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Hip dysplasia is a degenerative disease that progresses in dogs. It usually begins in puppies but is often diagnosed during adulthood when symptoms become evident. Our veterinarians in Anaheim will discuss possible treatment options for hip dysplasia in dogs and suggest ways to reduce the impact of this painful condition on your furry friend's mobility.

The Mechanics of Hip Dysplasia

Dogs have hip joints that function like a ball and socket. If a dog has hip dysplasia, it means its hip joint hasn't developed properly and is not functioning as it should. The friction between the ball and socket joints causes them to rub and grind against each other, resulting in pain, breakdown, and eventually loss of function in the affected hip.

Hip dysplasia is commonly found in large or giant breed dogs, but smaller breeds can also suffer from it. Severe hip dysplasia can manifest in puppies as young as four months old, although veterinarians typically diagnose it in adult dogs.

If left untreated, hip dysplasia can significantly reduce your dog's quality of life, causing pain and limiting their ability to move normally.

The Causes of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Hip dysplasia is common in dogs, especially in large and giant breeds such as mastiffs, St. Bernards, Rottweilers, retrievers, and bulldogs. However, some smaller breeds, such as French bulldogs and pugs, may also be susceptible.

This condition is primarily hereditary, meaning genetics play a significant role in its development. If left untreated, hip dysplasia can worsen over time and affect both hips. In senior dogs, it can also be compounded by other painful conditions such as osteoarthritis.

While genetics are the primary factor, other factors can exacerbate the development of hip dysplasia. Poor weight management and nutrition, an accelerated growth rate, and certain types of exercise can all contribute to the condition. Obesity, in particular, can put excessive stress on your dog's joints and worsen pre-existing hip dysplasia or even cause it.

Consult your vet about the appropriate amount of daily exercise for your dog and the most suitable diet for their breed, age, and size to help prevent hip dysplasia.

Signs of Hip Dysplasia to Watch For

It's important to note that each dog may exhibit different symptoms of hip dysplasia. The condition usually develops when the puppy is around five months old, but it may not become apparent until the dog reaches middle or senior age. The severity and extent of the symptoms depend on the seriousness of the condition and where it is progressing. As a pet parent, it's important to keep an eye out for the following symptoms as your dog grows into adulthood:

  • Stiffness when running or rising from a resting position
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Grating or grinding of the joint when they move
  • Pain while exercising (or a reluctance to exercise, run, jump, or climb stairs)
  • Their back legs are stiff when they walk
  • Running with a 'bunny hop'
  • Lameness in the hind end
  • Loss of muscle tone in back legs or thighs

Treating Hip Dysplasia in Puppies & Dogs

The treatment options for hip dysplasia can vary depending on the severity of your dog's condition. Your veterinarian may suggest making simple changes in your dog's lifestyle, such as diet and exercise. Alternatively, they may recommend more intensive treatments, such as pain medication or orthopedic surgery.

The Types of Hip Dysplasia Surgery

There are three main surgical options for treating hip dysplasia in dogs. Veterinarians also provide estimates of the recovery time for each surgery.

Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO)

FHO surgery can benefit young and mature dogs with hip dysplasia by removing the femoral head or ball of the hip joint, allowing the body to create a false joint, which reduces hip pain. Although dogs undergoing FHO surgery are unlikely to regain normal hip function, this procedure can effectively manage their pain.

After the surgery, your dog may need to stay in the hospital for several hours or several days, depending on their condition and other factors. Your veterinary surgeon will provide specific instructions for caring for your dog after the FHO surgery. Still, you must ensure they avoid strenuous physical activity for at least 30 days. In most cases, your dog can recover fully in about six weeks and resume their usual physical activities.

Double or Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (DPO/TPO)

DPO/TPO surgeries are commonly performed in puppies and young dogs under ten months old. These surgeries involve cutting the pelvic bone in specific locations and then rotating the segments, which improves the ball-and-socket joint. 

