It's what most dog owners fear – seeing their pet in pain. Hip dysplasia is a common condition in canines and can cause everything from mild discomfort to complete immobility. Thankfully the latter is a worst case scenario, but as a dog lover you can take steps to help avoid this painful condition and take positive action if and when it does appear.
What is Hip Dysplasia?
Hip dysplasia occurs when a dog's hip joints are not properly formed. Think of it as a loose joint, instead of the femur bone fitting snuggly against the hip bone, it moves around excessively which over time causes the tissue and bones to rub against each other.
This causes friction which in turn slowly wears away at the hip creating an uneven bone surface and inflaming surrounding tissue.
While environmental factors and routines can bring hip dysplasia to the fore, it is in fact an hereditary condition and so a predisposition to this occurring is seen more widely in some breeds (especially larger ones) than in others; although it should be noted that hip dysplasia can occur in any breed, and is even seen in other species.
Breeds which are particularly prone to hip dysplasia include:
- German Shepherd
- Great Dane
- St. Bernard
- Labrador & Golden Retriever
Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia
It's entirely possible that some symptoms of hip dysplasia might just be from a strain which will heal quickly, but if any of the following persist, then hip dysplasia could be the culprit:
- Pain or Discomfort: If your dog shows some discomfort when exercising or moving around, then this could be hip dysplasia.
- Hesitancy: Your dog might normally be very active, happily climb some stairs or jump up on a couch (if you allow this), but if he/she suddenly appears hesitant to do these things or chase his or her favourite ball, then it is probably because they are anticipating pain from their hips.
- Stiffness: This is a real giveaway that hip dysplasia is present. Look for stiffness in the back legs as your dog gets up. If they are having difficulty getting to their feet, or doing this much slower than usual, then you should take him or her to the vet.
- Lameness or Hopping: Look for signs of your dog refusing to put its weight on a specific leg, or using a hopping motion to minimize its use. If this is happening in the hind legs, it may be hip dysplasia.
- Muscle Tone: If your dog's hind legs appear to be losing muscle tone or getting smaller, then this could be a direct result of hip dysplasia.
Treatments for Dog Hip Dysplasia
Your first call for diagnosis and treatment should be your veterinarian.
He or she should be able to identify whether your dog's issues are related to hip dysplasia or not. Treatment for your dog's hip dysplasia will depend on how bad the condition is. Your options will include:
- Weight Management: The heavier your dog is the more strain is placed on its legs and hips. If your dog is not within a healthy weight range for its breed and size, then this is a great way to reduce the impact of hip dysplasia.
- Supplementation: There are a number of supplements which can help support joints. High-quality fish oil coupled with a glucosamine, green lipped mussel, or collagen product is an excellent way to provide nutrients to help support your dog’s joint health. Note that supplements are not a replacement for treatment, but may sometimes be used in conjunction with treatments prescribed by your veterinarian
- Anti-Inflammatory Medication: If inflammation is a major component of your dog's condition, these medications (prescribed by a vet) will reduce the swelling and allow your pet to walk more freely.
- Pain Medications: Your vet might prescribe drugs to help with the pain, but it should be noted that long term use of such medications could do lasting damage to your dog's liver, including the above mentioned anti-inflammatories.
- Physical Therapy: An exercise plan created to avoid damaging movements, while building muscle and ligament strength, can be very effective in some cases.
- Surgery: This is a last resort. In some cases, a dog requires a veterinary surgeon to perform an operation to physically fix the issue.
How to Prevent Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
There are active steps you can take to minimize the chances of hip dysplasia becoming an issue, or significantly reducing its impact. Please do realise though that if your dog does develop this condition, it's not your fault! Even when all preventative measures are taken, a dog can still have hip dysplasia as a direct result of its genetics.
To reduce the likelihood of hip dysplasia, try the following:
- Know Your Animal's History: If you have owned your dog since it was a puppy, then the likelihood is that you will be able to ask a breeder about its parents. If they tell you that the dogs do have hip dysplasia, or you see it in the parent yourself, then you'll know that this is something you need to watch out for.
- Avoiding Painful Motions: Don't force your dog to carry out repetitive motions that will cause further damage. This can include jumping around and climbing stairs. In some cases, however, climbing stairs will be unavoidable.
- Proper Nutrition: Ensure that your pet is receiving good quality, healthy foods that provide all necessary nutrients.
- Preventative Supplementation: A high-quality fish oil and joint-specific supplements may help support joint health, as well as overall health.
- Regular Screening: The earlier you treat hip dysplasia, the better. Ensure regular trips to a trusted vet who will help you identify early warning signs.
Managing Hip Dysplasia
In most cases, hip dysplasia is a chronic condition that can be managed via weight control, diet and good supplementation. Remember, always consult with a trained veterinary to ensure your dog is receiving the best possible treatment.
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