Signs of hip dysplasia in dogs


 Hip dysplasia, also known as femoral dysplasia, is an osteoarticular disease that affects many dogs around the world. It is hereditary and does not develop until 5-6 months of age, although symptoms are most commonly observed during puberty. It is a degenerative disease that can be so painful for a dog that at an advanced stage it disables its hind limbs.

It affects large or giant dog breeds, especially if they do not receive the adequate doses of calcium and minerals they need for their rapid growth. Poor diet, intense physical exercise, weight gain, and hormonal changes can all contribute to the development of this disease. However, it can also occur due to genetic and random reasons. If you suspect your pet may be suffering from this disease, keep reading this dog57 article on hip dysplasia in dogs to discover the symptoms and indicated treatment.

What is hip dysplasia in dogs?

The word "dysplasia" has a Greek origin and means "difficulty in forming" which is why hip dysplasia in dogs consists of deformation of the femoral joint. The hip joint or hip joint is the joint that connects the thigh bone (femur) to the pelvic bone. The head of the femur is spherical and moves within a concave cavity in the pelvic bone, called the acetabulum.

During the growth of the dog, the hip does not take a harmonious and proper shape, on the contrary, it moves slightly or excessively to the sides, which results in dislocation and prevents the correct movement which only gets worse over time.

As a result of this deformity, both the joint and the tissues around the joint become inflamed and weakened by friction, thus the dog suffers from pain and even lameness, causing difficulty in performing routine activities, such as sitting or climbing stairs. As a result, secondary problems such as osteoporosis are common.
Although many dogs can carry this disease in their genes, in many cases it does not develop.

Degrees of hip dysplasia in dogs

Currently, there are five degrees of hip dysplasia in dogs, which classify the disease according to its severity, and can be observed on an X-ray:
Grade A - The dog has a normal hip and therefore no signs of dysplasia.
Grade B - there is a slight suspicion that the dog may have dysplasia.
Grade C - X-rays show mild signs of dysplasia.
Grade D: Moderate hip dysplasia is present.
Grade E - The dog has severe hip dysplasia.

If hip dysplasia is not in its early stages, it is common for it to get worse and move from one degree to another in a short time. For this reason, it is essential to apply proper care to dogs with hip dysplasia in each case, always in the hands of a specialist.

Dog breeds predisposed to hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia can affect all types of dogs, although it is more common in large or giant breeds. We should try to prevent it by informing ourselves well about the needs of our pet at every stage of its life.

Although it is common to notice hip dysplasia in German Shepherds, the truth is that this is not the only breed that tends to suffer from it. In this way, the dog breeds prone to hip dysplasia are:

  • German shepherd
  • Belgian Shepherd
  • Belgian Shepherd
  • Pyrenean Mastiff
  • Spanish Mastiff
  • Neapolitan Mastiff
  • st. Bernard
  • Bernese mountain dog
  • Italian grayhound
  • the home
  • Golden Retriever
  • Rottweiler
  • Siberian hoarseness
  • boundary layer
  • English bulldog
  • French Bulldog
  • American Bulldog 

Causes and risk factors of hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a complex disease, caused by multiple factors, both genetic and environmental. Although it is hereditary, it is not congenital, as it is not present from birth, but the dog develops it as it grows.

Factors affecting the appearance of hip dysplasia in dogs are:
Genetic predisposition: Although the genes responsible for dysplasia have not yet been identified, there is strong evidence that it is a polygenic disease, that is, caused by two or more different genes.

Rapid growth and/or obesity: An inadequate diet can encourage disease progression. Feeding your pup a lot of high-calorie foods can lead to the rapid growth of hip dysplasia. Obesity in dogs can also aid the development of the disease, both in adult dogs and in puppies.

Inappropriate exercise growing dogs need play and exercise to unleash their energies, develop coordination and socialization. However, exercises that affect the joints can cause damage, especially in the growing stage. For this reason, hops are not recommended in dogs that have not yet completed their development.

The same thing also happens in elderly dogs who need to exercise without suffering from their bones. Excessive activity can lead to the onset of this disease.