After the surgeries, your dog will need several weeks of reduced activity before enjoying appropriately leashed walks again. Also, they will require regular physical rehabilitation (physio for dogs) for full mobility to return. Although you may notice an improvement in joint stability within as little as four weeks, most dogs will recover within four to six weeks after DPO/TPO surgery.

Total Hip Replacement (THR)

In many cases, total hip replacement (THR) is the best surgical treatment option for hip dysplasia in dogs since it is typically the most effective. THR involves using plastic and metal implants to replace the entire hip joint, restoring hip function to a more normal range and eliminating most hip dysplasia-related discomfort.

However, THP surgery is a drastic option and the most expensive. Most vets recommend this surgery for dogs who are experiencing considerable pain or for those who have lost their mobility. The artificial components used in THR are custom-made for your dog, and a certified veterinary surgeon performs the surgery.

Total hip replacement surgery typically lasts about two to three hours, and your dog may need to stay hospitalized for one to three days following the surgery. Expect a 12-week recovery period. Even if your dog's hip dysplasia appears in both hips, surgery may only be performed on one hip at a time, allowing between three - six months of recovery time between surgeries.

What is the cost of hip dysplasia surgery in dogs?

Averaged out, pet owners should expect expenses at a bare minimum of $1,700. This number can rapidly climb to well over $4,500, depending on the severity of the hip dysplasia. Your vet will help you find the right option for you, your dog, and your budget should your canine companion require hip dysplasia surgery.

Preventing Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Although hip dysplasia is largely a genetic condition inherited from previous generations, pet parents can do a few things to help reduce the risk of their dog suffering from its debilitating effects.

Choose a Reputable Breeder

Because hip dysplasia is predominantly hereditary, the best way to avoid caring for a dog with hip dysplasia is to select a puppy from a reputable breeder. A good breeder will know the medical history of the parents and grandparents and be aware of any family history of hip dysplasia. Researching your breeder could save you a lot of heartache and money in the long run.

Help Your Dog Maintain a Healthy Weight

If you're already a pet parent, the best way to help prevent hip dysplasia in dogs is to help your dog maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight stresses your dog's joints and can lead to unnecessary discomfort and joint pain.

Slow The Growth of Giant Breed Puppies

If you own a large or giant breed puppy, you must ensure that you slow its growth to allow its joints to develop appropriately without causing unnecessary strain. Rapid growth and weight gain before their joints are fully developed can lead to hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and other painful joint conditions.

Supplements & Diet

If your dog is experiencing joint pain or faces a high risk of developing hip dysplasia, speak to your vet about supplements such as glucosamine and fish oils that could help your dog's joints stay healthy. There are several readily available, high-quality dog foods on the market that contain ingredients to help your dog retain comfortable mobility. Speak to your vet to find out if this is an appropriate option for your dog.

Appropriate Exercise & Play

Dogs of different breeds and sizes have varying levels of activity requirements to keep their minds occupied and bodies healthy. The amount of exercise an Irish Wolfhound needs significantly differs from that of a Border Collie. Inappropriate or excessive exercise could worsen your dog's genetic predisposition to hip dysplasia. Therefore, it's crucial to conduct research, consult with your breeder, and talk to your veterinarian to understand your dog's proper exercise routine. You should never encourage your dog to engage in inappropriate exercise that may harm its body.

Can a dog live an everyday life with hip dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia should not shorten your dog's life at all. As long as it receives treatment and is well taken care of at home, any dog with the condition should go on to lead a full and active life. Problems only occur if the dog eats too much or discomfort prevents it from exercising enough to keep its weight down.

Can hip dysplasia be cured in dogs?

There is no cure for hip dysplasia in dogs. However, many treatments have proven effective in relieving pain in older dogs and preventing further damage in puppies. The most basic treatments are also important: maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your dog at risk of developing hip dysplasia or showing signs already? Contact our Anaheim vets to book an examination. Our vets can offer treatments to help your dog move comfortably again.

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