Canine Hip Dysplasia – Know What to Look For

If you’re like most of us, your dog is part of the family. You take care of her like one of the kids, making sure she’s healthy, giving her Heartgard Plus (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) every month to keep those nasty heartworms away, and taking care of all those other items like spaying, flea and tick control, and daily walks, armed with the ol’ pooper scooper. Even so, you might not be aware of one of the most pervasive canine problems out there, especially for larger breeds. It’s called hip dysplasia, and it can turn your happy-go-lucky pup into a pain-wracked old-timer who rarely wants to move off the rug.

Hip dysplasia is a congenital problem that can cause lameness and painful arthritis in the hip joints. It occurs because of poor formation of the ball-and-socket hip joint. Basically, the ball doesn’t fit into the hip right: the socket is shallower than it should be, and the ball isn’t round enough. This can occur in humans but is more common in four-legged creatures, especially big dogs. And since there may be an environmental component, it can take a while to become obvious. It may appear before the animal is a year old, but most often shows up during adulthood, or even old age.

The Symptoms

Hip dysplasia is limited to the hind legs. One of the most obvious signs of a hip dysplasia problem is lameness, or a change in the way your pet walks. In young dogs, the hind legs may display a rolling gait, with the hips sliding up-and-down in what one researcher calls a “Marilyn Monroe wiggle.” If your pup can’t get up stairs or doesn’t like to try, and is unwilling to exercise much or won’t jump short distances, then hip dysplasia may be the culprit. Other warning signs of hip dysplasia include:

  • Decreased activity
  • Constant tiredness
  • Swaying and staggering
  • Unwillingness to lie on one side or the other
  • Difficulty getting up or lying down
  • Pushing up with the front legs from a lying position, instead of the hind legs
  • A “bunny-hop” gait
  • Audible pops and clicks when the dog walks

Who’s at risk

All dogs can get hip dysplasia, but some are more likely to than others. While dogs with hip dysplasia must be born with it, environmental factors are clearly as important in the development of full-blown cases as genetic factors are. It shows up in male dogs more often than females. Large breeds, like Dobermans, coonhounds, German Shepherds, and retrievers (golden and Labrador) are more likely to have hip dysplasia problems, especially later in life. Type of diet, excessive weight gain, and rapid growth can all trigger the onset of hip dysplasia problems.

Fortunately, there are treatments for this defect, some of which are simple yet effective. These include weigh control programs, exercise, and anti-inflammatory medications. Your vet will be happy to discuss with you the best pet medications for the problem, and for some dogs may suggest hip surgery to correct it. If you suspect that your youngster may have hip dysplasia problems in the future, you may be able to stave it off with a high-calcium diet, weight control, and moderate exercise. Swimming is particular good, if you don’t mind the smell of a wet dog!

Published with permission (FCDMInc)

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