dietary vitamins and minerals such as a balanced amount of calcium and vitamin D are necessary for healthy bone maturation. Rapid weight gain is linked to severe forms of hip dysplasia, as seen in studies involving dogs fed ad libitum. 
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease: The disease is a hereditary condition of small dogs that involves the necrosis of the ball and socket joint of the hip. The femoral head’s blood supply is inadequate, leading to the death of the bone. Necrosis leads to laxity of the joint and hip dysplasia. 
  • Genetics: Dogs with hip dysplasia in their parental lineage are likely to develop it. Only 7% of dogs with dysplastic parents are born with normal hips, while the rest are affected. Screen dogs for genetic testing and radiographic examination before breeding to reduce the number of offspring born with hip dysplasia. 

How is hip dysplasia inherited in dogs?

Hip dysplasia is inherited in dogs when one or both parents have dysplastic hips. The pathophysiology of the disease is “due to the deletion of the fibrillin 2 gene (FBN2) on chromosome 11, which causes alteration in the connective tissue around the joint, leading to hip malformation”, according to Zhu et al., in “Estimation of heritabilities, genetic correlations, and breeding values of four traits that collectively define hip dysplasia in dogs” 2019. 

Research notes that “85% of offspring have CHD when both parents have dysplastic hips, 52% of offspring if one parent has dysplastic hips, and 37.5% of offspring if both parents have normal hips,” according to Fries and Remedios, in “Pathogenesis and diagnosis of canine hip dysplasia,” 1995. 

Does hip dysplasia in dogs cause spinal problems?

No, hip dysplasia does not cause spinal problems in dogs. Hip dysplasia manifests as hindleg abnormalities that resemble spinal injuries at first glance. 

Hip dysplasia is ruled out following a thorough examination before concluding spinal injury and is treated as a separate disease. Spinal problems in dogs involve complete lumbosacral paralysis that affects bladder and colon function. Hip dysplasia only affects the ball-and-socket joint of the hip and its associated nerves, muscles, and tissues. 

What are the Common Symptoms of Hip dysplasia in Dogs?

The common symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs are listed below.

  • Difficulty Standing: The pelvis and hindlegs support a large portion of the dog’s body weight. Dogs with hip dysplasia are unable to anchor themselves when standing, leading to a shaky and difficult motion when they try to get up. 
  • Bunny-hop Gait: A bunny-hopping gait is a classical sign of hip dysplasia in dogs. The gait resembles a rabbit using its hind legs to bounce off the ground. Dysplastic dogs avoid putting pressure or weight on the back legs. 
  • Exercise Intolerance: Dogs with dysplasia tire much faster after physical activity. Walking or running becomes too much for the dog, and they seem to get tired faster. 
  • Lethargy: Dogs with severe dysplasia barely stand or go up to eat. Lethargy is a consequence related to the condition's everyday pain. The discomfort persists throughout the day, making daily activity difficult for dogs. 
  • Lameness: Severe bilateral hip dysplasia leads to hind leg lameness due to the leg bones' lack of attachment to the pelvic bones. The pelvis provides the structural support of the leg bones through attachment to the ball and socket.

How do you tell if your dog has hip dysplasia?

You can tell if your dog has hip dysplasia by observing its walk. Dogs with normal hips stand, run, and walk without difficulty. The steps are evenly distributed, with equal pressure placed on each limb. Initial indicators of hip dysplasia are changes in gait, such as an inability to bear weight, evidence of pain, exercise intolerance, poor appetite, and lethargy. 

What are the Signs of Hip dysplasia in Dogs?

The signs of hip dysplasia in dogs are listed below.

