Recognizing and Treating Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Hip dysplasia is a devastating condition that greatly affects the quality of life of your pet. It often develops from a mild affliction into such a severe state that movement becomes impossible and may even require euthanasia in order to end the extreme suffering of a beloved pet.

Hip dysplasia is an erosion of the hip joint and is known to be hereditary. For this reason, it is important when looking to buy a new pet that prospective owners have a great deal of knowledge of the lineage of the animal in question. There are also several breeds known to be predisposed to hip dysplasia. In those breeds there are even more diligent aspects that pet owners should look for when bringing a new dog into the family.

What to Look for When Buying a Puppy

Knowing your hopeful new puppy's parentage is important. Never buy from sources where the puppy's background isn't known. It is best to buy from a dog breeder who has both parents on the premises. If there's only one present, then the breeder should have accurate knowledge and records of the other parent available. Since hip dysplasia is highly hereditary, knowing if either parents have signs of the disease is a good way to ensure your new puppy won't develop it in the future.

If you are looking at a breed that is heavily associated with hip dysplasia, there are even further investigative needs. There are more than 82 breeds known to be hereditarily influenced by dysplasia, but it tends to effect larger breeds such as Doberman pinschers, German shepherd dogs, and Great Danes the most. Breeds with long backs such as dachshunds and basset hounds are also prone to dysplasia. This problem, while more widely associated with hips, can also occur in the elbows.

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With those breeds, ask breeders to provide proof of screening for hip dysplasia. This proof would include X-rays examined by a board of certified veterinarians at a regulating committee, the most common of which is the OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals). The dog is given a score that puts them into normal, borderline or dysplastic categories. Both the normal and dysplastic categories have three degrees of designation. Normal dogs are classified as excellent, good or fair, and dysplastic dogs are classified as mild, moderate or severe.

Puppies from parents who are both classified as normal have a good chance at never developing the disease. Those with one or both parents in the borderline or dysplastic categories have a much greater risk, and if one or both parents are moderate to severe it is almost certain the puppy will develop the problem at a later date. It is impossible to screen a puppy for the problem, as it does not show up until an animal is grown. This makes parental screening even more important.

Signs and Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

If you have a puppy or an older dog whose parentage is unknown, it is impossible to know for sure if they will develop the problem until you see the signs. Watch for soreness, especially when getting up from a resting position. Any signs of lameness or pain after heavy exercise should be cause for alarm.

You can have your pet X-rayed by your veterinarian for a diagnosis. While it is usually not something that affects young puppies, if your dog is showing any signs of pain, it's a good idea to have your vet check for hip problems. After they are two years old, hip X-rays can show definitive damage and the prognosis can be more properly assessed.

Treatment and Prevention of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

While canine hip dysplasia is not typically preventable, keeping your dog at a good weight for their breed can go a long way toward preventing the onset of the disease. If a full-blown case of dysplasia occurs, there are surgical interventions that can be attempted. Small dogs with hip dysplasia have the greatest success with these surgeries, but surgery for hip dysplasia in dogs is used on all breed sizes in an attempt to relieve the discomfort. The hip joint is removed and the muscles take over to hold the leg in place.