Although rapid growth, obesity, and improper exercise can aid the progression of the disease, the critical factor is genes. As a result, the disease is more common in some dog breeds, among which the larger and giant breeds commonly found, such as Saint Bernard, Neapolitan Mastiff, German Shepherd, Labrador, Golden Retriever, and Rottweiler, mentioned in the previous section.

However, some medium and small breeds are very susceptible to this disease. These breeds include the English bulldog (one of the breeds most likely to develop hip dysplasia), pugs, and spaniels. In contrast, the disease is almost non-existent in grayhounds.

In any case, it should be borne in mind that it is a genetic disease but is influenced by the environment, the occurrence of which can vary greatly. Of course, hip dysplasia also occurs in hybrid dogs.

Symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs

Symptoms of hip dysplasia are usually less noticeable when the disease begins to develop and become more severe as the dog ages and the hips deteriorate. Symptoms are:
  • idle
  • refused to play
  • Refuse to climb stairs
  • Refuse to run and jump
  • limp
  • Difficulty moving the hind legs
  • Rabbit hop movements
  • swinging
  • Hip stiffness
  • Stiffness in the hind legs
  • hip pain
  • pelvic pain
  • muscular dystrophy
  • audible clicks
  • Difficulty waking up
  • Increase shoulder muscles
  • back curved
These symptoms can be continuous or intermittent. In addition, they tend to worsen after the dog is playing or doing physical exercises. If you discover any of these symptoms, we recommend that you go to the vet so that they can perform the relevant tests and confirm that your dog has indeed this disease.

Suffering from hip dysplasia does not mean the end of your dog's daily routine. You indeed have to follow some of the guidelines and tips that can change your life, but with your help, your dog can improve his quality of life and continue to enjoy a long time with you.

Diagnosis of hip dysplasia in dogs

If your dog shows any of the symptoms described above, he may have hip dysplasia and you should take him to the vet for a proper diagnosis. During the diagnosis, the vet will palpate and manipulate the hips and pelvis and order an X-ray of that area. For an X-ray, it may be necessary to sedate the dog, as this should be done with the animal lying on its back. In addition, you can order blood and urine tests. The result of this diagnosis will indicate whether the condition is hip dysplasia or another disease.

Keep in mind that pain and difficulty moving to depend more on inflammation, working temperature, and joint damage than on the degree of dysplasia itself. For this reason, some dogs that show mild dysplasia on radiographic analysis may be in a lot of pain, while others that show severe dysplasia may be less painful.

How to treat hip dysplasia in dogs: treatment

Although there is no cure for hip dysplasia, there are treatments that can relieve pain and improve a sick dog's quality of life. These treatments can be medical (non-surgical) or surgical. When deciding which treatment to follow, you should consider your dog's age, size, general health, and degree of hip damage. Of course, the preference of the vet and the cost of treatment also play a role when making the decision.

Medicines for hip dysplasia in dogs

Medical treatment is generally recommended for dogs with mild dysplasia and for those who cannot have surgery for various reasons. It usually requires taking an anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and chondroprotective (medicines that protect cartilage). Likewise, restricting certain exercises, controlling weight, and following a strict diet are advised.

It is important to note that anti-inflammatories for hip dysplasia in dogs, as well as other medications, can only be prescribed by a specialist, and they usually have side effects on the gastrointestinal tract and kidneys.

Treatment can also be supplemented with orthopedic aids, physical therapy, hydrotherapy, and massage to relieve joint pain and strengthen muscles. All of these exercises for dogs with hip dysplasia improve the animal's quality of life.

Hip dysplasia in dogs

Medical treatment has the drawback that it must be followed throughout a dog's life and that it does not eliminate simply dysplasia, but delays or stops its development. However, in many cases, this is not very complicated and it is enough for the dog to have a good quality of life.

Surgery for hip dysplasia in dogs is recommended when medical treatment doesn't work or when the damage to the joint is too severe. One advantage of surgical treatment is that once post-operative care is over, it is not necessary to maintain strict treatment for the rest of the dog's life. However, it should also be noted that surgery has its risks and that some dogs may show pain after surgery.
The curative treatment par excellence is a triple pelvic osteotomy, which consists of the surgical reshaping of the bones, thus providing an artificial union using a plate that properly holds the bones in place and does not allow the femur to move.
There are other cases in which this kind of work cannot be done, we are talking about intractable ones. For them, we have palliative treatments such as femoral arthroplasty, which consists in removing the head of the femur, allowing for the artificial formation of a new joint.

