Hip dysplasia, a quick intro

As the name implies, hip dysplasia is an ailment affecting the hip joints in dogs. It is commonly found among large breed dogs and sometimes in smaller breeds. It is readily seen in breeds that are pure more than in mixed breeds. Breeds such as the Great Dane, Labrador and Golden Retrievers seem to have a noticeable occurrence while the incidence is negligible in the Borzois and Greyhounds. Please note that there are other breeds not mentioned here that also suffer from it.

Up till now, not much is known about the ailment. One of the most important keys to understanding hip dysplasia is the hip joint. Hip dysplasia is caused by the malformation of the hip in dogs. This usually occurs at a young age when they are still growing and the bones are just getting formed. The hip joint which is a ball and socket joint thus grows crookedly causing the right and left hind legs to become affected. This usually happens as a result of the muscles, ligaments and connective tissues surrounding and supporting the hip joint becoming lax.

This is not to say that affected dogs are born that way. No; most times, they are normal when given birth to. But as they grow, the muscles and supporting tissues form abnormally. The major cause has been attributed to genetic factors mostly. The thing with hip dysplasia is that instead of the bones growing towards each other, they grow apart as the ligament and capsule holding the bones together become strained and stretched. This goes on to add more problems to the joint as the two bones -pelvis and femur- get separated from each other. Thus, creating a subluxation, the bones are no longer in alignment and put pressure on or otherwise irritate nerves, which is actually what is responsible for the symptoms and evident signs associated with the ailment.

So what are the signs and symptoms evident in dogs when they are suffering from hip dysplasia?

Dogs suffering from hip dysplasia are usually labeled as osteoathritic, or a joint disease that affects the cartilage. They feel pain after exercise and during the usual day’s activities. They tend to stop walking. Their hind legs tend to be stiff during and after exercising. They also find it hard to stand on their hind feet in the morning. When they run, it is evident that they try to avoid putting any pressure at all on their rear legs. If it gets too painful -like it would with time- most dogs just reduce the activity rate and they will find it hard to stand up without any form of help.

What can be done to prevent it?

In most genetically influenced cases, nothing can be done. But it can be managed and discouraged if the dog isn’t allowed to become overweight. This coupled with reduced high protein and calorie meals should help out significantly. There are a few products on the market today that are specifically designed to help dogs with hip issues, including hip dysplasia. At the high end there are dog wheelchairs, and somewhere in the middle of the price range is the Helping Hands from Mikki. It allows you to hold up your dog’s hind legs giving taking some or even most of the weight off of the hind legs, while still giving them the exercise that they need.