  • Limping: The early signs of hip dysplasia include difficulty walking. Dogs with hip dysplasia have an abnormal gait as a compensatory mechanism for being unable to bear weight on the back legs. The dog lifts one of the legs for long periods to relieve pain.
  • Poor Appetite: Hip dysplasia often progresses into degenerative bone disease. Osteoarthritis is a painful inflammatory process that causes inflammation and discomfort, which affects daily activities and willingness to get up and eat.
  • Low Energy: Dogs with dysplasia have lower energy levels, including decreased physical activity tolerance. A routine walk becomes shorter than usual, and the dog gets easily tired. 
  • Irritability: One of the common signs of hip dysplasia in dogs is constant discomfort. Pain responses manifest as aggression, especially when touching the hind. Dogs with hip dysplasia require additional care and handling.
  • Falling Easily: Pet owners asking, “What are the first signs of hip dysplasia in dogs?” must know that falling easily is an early sign of dysplasia. Dysplastic dogs have poor balance due to a lack of proper weight distribution. The hindlegs are unable to bear full weight, causing the dog to stumble when walking. 

How Long Can a Dog Live with Hip dysplasia?

A dog with hip dysplasia can live as long as a dog with non-dysplastic hips. Early detection and proactive care help manage hip dysplasia. The critical period for managing hip dysplasia is in the initial days of observing limping or gait abnormalities. Take the dog to the vet for immediate assessment to prevent further degeneration of the ball and socket.

Does CBD Mobility Oil help relieve Hip dysplasia pain in dogs?

Yes, CBD mobility oil helps relieve hip dysplasia pain in dogs. CBD has natural anti-inflammatory and anxiolytic properties that aid the painful side effects of hip dysplasia. The mobility oil activates the endocannabinoid system, a network of interconnected receptors that influence bodily functions and inflammatory responses. 

CBD helps lessen joint inflammation and pain, making the dog more comfortable. CBD mobility oil is a helpful supplement to conventional medication for managing discomfort in dogs with hip dysplasia. 

What are the Treatments for Hip dysplasia in Dogs?

The treatments for hip dysplasia in dogs are listed below.

  • NSAIDs: Conservative treatment of hip dysplasia includes long-term medication with analgesics and anti-inflammatory agents. Commonly used drugs are NSAIDs such as Firocoxib, Meloxicam, Carprofen, and Deracoxib.
  • Monoclonal Antibodies: Recent innovations in anti-nerve growth factor (NGF) monoclonal antibody therapy with Bedinvetmab show positive results in dogs managing long-term osteoarthritic pain. The drug is given as a monthly injection that helps to reduce osteoarthritic pain. 
  • Steroids: Corticosteroids such as prednisone and prednisolone are used for hip dysplasia for potent and fast-acting anti-inflammatory action but are avoided in chronic cases.
  • Total Hip Replacement: A hip replacement is an alternative for dogs that are unable to function due to pain. The entire hip joint, including the ball and socket, is replaced with a prosthesis. 
  • Triple Pelvic Osteotomy: The treatments for hip dysplasia are surgery or pain management with medication. Surgical correction of hip dysplasia involves a triple pelvic osteotomy, which provides axial rotation of the acetabulum to stabilize the femoral head within the acetabulum in a functional position. 

How is hip dysplasia diagnosed in dogs?

Hip dysplasia is diagnosed in dogs by physical examination and radiographic signs. A physical exam is performed while the dog is sedated or under general anesthesia. An Ortolani test predicts hip dysplasia in young puppies at least 8-9 weeks. 

The technique involves strategically placing the fingers on the greater trochanter as the opposite hand laterally lifts the femur and observes the lift amount. Palpation in mature animals is inconclusive due to the fibrosis in the hip joint capsule and the shallowness of the acetabulum. 

Older dogs need radiographs to confirm dysplasia. Multiple orthogonal views are taken to measure the Norberg angle and signs of dorsolateral subluxation. The dysplasia is graded according to three categories, mild, moderate, and severe. 

Can hip dysplasia be detected in puppies?

Yes, hip dysplasia can be detected in puppies. A reported accuracy of 83% was described in dogs that were palpated for hip laxity at a young age. Palpation of “6-8 week old puppies for hip joint laxity by the method of Bardens has demonstrated to be statistically significant in predicting hip dysplasia in puppies”, according to DeCamp et al., in the Handbook of Small Animal and Orthopedics and Fracture Repair 5th edition, 2016.

