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What is hip dysplasia in dogs? How is it treated?

What is hip dysplasia in dogs? How is it treated?

Hip dysplasia is a condition characterized by the abnormal formation of one or both your dog's hips leading to pain when exercising or changing position. Learn more about hip dysplasia, its symptoms and the surgeries used to treat this condition.

The Mechanics of Hip Dysplasia

Your dog’s hip joint works as a ball and socket. If your pooch is diagnosed with hip dysplasia, the ball and socket that make up their hip have not developed properly and are not functioning as they are supposed to. Instead, the ball and socket grind and rub against each other, leading to 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. 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. 

Causes of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

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 avoid hip dysplasia it’s important to consult your vet regarding the right amount of daily exercise for your pup, and the most appropriate diet for their breed, age, and size.

Signs That Your Dog May Have Hip Dysplasia

Every dog is different when it comes to displaying symptoms of hip dysplasia. 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. Pet parents should watch for the following symptoms as their pooch grows into adulthood:

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

Diagnosing Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Whenever a dog comes in for an examination your vet will check for signs that point to 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.

Treatment for Hip Dysplasia in 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. 

Hip Dysplasia Surgery Options

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 benefit both young 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. Dog's undergoing FHO are unlikely to see the return of normal hip function; however, it can be an effective method of managing pain.

Your pup's size and age, as well as the severity of your dog's hip dysplasia, will all affect the price of FHO surgery. You can expect to pay from $1,200 to $2,500 or more, including pre-surgical bloodwork, procedure, anesthesia, post-surgical care and medications. 

After the surgery, your dog could be required to remain in 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 completely recover about six weeks following the operation. Once fully recovered they can resume regular physical activity.

Double or triple pelvic osteotomy (DPO/TPO)

DPO/TPO surgeries are most commonly performed in dogs under 10 months old, and involve cutting the pelvic bone in specific locations then rotating the segments, resulting in an improvement of the ball and socket joint. The cost of this treatment varies but is likely to be in the range of $3,000 or more for both hips.

Following these surgeries, your pup will require several weeks of reduced activity before they'll be able to enjoy proper leash walks again, and will need regular physical rehabilitation (physio for dogs) in order for full mobility to return (although you may notice joint stability improve 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 the best choice for the surgical treatment of 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 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. Cost of THR for hip dysplasia in dogs can be anywhere between $3,500 per hip to $7,000 or more depending on your dog's condition, size, age, overall health and other factors. If your dog is affected in both hips, surgery can cost  roughly $14,000 or more, including pre-surgical blood work, surgery, anesthesia and all medications.

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 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 or recovery time between surgeries.

At Animal Hospital of North Asheville our vets understand that receiving a diagnosis of hip dysplasia for your dog can be upsetting since the condition is painful and can visibly reduce your pup's mobility. This diagnosis can also raise financial concerns as surgical options can significantly impact your budget. That said, your vet may be able to recommend the most suitable treatment option for your dog based on their condition and your budget.

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 dog suffering from pain caused by hip dysplasia? Contact us to book an examination for your canine companion. At Animal Hospital of North Asheville, our vets are experienced in hip dysplasia diagnosis and orthopedic surgery for dogs.

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