Most Common Canine Illnesses – Hip Dysplasia
Joelmills [GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
One of the conditions we talked about last week was arthritis in dogs and we mentioned that one of the causes of arthritis can be hip dysplasia, a condition which is actually a malformation of the hip socket in dogs which can, in severe cases, cause lameness, problems with gait and the aforementioned arthritis, as well as osteoarthritis. Hip dysplasia can affect many animals, including humans but it is by far the most common in dogs, especially in larger breeds.
Hip dysplasia is among the most common genetic problems in dogs and also one that has been studied most extensively by the veterinary experts.
Trying to explain what is involved in cases of hip dysplasia in words is something that would require quite a bit of acrobatic writing on our end and quite a bit of deciphering on your end, especially if you are not familiar with the canine skeleton and the various terms. Instead, we have provided you with two X-ray representations, one of healthy dog hips and one of dog hips suffering from dysplasia.
One of the worst things with hip dysplasia is that it is a vicious circle where the malformation causes increased wear and tear to cartilage to which the body responds by inflammation which causes more damage and further weakens the joint. In addition to this, new bone tissue may grow erratically, causing osteoarthritis which is more painful and debilitating. The condition may also progress with time or it may remain static.
By Joel Mills [GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
For a long time, hip dysplasia was considered to be a purely genetic condition that was inherited from parents or that would appear in dogs with perfectly healthy parents due to various genetic reasons. And while this is still true, new research clearly suggests that a big contributor to development of hip dysplasia can be the environment. For example, it has been discovered that dogs who are neutered before they reach developmental maturity are at almost double the risk to develop the condition.
There are other environmental factors that can contribute to hip dysplasia, such as the dog being overweight, suffering injuries at a young age or overexerting their hip joint at a young age. For example, the new research suggests you should never take your dog jogging before it turns 1.
As we mentioned, larger breeds are more commonly affected by this condition, but this does not mean that smaller breeds will never get it. In fact, pugs rank at #2 when it comes to breeds with highest percentage of hip dysplasia. Bulldogs take the first spot while Dogue de Bordeaux, Otterhound and Neapolitan mastiff round off the top 5. At the other end of the spectrum is the Italian greyhound, the only breed that had no recorded cases of hip dysplasia over the 40 years the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals has been studying different breeds for this condition.
Depending on the severity of the condition, the symptoms will vary. The dog might favor the unaffected leg in order to limit the stress on the affected one. They might bunny-hop, display an abnormal gait, be reluctant to exercise or do certain motions that cause discomfort. In certain cases, the muscles may become atrophied from lack of use. If you notice any of these, it is important to take your dog to the vet where they will be X-rayed in order to determine whether your dog actually suffers from hip dysplasia.
The treatment of hip dysplasia will depend on how severe the condition is, whether it has led to arthritis and how debilitating it is for the dog in question. Weight control, regular exercise and nutritive supplements will be introduced the first. Medication may also be introduced, mostly in order to mitigate pain and discomfort but also to reduce inflammation, thus slowing the progression of the condition.
In most severe cases, surgery may be necessary and there are once again a few options there. There are various surgical procedures that can modify or repair the joint. There is also the option of complete hip replacement, much like the one that is sometimes done in humans.