Can Hip Dysplasia in Dogs Resolve Without Surgery?

No, hip dysplasia in dogs does not resolve without surgery. A dog with dysplasia is unable to resolve its hip condition naturally. The disease is successfully managed without surgical intervention. Conservative treatment with NSAIDs, analgesics, and weight management helps get the dog back on its feet by removing pain and inflammation. The clinical signs are reduced, which makes the dog comfortable even with dysplasia. 

How Much Does Surgery Cost for Dogs with Hip Dysplasia?

The surgery cost for dogs with hip dysplasia is around $1500 - $7000. Diagnosing and treating hip dysplasia involves a series of exams and radiographic images. Total hip replacement is an expensive procedure that requires proper patient screening. Prosthesis fitting, screening, and placement are costly measures necessary before the surgical procedure. Post-operative care and physical therapy are additional costs to consider. 

What are the Risks of a Dog having Hip dysplasia?

The risks of a dog having hip dysplasia are listed below.

  • Hindleg Lameness: Severe bilateral hip dysplasia leads to hind leg lameness due to lack of attachment of the leg bones to the pelvic bones. The pelvis provides the structural support of the leg bones through attachment to the ball and socket. There is no ample support without a proper hip joint. 
  • Muscular Atrophy: The muscles of the legs and thighs are affected when there is a lack of usage due to pain. Disuse atrophy happens as a consequence of the dormant leg muscles. The muscles lose their tone and fade to a point where they become completely immovable.
  • Prone to Accidents: Dogs unable to walk properly are prone to falling or bumping into things. Dysplastic dogs are unable to balance their weight, leaving a wobbly or shaky gait. Persistent falling causes further injury, trauma, and discomfort. 
  • Osteoarthritis: A common consequence of hip dysplasia is osteoarthritis. The bones start to rub against each other due to the regression of cartilage, causing pain and discomfort. Dysplasia induces a degenerative joint disease that exacerbates the pain.
  • Affected Offspring: Dogs with dysplasia are most likely to inherit the disease from their parents. Breeding dogs with hip dysplasia is an unfavorable event that some owners are unable to monitor. A lack of monitoring or proactive spaying or neutering leads to litters of puppies that suffer the same fate. 

Can hip dysplasia in dogs increase the risk of developing arthritis later in life?

Yes, hip dysplasia in dogs increases the risk of developing arthritis later in life. Osteoarthritis is one of dogs' most commonly associated sequelae of hip dysplasia. Degenerative joint disease occurs as a response to inadequate cartilaginous connections between bones. The resulting arthritis is increased pain, inflammation, and further lack of function.

How to Prevent Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?

The steps to prevent hip dysplasia in dogs are listed below.

  • Screen puppies at a young age. Puppies as young as 6-8 weeks are able to be screened for hip laxity. Increased laxity in young puppies makes them susceptible to developing hip dysplasia, which owners are able to monitor as the dog grows older.
  • Do not breed dysplastic dogs. The disease is likely to be passed on to offspring of adult dogs with hip dysplasia. Spay or neuter dysplastic dogs to avoid unwanted pregnancies.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity and ad libitum feeding in dogs are linked to the occurrence of hip dysplasia. Dogs that have been spayed or neutered benefit from lesser frequency and quantity of feeding to avoid rapid weight gain. 
  • Regular wellness check. Large breeds are predisposed to developing hip dysplasia. Get the dog screened regularly using radiographs and physical exams to get a heads-up on the likelihood of dysplasia in the future. A veterinarian advises on how to prevent hip dysplasia in dogs

When Should You Seek Veterinary Care for a Dog with Hip Dysplasia Symptoms?

You should seek veterinary care for a dog with hip dysplasia symptoms immediately after noticing them. Hip dysplasia is a highly manageable disease in non-complicated cases. Dogs with prolonged hip dysplasia have more severe pathologic changes that are difficult to treat. Surgical intervention is the favorable option to provide a more permanent resolution.