What is Hip Dysplasia?


Many large breed dogs suffer from joint pain and one of the possible causes of joint pain can be hip dysplasia. Breeds who are prone to hip dysplasia in South Africa  include German Shepherds, Boerboels, Rottweilers, Border Collies, Labradors, Golden Retrievers and Ridgebacks. If you have any of these breeds, it is advised to sign up for pet medical aid as early as possible.

What is Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia (HD) is when the hip joint is not correctly formed which over time leads to changes and deterioration of the joint. With this comes damage to the joint and of course, pain.

The hip joint is a ball and socket joint with a ligament and a joint capsule. There is cartilage on both surfaces to reduce friction when the joint moves. When a dog has hip dysplasia, the two bones do not match up correctly. This means that the cartilage is gradually eroded and eventually causes arthritis in the joint.

How will I know that my dog has Hip Dysplasia?

Your dog may show some of these symptoms 

  • Muscle wasting in the back legs (a concave area where it should be rounded)
  • Reluctance to stand up – particularly after exercise
  • A wobbly or swaying gait when observed from behind
  • Bunny hopping both back legs together when running
  • Reluctance to run or jump into the car and even sometimes to walk
  • A funny sound in the joint when moving

Signs of hip dysplasia can show very early in a puppy – from as young as 16 weeks although some dogs will only show signs many years later when the joint has deteriorated.  Usually the first sign in a pup is bunny hopping.

Why do Dogs get Hip Dysplasia?

Genetics definitely do play a role. (Dogs can inherit hip dysplasia from their parents). Other causes are growing too fast, poor nutrition and over exercise.

Good breeders make sure that the dogs they breed with are free from hip dysplasia by having them X rayed by a vet. Even if breeders are very careful, they can still breed pups with hip problems.

Puppies who are fed foods that encourage very rapid growth can develop joint issues. Over exercising your pup like taking him running under a year old or allowing him to jump over obstacles repeatedly can also cause damage.

How is Hip Dysplasia diagnosed?

Diagnosis is done by examining carefully taken X-rays which are done under sedation. The vet will also examine the dog and observe their movement.

What are the Treatment Options?

Moderate exercise must not be stopped. You want to maintain good muscle condition. Overweight dogs need to lose weight to reduce the strain on the affected joints. Paint killers and anti inflammatories may be prescribed. Supplements may be given to improve joint condition or special foods which include these supplements might be recommended.

Surgery may be an option. A femur head excision may be done – where the actual joint and cause of the pain is removed. (I have had 3 dogs undergo successful femur head excisions over the years). After this surgery the dog walks a little differently. A total hip replacement surgery may be done which results in excellent pain free movement. If the joint is loose but not yet damaged, a re-angulation osteotomy can be done.

Many dogs with hip dysplasia go on to live long, happy pain free lives with the right treatment and management.  

If you suspect your dog might have dip dysplasia, take your dog to the vet as soon as possible.


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