Q. My breeder asked me to have my dog’s hips x-rayed after he was 2 years old. The veterinarian came back and said my best friend has hip dysplasia. He has never been lame and climbs rocks like a mountain goat, so what does it mean and do I need to worry?
A. Hip dysplasia is an inherited disease found in mostly large breed dogs but can happen to any dog. It is a condition caused by loose hip joints during the growth of the dog. This looseness can cause dysfunction and pain in the hips. Because of the loose movement in the hip joint, the cartilage and bone begin to erode. This results in arthritis, limited mobility, and muscle wasting.
Many times this problem will go undetected until the dog is older. In other cases, it can show up in puppies. Signs of hip dysplasia can be constant or intermittent lameness without a history of trauma, popping and cracking sounds from the joints, “bunny hopping” when they run, trouble standing or sitting, sitting in odd positions, and trouble getting up or down, in and out of the car, going up and down stairs, or on and off the bed or furniture.
Symptoms will vary depending on the dog. Some dogs are very stoic, and you will see minimum symptoms. Other dogs may display great discomfort.
There are different things you can do to help your dog when presented with this diagnosis. Your options vary depending on how painful your dog is and how much change has already happened to the hip joints.
Surgery is an option for the pup in constant pain. If there isn’t any arthritis in the joint, a surgery called TPO (triple pelvic osteotomy) can reform the hip joint. If there are a lot of changes in the hip, the dog can have a hip replacement. A third choice is a FHO (femoral head osteotomy) which removes the head of the femur (thigh bone), so the bones of the hip and femur no longer rub causing pain. The femur will make a false joint in the muscle, so the dog will be able to move freely.
For less severe conditions, medical management is an option. Cornell did a study with Labrador puppies. They had a litter which they fed adult food and another litter they fed puppy food. These pups were free fed, which means they could eat all they wanted. The results were the puppy food group were fat and over time had more joint disease than the pups fed adult food. Just like in people, weight plays a big part in the health and well-being of our best friends.
The first part of management is keeping your dog on the thin side. Second is to add a core fitness program to increase strength in muscles and protect his joints. Moderate motion will keep the joints more flexible and pain free. Fido needs to get up and move often during the day.
There are a million joint supplements out there. Talk to your veterinarian about the product best for your dog. People supplements don’t always have the right amount of the ingredients needed for your dog. Supplements to consider are omega 3 fatty acids, glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM. There are herbal supplements that are helpful such as turmeric. If your dog can have chicken, chicken feet can be helpful. There are also commercial diets with joint supplements already in them.
It is recommended that pups by a year, if not earlier, should be on a joint supplement to support healthy joints.
Other supportive therapies are acupuncture, chiropractor services, laser, and homeopathy.
If you see your best buddy coming up lame off and on without a cause and can’t do what he normally could do, have him evaluated by your veterinarian.
Judith K. Herman DVM, CVH
Animal Wellness Center