Canine hip dysplasia (CHD) is an 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 this condition is most common in large-breed adult dogs, it can also affect small and medium breeds, even puppies as young as five months old.
In basic terms, CHD is a malformation of the hip joint. 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. When the 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, as there is a loss of cartilage, this 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 boxers, Great Danes, Labs, German shepherds, pitbulls, and Australian shepherds.
Causes & Signs of Hip Dysplasia in Puppies
One major cause of CHD is simple genetics: if a puppy’s parents have CHD, 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 puppy’s joints.
Puppies with hip dysplasia show symptoms in several different ways. They might have difficulty getting up, climbing stairs, jumping, or performing other physical exercises. They might become lethargic or show a decrease in activity. A narrow, “bunny hopping” gait is common, and you might 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 puppy is showing signs of CHD, the first step is a consultation with a veterinarian.
Diagnosing CHD in Puppies
As with any medical condition, diagnosis of hip dysplasia in puppies must come from a veterinary professional. It is important for veterinarians to be able to watch your pet move around; physical assessment of their 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 puppy 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.
Treatments for Puppy Hip Dysplasia
There is no cure for hip dysplasia in dogs. However, there are numerous treatments that have proven to be effective in providing pain relief and preventing further damage in puppies. The most basic treatments are also the most important: maintain a healthy diet and exercise routines. Ensuring that your puppy stays at a healthy weight will minimize damage to its hip joints, and regular exercise will strengthen the muscles and prevent degeneration. Remember, however, that excessive exercise can actually cause muscle and joint damage, so consult with a veterinarian and make a plan that works for your puppy.
In extreme cases, surgery may be the best option for your puppy. Surgery can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 per hip on average, and your veterinarian can provide more information on whether and when they would recommend surgery.
If your puppy is not a candidate for surgery, there are many non-invasive, conservative management options for puppies with hip dysplasia. Dog hip braces, such as Ortho Dog’s Hip Hound Brace, provide support and stability to minimize pressure on puppies’ 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.
Veterinarian-approved medication may also be helpful, including anti-inflammatory medicine and joint supplements to reduce swelling and strengthen your dog’s joints. Additionally, acupuncture, animal chiropractic, and massage therapy can help reduce pain long term.
Hip dysplasia in your 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 puppy can live a long, happy, and healthy life!