Brightwood Animal Hospital

9640 Old Johnnycake Ridge Rd
Mentor, OH 44060



What is hip dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is a deformity of the hip joint. This is a ball and socket type of joint in which the head of the femur represents the ball and the pelvis holds the socket. It is a hereditary condition in which the socket does not form properly and is too shallow to hold the ball. The result of this poor fit is a loose joint that is unstable. The instability leads to flattening of the femoral head (the ball) and destruction of the acetabulum (the socket). Eventually the joint begins to degenerate and becomes arthritic.

Can any dog get hip dysplasia?

The condition can occur in any breed. The incidence is higher in the larger breeds. The cause may be a combination of genetic, environmental, and nutritional factors. It may be inherited from either or both parents. It affects males and females equally.

How do I know if my dog has hip dysplasia?

An accurate diagnosis of hip dysplasia can be made by your veterinarian. Signs of hip dysplasia usually occur between 4 and 12 months of age. Some pets do not show signs until they are several years old. Dogs with hip dysplasia display general signs of pain in the hindquarters. They are reluctant to walk or run. They may have difficulty lying down or getting up. Some are reluctant to go up stairs or jump. These dogs are usually lame in one or both hind limbs.

How does a veterinarian know if a dog has hip dysplasia?

Your veterinarian will check for signs of muscle atrophy over the pelvis and hindquarters. The examiner will also check to see if the hip feels loose. The diagnosis is usually confirmed by taking x-rays. To take an x-ray the animal needs to lie perfectly still on its back with the legs extended. This is an uncomfortable and unnatural position and usually is best done with the pet under anesthesia.

Can hip dysplasia be treated?

Yes, based on the results of the examination and x-rays your veterinarian can choose among several treatment options. The goal of treatment is to relieve pain, improve function and reduce the chance of further deterioration of the hip joints. Conservative medical treatment includes; weight reduction; exercise restriction; anti-inflamatories and pain relievers. Sometimes surgery is necessary. In one procedure, called an excision arthroplasty, the head of the femur is removed. This allows a false joint to form. Total hip replacement surgery is also available for dogs. In this procedure the femoral head (ball) and the acetabulum (socket) are replaced with a synthetic joint. There are also surgical procedures that may prevent hip dysplasia from developing in young dogs that are predisposed to the condition. In another procedure the acetabulum (socket) is surgically repositioned to prevent instability. In a third procedure certain muscles are cut to try to prevent future hip problems.

Can hip dysplasia be prevented?

If a dog is genetically destined to have hip dysplasia, there is little that can be done to prevent it. Borderline cases may respond to changes in nutrition. By restricting food intake, and feeding a diet designed for large fast growing dogs you may be able to decrease the chance of your dog developing hip dysplasia. Your veterinarian can help you select a diet that is best for your pet. The most effective method of preventing hip dysplasia is to carefully select which dogs are bred. Both the mother and father should be x-rayed at two years of age and their hips evaluated for signs of dysplasia. Only dogs with a rating of good or excellent should be bred. When choosing a puppy, if you select a breed that is prone to hip dysplasia ask if the mother and father have had this done. If it has not, you may want to reconsider if the puppy will be right for you.

by William M. Fraser, D.V.M.

Brightwood Animal Hospital serves Mentor, Concord, Painesville and the surrounding communities.

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