Dog hip dysplasia, also called canine hip dysplasia (CHD), is a chronic hip ailment that affects dogs of all ages. When most pet owners think about hip problems, they imagine big, mature dogs struggling to get out of their beds. This, however, is not always the case—even young dogs full of energy can be diagnosed with the disease. While dog hip dysplasia is most common in large-breed adult dogs, it can also affect small and medium breeds and puppies as young as five months old.
What is Dog Hip Dysplasia?
Dog hip dysplasia is a malformation of the hip joint. When pieces of the joint (the ball and socket) do not fit together normally, the bones painfully rub together and the hip joint becomes unstable. Over time there is a loss of cartilage and the condition can result in chronic pain or lameness and cause long-term degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis).
Large dogs are particularly susceptible to hip dysplasia, although it does occur among smaller breeds. Dog breeds that are genetically predisposed to CHD include:
- Great Danes
- German shepherds
- Australian shepherds
Hip Dysplasia in Puppies
Although a puppy may be born with hips that seem normal, as the puppy grows quickly, the hips may develop so the ball sits loosely in the joint. If your puppy is experiencing any of the symptoms discussed below, consult with your veterinarian to determine if further testing is necessary.
One major cause of CHD is genetics. If a puppy’s parents have hip dysplasia, the puppy’s chances of getting it are more than doubled. However, improper diet and insufficient exercise can also cause hip dysplasia since excess weight and lack of exercise can put extra pressure on a dog’s joints.
Signs and Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia
Dogs with hip dysplasia may show the following symptoms: difficulty getting up, climbing stairs, jumping, or performing other physical exercises. They may also become lethargic or show a decrease in activity. Dogs with hip dysplasia often exhibit a narrow, “bunny hopping” gait and you may hear grating sounds in their hip area during exercise. Pain, joint looseness, lameness, and loss of muscle mass are also possible. If you suspect that your dog is showing signs of canine hip dysplasia, the first step is to consult with a veterinarian.
As with any medical condition, a diagnosis of hip dysplasia must come from a veterinary professional. It is important for veterinarians to be able to watch your pet move around. A physical assessment of dog mobility is an important first step toward identifying CHD. Follow-up steps will include a physical exam to test for discomfort or stiffness in the hip joints, and X-rays to confirm the disorder.
If your dog is diagnosed with hip dysplasia, don’t panic! There are several ways to ensure that your furry friend can enjoy a wonderful, normal life with you.
How long can dogs live with hip dysplasia?
Hip dysplasia is a chronic condition, but it is not terminal. That means dogs with hip dysplasia can live to ripe old ages, though with discomfort.
Treatments for Dog Hip Dysplasia
There is no cure for hip dysplasia in dogs. However, there are many treatments that have proven to be effective in providing pain relief in older dogs and preventing further damage in puppies. The most basic treatments are also the most important: maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine.
Ensure that your dog stays at a healthy weight to minimize damage to its hip joints. Regular exercise will strengthen the muscles and prevent degeneration. Exercise is especially important for young dogs and puppies.
Remember, however, that excessive exercise can actually cause muscle and joint damage, so consult with a veterinarian to create a plan that works for your canine pal.
In extreme cases, surgery may be the best option for your pup. Dog hip dysplasia surgery can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 per hip on average. Your veterinarian can provide more information on whether and when surgery is recommended.
If your dog or puppy is not a candidate for surgery, there are many non-invasive, conservative management options. Dog hip braces, such as Ortho Dog’s Hip Hound Brace, provide support and stability to minimize pressure on dog joints and allow for post-surgical healing or pain-free exercise. Braces come in all sizes so you can find one that is perfect for your pet and allows for maximum support.
For puppies and younger dogs, the more quickly they are treated the better the outcome. We recommend bracing combined with exercise as early as possible to slow down the progression of the disease.
Medication, Supplements, and Therapies
Veterinarian-approved medication may also be helpful, including anti-inflammatory medications and joint supplements to reduce swelling and strengthen your dog’s joints. Additionally, acupuncture, animal chiropractic, massage therapy, and physical therapy can help reduce pain long term.
Further Reading: Dog Physical Therapy and the Health Conditions it Supports
Hip dysplasia in your dog or puppy can seem frightening, but it’s important to remember that by educating yourself, consulting with a veterinarian, and implementing treatments and lifestyle changes, your dog can live a long, happy, and healthy life!