According to Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) data, 14.3% of screened purebred dogs had hip dysplasia. This is an average that considers all dogs, but many breeds had incidence rates near 50%. Hip dysplasia is a common, often severely disabling condition that is likely inherited and challenging to eliminate completely from the canine population. Our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Waller team wants you to learn how your furry pal’s hip dysplasia can manifest and about their available treatment options that will reduce their pain and maximize their mobility.

What is hip dysplasia in dogs?

Hip dysplasia is a hip joint formation problem that occurs during a puppy’s growth. An affected dog’s hip socket flattens with age, causing laxity and abnormal joint motion. Over time, the abnormal motion and excessive joint forces lead to cartilage damage and osteoarthritis, ultimately causing pain and muscle atrophy, and reducing mobility. Although an affected dog is born with this condition, they may not show signs for months or years, depending on their joint laxity severity and subsequent arthritis development.

What causes hip dysplasia in dogs?

Researchers believe canine hip dysplasia is genetic, with some breeds having a high disease incidence rate and some having a low disease incidence rate. Nutrition and mineral balance can impact large and giant breeds’ growth rate, potentially worsening the condition. In older dogs with hip dysplasia, their signs’ onset depends on many factors, including weight, activity level, and individual pain threshold. Dog breeds having the highest hip dysplasia incidence include the following:

  • Bulldog
  • Pug
  • Brussels griffon
  • Neapolitan mastiff
  • Saint Bernard
  • American bully
  • Clumber spaniel
  • Basset hound

Identifying and diagnosing hip dysplasia in dogs

Signs vary significantly among dogs and their onset depends on disease severity. You may not recognize your dog’s signs until their arthritis pain develops, but our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Waller veterinarian may detect your pet’s hip laxity or reduced range of motion during a routine physical examination. If your dog has hip dysplasia, our team can feel their joint make a characteristic popping sensation while performing the Ortolani maneuver. In addition, X-rays will show poor hip joint conformation. Your affected dog may also exhibit the following hip dysplasia signs:

  • Reduced range of motion
  • Bunny-hopping gait
  • Difficulty jumping up or down
  • Difficulty using stairs
  • Muscle loss
  • Decreased activity or play

Screening puppies for hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia genetic testing is not currently available, so the only way for breeders to reduce the condition’s incidence in their lines is to have a veterinary professional screen parent dogs and puppies with specific X-ray examinations. If your dog is a high-risk breed, you may also have them tested to determine whether you should implement proactive lifestyle modifications and treatments to reduce their arthritis impact later in their life. The OFA offers an X-ray screening process for dogs older than 2 years, which our veterinarian can perform. For puppies, the PennHip diagnostic test is accurate but requires special equipment and certification from the examiner.

Hip dysplasia treatment options in dogs

Our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Waller veterinarian will work with you to find the treatments that will be most effective for your four-legged friend’s lifestyle, age, disease severity, and pain level. Studies show the majority of dogs are well-managed with medical therapies, but the worst cases often require surgery. Hip dysplasia treatment options include the following:

  • Medications — Anti-inflammatories and pain medications reduce inflammation and discomfort.
  • Physical therapyRehabilitation modalities improve muscle strength, mobility, flexibility, and range of motion.
  • Alternative therapiesLaser therapy and acupuncture reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Controlled exercise — Frequent exercise adapted to your dog’s individual pain level and ability helps keep their hips mobile and improves their strength.
  • Cartilage-protectant supplements — Oral or injectable compounds help maintain cartilage health and slow arthritis progression.
  • Weight management — Dogs with hip dysplasia must be kept lean to slightly underweight to reduce their joints’ workload and encourage better mobility.
  • Surgery — Multiple surgical options are available, including procedures to correct the puppies’ growth trajectory or adult dogs’ salvage procedures. A specialist generally performs these surgeries.

Responsible breeders work hard to ensure their parent dogs’ and puppies’ health, but many breeds continue to have a high hip dysplasia incidence. If your pet develops hip dysplasia signs, take heart. With the right care, the majority of affected dogs experience a good quality of life. To schedule your pet’s orthopedic evaluation or to determine the hip dysplasia treatment that would be most effective for them, contact our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Waller team.