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Hip Dysplasia in Dogs & Puppies

Hip Dysplasia in Dogs & Puppies

Hip dysplasia is a progressive, degenerative disease that dogs can start to develop when they are puppies. Often, dogs don't exhibit any noticeable symptoms when they are young. This condition gradually gets worse as they age. Today, our Denver vets talk about the symptoms and causes of hip dysplasia in puppies and dogs and the surgeries that can help manage it.

The Mechanics of Hip Dysplasia

Your dog's hip joints work similarly to a ball and socket. If your pup is diagnosed with hip dysplasia, the ball and socket that make up their hip haven't developed properly and aren't functioning the way they are supposed to. Instead, the ball and socket grind and rub against each other, causing continued breakdown, pain, and eventual loss in the function of the affected hip.

Hip dysplasia is a condition most commonly seen in giant or large breed dogs, however smaller breeds can also suffer from this painful joint condition.  Even though dogs are usually diagnosed with this issue when they are adults if the hip dysplasia is severe, it can be seen in puppies as young as four months old.

If hip dysplasia is left untreated it can drastically reduce your dog's quality of life, as the condition causes significant pain and reduces your dog's ability to move normally. 

The Causes of Dog & Puppy Hip Dysplasia

In dogs, hip dysplasia is predominantly a hereditary condition, with genetics being the leading contributor to the development of the condition. Breeds that commonly suffer from hip dysplasia include large and giant dogs such as mastiffs, St. Bernards, Rottweilers, retrievers, and bulldogs, but a number of smaller breeds such as French bulldogs and pugs may also be susceptible.

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 an inherited condition, other factors can exacerbate the genetic predisposition. Poor weight management and nutrition, accelerated growth rate, and some types of exercise can all play a role in the development of the condition. Obesity puts an abnormal amount of stress on your pup’s joints and may aggravate pre-existing hip dysplasia or even cause the condition.

To help prevent your dog from developing hip dysplasia, it’s important to consult your vet regarding the amount of daily exercise your pup requires, and the most appropriate diet for their breed, age, and size.

Signs of Hip Dysplasia in Puppies & Dogs

All dogs are different when it comes to the hip dysplasia symptoms they exhibit. 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. The severity and the extent of the symptoms also depend on how serious the condition is and where it is in its progression. Pet parents should watch for the following symptoms as their pooch grows into adulthood:

  • Stiffness when running or rising from a resting position
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Grating or grinding of the joint when they move
  • Pain while exercising (or a reluctance to exercise, run, jump or climb stairs)
  • Their back legs are stiff when they walk
  • Running with a 'bunny hop'
  • Lameness in the hind end
  • Loss of muscle tone in back legs or thighs

How Dogs Are Diagnosed With Hip Dysplasia

Whenever a dog comes in for an examination your vet will check for signs that may indicate 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 vet will ask you questions in order to get a complete health and medical history for your dog, including a rundown of specific symptoms, and any injuries that may have caused them. Knowing your pet’s lineage can offer insights into your dog's likelihood of developing hip dysplasia. Standard X-rays can also be very helpful in diagnosing the severity of your dog's hip dysplasia, and to chart a course of action for treatment.

Treating Hip Dysplasia in Puppies & 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.

The Types of Hip Dysplasia Surgery

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 often benefit both puppies/young dogs 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.

After the surgery, your dog could be required to remain in the hospital for anywhere between several hours and several days, depending on their health, and other factors. Your veterinary surgeon will provide you with specific instructions for caring for your dog after FHO surgery, but you will need to prevent your dog from doing any strenuous physical activity for at least 30 days. In most cases, you can expect your pup to recover completely after about six weeks. Once fully recovered, they can continue their usual physical activity.

Double or triple pelvic osteotomy (DPO/TPO)

DPO/TPO surgeries are most commonly performed in puppies and young 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.

Following these surgeries, your pup will require several weeks of reduced activity before they'll be able to enjoy properly leashed walks again and will need regular physical rehabilitation (physio for dogs) in order for full mobility to return (although you may notice an improvement in joint stability within as little as four weeks). Most dogs will recover within four to six weeks after DPO/TPO surgery.

Total Hip Replacement (THR)

In many cases, total hip replacement is the best surgical treatment option for 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 for 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 the 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 of recovery time between surgeries.

At Pets on Broadway Animal Hospital, our vets understand that it can be upsetting to hear your dog is diagnosed with hip dysplasia because the condition is painful and can visibly reduce your pup's mobility. This diagnosis can also make people worried about their finances because surgical treatments can significantly affect budgets. However, your vet might be able to recommend the most suitable treatment option for your dog based on their condition and your financial means.

The Cost of Your Dog's Hip Dysplasia Surgery

The percise cost of your dog or puppy's hip dysplasia surgery will depend on various factors including:

  • The type of surgery used
  • The severity of your pup's condition
  • Your dog's age and size
  • The overall health of your pooch
  • Your location
  • How many hips (one or both) require surgery

The cost of your dog's procedure might also include or exclude elements such the pre-surgical bloodwork, anesthesia, any medications required, the surgery itself, and post-surgical care. Contact your veterinarian to get an estimate for the cost of your dog's hip dysplasia treatment and surgery.

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.

Is your puppy or adult dog exhibiting symptoms of hip dysplasia? Contact our Denver vets to schedule an examination for your pooch today.

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