It prevents pain but reduces the range of motion and can cause deformities when walking, although it gives the dog a decent quality of life. In addition, there is also the option of replacing the hip joint with a prosthesis.

Supports for the treatment of hip dysplasia in dogs

In cases where surgery is not possible, in addition to being able to administer medications to relieve symptoms, it is appropriate to use braces and/or instruments specifically designed to treat hip dysplasia in dogs.

The supports allow to stabilize the hip joint by applying physical support to the joint and increasing the working temperature, which reduces inflammation and therefore pain, stimulates the activity of the muscle group, and thus avoids atrophy and accelerates the degenerative process. Hip support is indicated for dogs of all ages.

On the other hand, a support belt is recommended for dogs who need help to support their hips. By using it, we can help the dog to walk more safely and stably. If such assistance is constantly needed, we can help ourselves by using self-adjusting wheelchairs. So, if you are wondering how to help a dog suffering from hip dysplasia, these products will undoubtedly make life much easier.

You'll find various supports, wheelchairs, and harnesses for dogs with hip dysplasia, made from the highest quality materials and designed by experts to improve the quality of life for dogs with limited mobility.

How long does a dog with hip dysplasia live?

If hip dysplasia is not treated, the dog may experience pain and disability. For dogs that reach very advanced degrees of hip dysplasia, life without help becomes a struggle. However, the medical prognosis for dogs that receive early treatment is usually very good. These dogs can lead very happy and healthy lives, albeit with some dietary and exercise restrictions.

However, a dog with hip dysplasia does not have to live for a short time if it is given the necessary care.

Prevention of hip dysplasia

Since hip dysplasia is a disease caused by the interaction of genes and the environment, the only real way to prevent and eliminate it is to prevent dogs with hip dysplasia from breeding. This is why dog ​​breeds of specific breeds indicate whether a dog is free of disease or the degree of dysplasia it has.

For example, the (FCI) uses the following letter-based classification, A through E, which matches the classification of degrees for hip dysplasia in dogs:

A (normal): free of hip dysplasia.
B (Transition): Small evidence is present on the radiograph, but it is not sufficient to confirm dysplasia.
C (mild): mild dysplasia of the hip.
D (middle): radiography shows medial hip dysplasia.
E (severe): The dog has severe dysplasia.

Dogs with dysplasia of grades C, D, and E should not be used in breeding centers, as they are very likely to pass on the genes that carry the disease.
On the other hand, we should always be careful with the physical exercise and obesity of our pets. These two factors have a clear influence on the emergence of hip dysplasia.

Caring for a dog with hip dysplasia

Even if your dog suffers from hip dysplasia, you can greatly improve his quality of life if you take care of him as he deserves. This way, and by following a few guidelines, your dog will be able to carry on with his routine activities, albeit more calmly than before.

One of the best suggestions is to swim, whether on the beach or in the pool. In this way, the dog develops the muscles that surrounds the joints without damaging them. A few times a week will be enough.

Do not stop taking your dog for a walk because he has dysplasia. Reduce the time you walk but increase the number of times you go out. It is very important that all walks together add at least 60 minutes of exercise.

If your dog is obese, it is necessary to resolve it as soon as possible. Remember that the dog is supporting the weight on the hip and this problem can aggravate the dysplasia. Look for light feeds in the market or create a proper home diet and avoid high-fat snacks.

Take him to the vet for regular checkups to make sure his health is not getting worse. Follow the advice given by the specialist.

If you feel severe pain, you can try to relieve symptoms with massages, heat coats, or hot water bottles in the winter.

As we've seen in the previous sections, there are self-adjusting wheelchairs for dogs with dysplasia, hip braces, and supports. If your doctor is following conservative treatment, he or she may benefit from these orthotic assistive devices.

This article is informational only, at we do not have the authority to prescribe veterinary treatments or make any kind of diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the vet in case he is under any type of condition or discomfort.

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