Hip dysplasia is a condition characterized by the abnormal formation of one or both of your dog's hips leading to pain when exercising or changing position. Learn more about hip dysplasia, its symptoms, and the surgeries used to treat this condition.
The Mechanics of Hip Dysplasia
Your dog’s hip joint works as a ball and socket. If your pooch is diagnosed with hip dysplasia, the ball and socket that make up their hip have not developed properly and are not functioning as they are supposed to. Instead, the ball and socket grind and rub against each other, leading to continued breakdown, pain, and eventual loss in the function of the affected hip.
Hip dysplasia is a painful joint condition that is most commonly seen in giant or large-breed dogs, but it can also affect smaller breeds. If hip dysplasia is not treated, it can have a significant impact on your dog's quality of life because it causes significant pain and limits your dog's ability to move normally.
Causes of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
Hip dysplasia in dogs is primarily a hereditary condition, with genetics playing the most important role in the condition's development. Large and giant dogs such as mastiffs, St. Bernards, Rottweilers, retrievers, and bulldogs are commonly affected by hip dysplasia, but several smaller breeds such as French bulldogs and pugs may also be affected.
If hip dysplasia is left untreated in the early stages, it will likely continue to worsen with age and affect both hips. Hip dysplasia may also be compounded by other painful conditions such as osteoarthritis in senior dogs.
While hip dysplasia is a hereditary disorder, other factors can exacerbate the genetic predisposition. Poor weight management and nutrition, rapid growth, and certain types of exercise can all contribute to the development of the condition. Obesity puts an abnormal amount of strain on your pup's joints and may aggravate or even cause hip dysplasia.
To help avoid hip dysplasia it’s important to consult your vet regarding the right amount of daily exercise for your pup, and the most appropriate diet for their breed, age, and size.
Signs That Your Dog May Have Hip Dysplasia
Every dog is different when it comes to displaying symptoms of hip dysplasia. The condition generally starts to develop when the puppy is about five months old, but it may not become apparent until your dog reaches their middle or senior years. Pet parents should watch for the following symptoms as their pooch grows into adulthood:
- Pain while exercising (or a reluctance to exercise, run, jump, or climb stairs)
- Their back legs are stiff when he walks
- Stiffness when running or rising from a resting position
- Loss of muscle tone in back legs or thighs
- Grating or grinding of the joint when he moves
- Lameness in the hind end
- Decreased range of motion
- Running with a 'bunny hop'
Diagnosing Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
Whenever a dog comes in for an examination your vet will check for signs that point to hip dysplasia. During your dog’s regular physical exams, your veterinarian will check on their physical health and the condition of all your dog's joints. Your vet may move your dog’s hind legs to identify any grinding sounds, signs of pain, or reduced range of motion. If your vet suspects that your dog may have hip dysplasia, they might recommend blood tests that can indicate inflammation as a result of the disease.
Your veterinarian will ask you questions to obtain a complete health and medical history for your dog, including a list of specific symptoms and any injuries that may have caused them. Knowing your pet's ancestry can help you predict whether or not your dog will develop hip dysplasia. Standard x-rays can also be very helpful in determining the severity of your dog's hip dysplasia and charting a treatment plan.
Treatment for Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
Treatment options for hip dysplasia range based on the severity of your pup's condition. Your vet may recommend simple changes in lifestyle such as diet and exercise, or more intensive treatments such as pain meds or orthopedic surgery for your dog.
Hip Dysplasia Surgery Options
When it comes to the surgical treatment of hip dysplasia in dogs, there are 3 main surgical options available:
Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO)
FHO can benefit both young and mature dogs. This type of surgery entails removing the femoral head (ball) of the hip joint, allowing the body to create a “false” joint, which decreases the discomfort related to hip dysplasia. Dogs undergoing FHO are unlikely to see the return of normal hip function; however, it can be an effective method of managing pain.
Your pup's size and age, as well as the severity of your dog's hip dysplasia, will all affect the price of FHO surgery.
Depending on their health and other factors, your dog may be required to stay in the hospital for several hours to several days following surgery. Your veterinary surgeon will give you specific instructions for caring for your dog after FHO surgery, but you must keep him out of strenuous physical activity for at least 30 days. In most cases, your puppy will recover completely within six weeks of the operation. They can resume regular physical activity once they have fully recovered.
Double or triple pelvic osteotomy (DPO/TPO)
DPO/TPO surgeries are most commonly performed in dogs under 10 months old and involve cutting the pelvic bone in specific locations and then rotating the segments, resulting in an improvement of the ball and socket joint. The cost of this treatment varies but is likely to be in the range of $3,000 or more for both hips.
Following these surgeries, your dog will need several weeks of reduced activity before they can enjoy proper leash walks again, and they will require regular physical rehabilitation (physio for dogs) to regain full mobility (although you may notice joint stability improve within as little as four weeks). The majority of dogs will recover within four to six weeks of DPO/TPO surgery.
Total Hip Replacement (THR)
In many cases, total hip replacement is the best choice for the surgical treatment of hip dysplasia in dogs since it is typically the most effective. THR involves using plastic and metal implants to replace the entire hip joint, bringing hip function back 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 that are experiencing considerable pain or those that have lost their mobility. The artificial components used in THR are custom-made for your pooch, and the surgery is performed by a certified veterinary surgeon.
Total hip replacement surgery usually takes about two to three hours, and your dog may need to be hospitalized for one to three days following 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 3 - 6 months or recovery time between surgeries.
At Banning Veterinary Hospital, our vets understand that receiving a diagnosis of hip dysplasia for your dog can be upsetting since the condition is painful and can visibly reduce your pup's mobility. This diagnosis can also raise financial concerns as surgical options can significantly impact your budget. That said, your vet may be able to recommend the most suitable treatment option for your dog based on their condition and your budget.
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.