Critter Culture
What if My Dog Has Hip Dysplasia?

What if My Dog Has Hip Dysplasia?

Critter Culture Staff



The thought of dysplasia frightens many dog owners. But knowledge and responsibility are what you need to combat this condition. Even if your pet is diagnosed with the affliction, there are ways to keep your furry friend living their best life.


Understanding dysplasia

X-ray film of dog lateral view with red highlight in hip bone pain area or hip dysplasia dog

Canine hip dysplasia is a condition where the hips abnormally grow. This typically happens a few weeks after birth when the puppy's bones are developing.

The hip is a ball and socket joint. With dysplasia, the area doesn't form properly. Ligaments become loose, and bone development goes awry. Often, the ball portion flattens, and the socket erodes into a disc shape. This deterioration eventually forces the joint to lose function since bones grind together once all cartilage is gone..


Breeds most likely to develop the condition

Usually, hip dysplasia occurs in medium, large, and giant breeds: retrievers, labs, mastiffs, and German shepherds are classic examples. But it can manifest itself in small pooches, too, since any pup may develop the condition. Those with a lengthy history of breeding defects, such as short-faced dogs, are especially susceptible. So are dogs like dachshunds, who have a notoriously atypical canine shape.

In prone types, a lot of breed clubs highly suggest or require that dogs have an x-ray before breeding. This selection process helps to reduce passing the risk of hip dysplasia from one generation to the next.

Golden Retriever dog Holger Leue / Getty Images


Causes of canine hip dysplasia

Overall, hip dysplasia is genetic. Just because a dog has the coding for it doesn't mean it will happen, but there's a higher predisposition for the painful condition. Weight plays a huge part in its development. An overweight puppy, just like environmental factors and poor nutrition, can set the ball in motion for dysplasia to occur. Contrary to rumor, extreme exercising doesn't trigger dysplasia.

Little fat pug sitting on sidewalk in summer park o_sa / Getty Images


Common signs and symptoms

Canine hip dysplasia isn't one of those afflictions that's caught as soon as it happens. It can take months, or even years, to show itself. This depends on the initial onset's severity and the condition's time of progression. If you notice your dog displaying any symptoms, contact your vet immediately.

Signs for dysplasia vary, so look out for common indicators like pain, swaying, limping, stiffness, swollen shoulders, decreased activity, and lameness. Loss of muscle mass, hesitation when standing or moving, and range of motion limitations are also typical symptoms.

Cocker Spaniel dog lying on warm floor indoors Liudmila Chernetska / Getty Images


Diagnosing hip dysplasia

If you're at the vet's office for a suspected case of dysplasia, share as much information as you can. Health, family, incident, and injury histories are all important to note. This will help your vet better determine the ailment. X-rays, a physical exam, motion tests, and blood work are also standard practices to diagnose this condition.

Close up of white Labrador dog at vet clinic with male veterinarian stroking his head SeventyFour / Getty Images


Living with canine hip dysplasia

It's not the end of the world if your dog is diagnosed with hip dysplasia. There are a number of beneficial maintenance and corrective options available. Your furry friend has a good prognosis with the proper veterinary care and lifestyle changes. As long as owners take responsibility, dogs with dysplasia usually live full, comfortable, and happy lives.

Young woman holding brown dachshund South_agency / Getty Images


Available treatments

Dysplasia severity varies from dog to dog. Sometimes, a pup will have a slow or mild case. For this, a vet will implement a number of treatment options. They hinge on the canine's physical status.

Both weight and exercise reductions could be go-to approaches. Physical therapy is also a common practice. Joint supplements along with anti-inflammatory corticosteroid drugs will help ease painful symptoms. Joint fluid modifiers or replacements are another great treatment for osteoarthritis and dysplasia, which often go hand-in-hand.

Female physiotherapist training pug dog on inflatable raft in swimming pool at center Westend61 / Getty Images


Surgical options

If you can afford it, surgery is an option, especially in severe cases. There are several types of procedures depending on age, financial situation, and the dog's condition.

Double or triple pelvic osteotomies are for puppies and involve cutting the pelvic bone. A femoral head ostectomy is for any age and easier on the wallet, but it's primarily geared toward pain management versus correction. Total hip replacements are the most effective but also most costly and invasive.

Ill golden retriever on operating table in veterinarian's clinic alexsokolov / Getty Images


Preventing canine hip dysplasia

Sadly, preventing hip dysplasia is impossible. Since it's in the DNA, a dog will either be predisposed to it or not. But you can reduce the risk by being knowledgeable. If you're buying a specific type of dog from a breeder, make sure they're reputable. Legitimate breeders raise high-risk puppies in the right environment and with the proper exercise and nutritional requirements. Plus, they have the animals tested for hip conformation and other factors.

person petting dog max-kegfire / Getty Images


Protecting your dog

Just because you can't prevent hip dysplasia doesn't mean you don't play a part in your dog's bone and joint health. You can take action to lessen the likelihood of dysplasia manifesting itself. The key is to start early and continue these practices throughout the animal's life. And even if you didn't get your furball as a puppy, it's never too late to implement these measures.

Maintaining a healthy weight is extremely important. You want your dog to be lean and muscular, so low-impact exercises such as walking and swimming are critical to getting the job done without over-stressing the joints. Proper nutrition is also a must, so check with your vet to figure out the best type of diet. And don't forget about supplements. Glucosamine and chondroitin, or fish oils, work well to reduce pain and slow joint damage.

Young woman walking with Beagle dog in the summer park SbytovaMN / Getty Images


What Is Cushing's Disease in Dogs?

What Is Cushing's Disease in Dogs?

Get your paws on the latest animal news and information