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Hip Dysplasia in Dogs: All-in-One Guide

Hip dysplasia is a condition that can occur in any breed and is caused by an abnormal formation of one or both the dog's hips which can be the cause of pain or discomfort anytime your dog moves. Our New Ulm vets talk about what hip dysplasia is, as well as the symptoms and surgeries used to treat this condition.

Hip dysplasia in dogs

Your dog’s hip joint works as a ball and socket. Hip dysplasia is an abnormal formation of one or both of your dog's hips. When a dog is diagnosed with hip dysplasia, the ball and socket that make up the hip have not developed properly and are not functioning as they should. Instead, the ball and socket grind and rub against each other, leading to breakdown over time and eventual loss in the function of the affected hip joint.

Hip dysplasia is most commonly seen in breeds of dogs that are larger but is not unheard of in the smaller breeds. If left untreated hip dysplasia can drastically reduce your dog's quality of life, as the condition causes pain and reduces your dog's ability to move normally. Hip dysplasia is also very difficult for pet parents to deal with since it can be very upsetting to watch an otherwise healthy dog deal with the symptoms of this condition

What are the causes of hip dysplasia in dogs?

Hip dysplasia is most commonly a genetic condition that is usually seen in large and giant breed 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 left untreated in the early stages, this condition will likely continue to worsen with age and affect both hips (bilateral). Hip dysplasia may be compounded by other painful conditions such as osteoarthritis in senior dogs. 

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

No matter the breed of dog you own it is important to discuss the diet and exercise needs of your dog with your vet.

Symptoms of hip dysplasia

As with many other conditions, every dog is different when it comes to displaying symptoms of hip dysplasia. Although the condition typically starts to develop when the puppy is as young as five months old, it may not become apparent until the dog reaches their middle or senior years. Pet parents should watch for these symptoms as their puppy grows into adulthood:

  • Signs of discomfort or 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'

How hip dysplasia is diagnosed

Hip dysplasia is just one of the common conditions that vets watch for whenever a dog comes in for an examination. 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 may recommend blood tests that can indicate inflammation as a result of joint disease.

Your vet will also request your dog’s complete health and medical history 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.

Hip dysplasia treatment

Treatment options for dogs suffering from hip dysplasia range based on the severity of the condition, from changes in lifestyle such as diet and exercise, to pain meds and surgery. 

Hip dysplasia surgeries

When it comes to treating 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. Dogs undergoing FHO will not see the return of normal hip function; however, it can be an effective method of managing pain.

While factors such as the size and age of your dog, as well as the severity of the condition, will all affect the price of FHO surgery, you can expect to pay from $1,200 to $2,500, including pre-surgical bloodwork, procedure, anesthesia, post-surgical care and medications. 

Following 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)

These hip 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. As with all surgeries, cost of this treatment varies and our vet surgeons will be able to discuss the potential costs with you fully.

Following these surgeries, your pooch will require several weeks 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)

Total hip replacement is typically the first choice for surgical treatment of hip dysplasia in dogs, since it is 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.

That said, THP surgery is a drastic option and the most expensive. This surgery is usually recommended if the dog is in considerable pain or close to completely immobile. The artificial components used in THR must be custom-made for your dog, and the surgery is performed by certified veterinary surgeons. Please speak with our dog surgeons in New Ulm if you have questions about this surgery.

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. To ensure proper healing, 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 a three-to-six-month gap between procedures.

Our veterinary surgeons in New Ulm understand that hearing a diagnosis of hip dysplasia in your dog can be heart-wrenching, as the condition is painful and can visibly reduce mobility. This diagnosis can also cause some financial concerns as surgical options can impact your budget. That said, your veterinarian may be able to recommend an option or combination of treatments that can help your dog recover and regain some of their hip function.

Are you concerned that your dog is showing signs of hip dysplasia? Our veterinarian surgeons in New Ulm are experienced and capable of managing hip dysplasia in dogs. Book an appointment today. 

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