Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

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Preventative Care for Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

There are few things you can do in the way of prevention, but you should consider the following:

  • When selecting a puppy, find out the OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) hip score for the sire and dam. You should be looking to purchase offspring from parents whose hips have been evaluated and scored good to excellent. The PennHIP program for evaluating canine hips can provide excellent objective information about hip joints in dogs as young as four months of age.
  • Picking up the problem as early as possible affords your puppy the best chance of finding the right option, whether medical or surgical, to minimize the arthritic changes that will develop secondary to the hip dysplasia.
  • Avoid high-energy diets in young fast growing large breed dogs. Switch young dogs on high calorie high protein puppy diets to adult food.
  • Maintain weight to an ideal standard. If your dog is obese, consider a weight loss program.
  • Encourage a regular exercise routine to maintain good muscle mass. Exercise must be moderate and regular.
  • In-depth Information on Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

    Canine hip dysplasia is found in nearly every breed, but it is more common in medium and large dogs. Hip dysplasia develops in young growing dogs and stems from the abnormal development of the hip joint – a ball-and-socket type joint – in which the balls of the hip bone do not fit snugly in the hip socket. It can be mild and slightly disabling, or it can be severe and cause crippling arthritis. The earliest age at which clinical signs may be noticed is usually around four months, although some dogs may not show any abnormality until they are mature or even geriatric.

    Although hip dysplasia is common, there are other common causes of lameness in dogs. Your veterinarian will want to rule out some of these:

  • Panosteitis is a painful inflammation of the long bones of young dogs. Pain is produced by squeezing the bone itself and not by manipulation of the hip joint.
  • Hypertrophic osteodystrophy produces painful bony swelling just above the growing region of young long bones. Again, pain is produced by manipulating the bone and not the joint.
  • During the physical examination, while flexing and extending the hips, pain may be referred from the lower spine or the knees. In this way, a lumbo-sacral spinal problem may be attributed to the hips or a dog with a ruptured cranial cruciate ligament or osteochondrosis lesion in the knee may be inadvertently diagnosed with hip dysplasia. Your veterinarian will take care to try to examine and assess these systems independent of each other.
  • In older dogs, a degenerative disease of the spinal cord, degenerative myelopathy, can produce weakness of the back legs resembling hip dysplasia. Your veterinarian should assess the neurological status of an older dysplastic dog, since concurrent neurological disease would severely impact the result of, say, a hip replacement surgery.
  • Other causes of hip arthritis or even bone tumors might be considered when examining the hips of older dogs.
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    In-depth Information on Diagnosis 

    On physical examination, after watching your dog walk and performing a general physical examination, your veterinarian will perform an orthopedic evaluation in order to suggest the best course of treatment for your dog.

  • First your veterinarian will fully flex and extend the hip joint. Dogs with hip dysplasia usually tolerate hip flexion but resent hip extension. Abduction (rotating the leg out from the body) is also painful.
  • Your veterinarian may also attempt an Ortolani maneuver. This manipulation is performed on young dogs to assess joint laxity. A normal hip should stay tight as opposed to a dysplastic hip in which the “ball” might slide in and out of the “socket.” In most cases, an Ortolani maneuver cannot be performed on a conscious young puppy.
  • Radiographs provide your veterinarian information about the conformation of the hip joint and, in many cases, associated arthritic change. The most common view involves extending the legs with the dog on its back. This is also the view for x-rays submitted to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) to provide a hip scoring scheme for hip dysplasia assessment.
  • The University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program (PennHIP), provides a much more objective evaluation of your puppy’s hips by measuring the amount of laxity in the hip joint, thereby getting a good idea of the chances of developing arthritis in those joints as your pet ages.
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