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Hip Dysplasia and Dogs

A few of my readers have written to me asking about hip dysplasia, a deformity of the hip that occurs during growth in some dogs. To get a better understanding of this disease, I consulted with Dr. Michel Selmer, DVM at Advanced Animal Care Center in Long Island, NY. Following are answers to my questions:

Pet News and Views: What is hip dysplasia?

Dr Selmer: The hip joint is a ball and socket joint, and during growth both the ball (the head of the femur or thighbone) and the socket in the pelvis must grow at equal rates. In hip dysplasia uniform growth does not occur resulting in laxity of the joint followed by degenerative joint disease or arthritis, which is the bodies attempt to stabilize the loose hip joint. The degree of lameness that occurs is dependent on the extent of these arthritic changes and may not be correlated with the appearance of the hip joint on x-rays. Some pets with significant signs of hip dysplasia on x-rays may not exhibit any clinical signs while others with minimal changes may experience severe pain and lameness.

PNAV: What causes it?

Dr. Selmer: There are two primary causes of hip dysplasia, genetics and diet. The genes involved have not been conclusively identified, but it is believed to involve more than one gene. Advances in nutritional research have shown that diet plays an important role in the development of hip dysplasia. Large breed puppies should be fed a special diet during the first year of life to reduce this risk.

PNAV: If it is hereditary, are certain breeds affected more than others?

Dr. Selmer: Yes, although any dog can be affected, it is predominantly seen in larger dogs such as German Shepherds, Saint Bernards, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Old English Sheepdogs, and Bulldogs. Mixed-breed large dogs are also at risk for developing hip dysplasia and should also be fed a special large breed growth diet the first year.

PNAV: What symptoms should we look for?

Dr. Selmer: Weakness and pain in the hind legs are the usual clinical signs. The dog appears wobbly and is reluctant to rise from a sitting or lying position. This can be seen in puppies a few months old but is most common in dogs one to two years of age. Dogs with mild hip dysplasia on x-ray may develop minimal arthritis without clinical signs until they are older.

PNAV: How is it diagnosed?

Dr. Selmer: A hip radiograph is the preferred method for diagnosing hip dysplasia. Clinical signs and palpable joint laxity may also indicate hip dysplasia. Any pet suspected of having hip dysplasia should be radiographed as soon as possible.

PNAV: What is the treatment?

Dr. Selmer: This depends upon the pet’s clinical signs and amount of discomfort. There are very effective non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that have minimal side effects. The choice of medication is made on an individual basis and various drugs may need to be tried before finding the most effective one. Most dogs with hip dysplasia should receive veterinary-approved glucosamine-chondroitin sulfate nutritional supplements.

PNAV: What if NSAIDs don’t help?

Dr. Selmer: The alternative to NSAID therapy is surgery. There are several surgical procedures available to treat hip dysplasia. The two most surgical techniques for hip dysplasia are total hip replacement and femoral head ostectomy (FHO). The choice of surgery will be determined by your pet’s condition and lifestyle.

PNAV: What else can I do to reduce the risk of hip dysplasia?

Dr. Selmer: Large breed or at-risk puppies should be fed a special large-breed growth diet during their first year of life. Your veterinarian will give you specific feeding guidelines to ensure that you are providing the best care for your dog.

To my readers: I interviewed Dr. Selmer earlier about stem cell and platelet therapies for dogs with hip dysplasia. You can read this article here.

I also want to mention that cats can get hip dysplasia too, although it is more common in dogs. And if any of you have advice for the few readers who are trying to help their dogs with hip dysplasia, please share.

6 comments to Hip Dysplasia and Dogs

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Amanda Carlson, Doggy Bytes. Doggy Bytes said: Hip Dysplasia and Dogs http://bit.ly/ajc8LL via @michelechollow […]

  • I finally understand the who, what, when, where, why, and how of hip displaysia. And we’ve got vigilant eyes on Buster – especially since he is a rescue, and we have no idea about his genetics.

  • I took my Lil” Girl to the Vet because after a long walk she was Favoring her left leg.I was absolutly thrown for a Loop when she Gave Lil”Girl a pill Shot to Relax her she then Yanked her leg and I heard a pop Lil” Girl Cried. I in Shock asked what the heck would she do that for she said her “KNEEN WAS OUT OF PLACE” I came home with Li”Girl and the next Day both her legs were Shaking,I took her Back to the Vet Demanded to see the Owner of the Practice.I told him what had happened and he said well thats common BlhBlah Blah,Then I told Him the Vet Pulled her leg WITHOUT DOING AN X-RAY FIRST.HAS ANYONE EVERY HEARD OF SUCH CRAP????? Lil”Girl is a Rottweiller by the way She Now seems to have Displaced Hips,By the way the Owner of The Hospital,X-Rayed Lil”Girl and said Both her Knees were Blown out,I dont Know who to trust anymore they are so money Hungry and I dont ever want to take her there again! Any suggestions will be appreciated thank you.

  • Hi Lisa, I’m sorry you and Li’Girl had this awful experience. How well did you know this vet? Do you know other clients who use this vet? You should talk to them about their experiences. Are there other vets at this practice that you can take Li’Girl to? You should call ahead and tell them what happened. You should also get another opinion from another vet at a different practice. Before you take Li’Girl to a vet, make sure you get references from friends.

  • What a scary story about Li’Girl! I’m so sorry you had that experience. In all my years of owning a pet, I have never had a negative encounter with a vet, always finding them to be most compassionate and gentle. Thank you for posting this info about hip dysplasia. My husband and I are keeping a close eye on our Lab/Viszla mix, Brandy, as we always thought she had a mild case. Recent x-rays have confirmed this. She does take glucosamine and she seems to be doing well and we hope that it does not progress to the stage where she needs surgery. At 7, she remains most active, like the part Viszla she is! She can even catch the occasional squirrel much to my dismay.

  • K. Booker

    Don’t be like so many today that have to put their best friend to sleep prematurely due to this disease. Pain in dogs as as they age due to hip dysplasia is a significant problem. It does seem to be a worse problem in pure bred large animals, but can occur in any size dog. They can either have very expensive surgery or try and live with it. Glucosamine/Chondroitin did not help my lab. I did however find a great product called SerraPup which is a serrapeptase formula and works very well in fighting the arthritic symptoms that these poor dogs have. It is inexpensive and works in most without the GI symptoms encountered with anti-inflammatories like ibuprophen. Try it for yourself and see if you do not see significant improvement in your pets symptoms within 2 weeks. One of the nicest things is they can take it for long periods of time without adverse side effects.