What is Dog Hip Dysplasia?
Hip dysplasia is an abnormal development of one or both of your pooch's hips. Normally, your dog's hip joints function like a ball and socket. In dogs with hip dysplasia, the ball and socket that makes up their hip has developed abnormally, meaning their hip doesn't work as it's meant to.
Instead, the ball and socket grind and rub against each other, leading to deterioration and breakdown over time and potentially causing eventual loss of function in the impacted hip joint.
While hip dysplasia is most commonly seen in large or giant breed dogs, this painful condition can also occur in smaller breeds. Left untreated, hip dysplasia can drastically reduce your dog's quality of life as your pup experiences pain and your dog's ability to move normally is impaired. Hip dysplasia is also very difficult for pet parents to deal with as it can be very upsetting to watch an otherwise healthy dog experience the progressive symptoms of this condition.
What are the Causes of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?
Hip dysplasia is generally a hereditary condition, with genetics most commonly causing this condition in dogs. Giant and large breeds such as Bulldogs, Rottweilers, St. Bernards, and Retrievers are more frequently diagnosed with this condition, though a handful of smaller breeds such as Pugs and French Bulldogs are also vulnerable.
If this condition is not treated in its early stages, it can continue to worsen as your dog ages and affect both hips (bilateral). Other painful conditions such as osteoarthritis in senior dogs may compound hip dysplasia.
Although hip dysplasia is an inherited condition, other contributing factors can exacerbate the genetic predisposition. Accelerated growth rate, some types of exercise and improper weight and nutrition may all factor into the development of the condition. Obesity leads to abnormal stress on your dog's joint and may aggravate pre-existing hip dysplasia or even cause it.
What are the Symptoms of Dog Hip Dysplasia?
Each dog will differ in terms of the symptoms of hip dysplasia they exhibit. However, this condition usually begins to develop when a dog is still a puppy around the age of five months old. Though the signs may not be obvious until they hit middle age or their senior years, dog owners should watch for these symptoms as their puppy reaches adulthood:
- Loss of muscle tone in back legs or thighs
- Decreased range of motion
- Stiff back legs when walking
- Lameness in the hind end
- Grafting or grinding of the joint when a dog moves
- Running with a 'bunny hop'
- Stiffness when running or rising from a resting position
- Signs of pain or discomfort while exercising (or reluctance to jump, climb stairs, run or exercise)
How do Vets Diagnose Hip Dysplasia?
Hip dysplasia is just one of the many common conditions that vets look for when they are examining a dog during a routine checkup. At your pup’s regular physical exams, your veterinarian will check your dog's overall physical health and the condition of their joints.
Your vet may move your dog’s hind legs to identify any grinding sounds, signs of pain, or reduced range of motion. If your vet believes that your dog might have hip dysplasia, they could recommend blood tests that will be able to detect inflammation as a result of joint disease.
Your vet will also request your dog’s complete health and medical history including a rundown of specific symptoms, and any injuries that may have caused them. Knowing your pet’s lineage can offer insights into your dog's likelihood of developing hip dysplasia. Standard X-rays can also be very helpful in diagnosing the severity of your dog's hip dysplasia, and to chart a course of action for treatment.
How is Hip Dysplasia Treated in Dogs?
The treatment options available for dogs with hip dysplasia will vary depending on the severity of their condition, from changes in lifestyle such as diet and exercise to pain meds and surgery.
What are the Options for Dog Hip Dysplasia Surgery?
When treating hip dysplasia in dogs, there are 3 main surgical options available:
Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO)
FHO can benefit both young and mature dogs. This type of surgery entails removing the femoral head (ball) of the hip joint, allowing the body to create a “false” joint, which decreases the discomfort related to hip dysplasia. Dogs undergoing FHO will not see the return of normal hip function; however, it can be an effective method of managing pain.
While factors such as the size and age of your dog, as well as the severity of the condition, will all affect the price of FHO surgery. Your veterinarian can provide a cost estimate.
Following surgery, your dog could be required to remain in the hospital for anywhere between several hours and several days, depending on their health, and other factors. Your veterinary surgeon will provide you with specific instructions for caring for your dog after FHO surgery, but you will need to prevent your dog from doing any strenuous physical activity for at least 30 days. In most cases, you can expect your pup to completely recover about six weeks following the operation. Once fully recovered they can resume regular physical activity.
Double or Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (DPO/TPO)
These hip surgeries are most commonly performed in dogs under 10 months old and involve cutting the pelvic bone in specific locations then rotating the segments, resulting in an improvement of the ball and socket joint. As with all surgeries, the cost of hip dyplasia surgery treatment varies but for most dogs. Your veterinarian will be able to provide a cost estimate for your pet's procedure.
Following these surgeries, your pooch will require several weeks before they'll be able to enjoy proper leash walks again, and will need regular physical rehabilitation (physio for dogs) in order for full mobility to return (although you may notice joint stability improve within as little as four weeks). Most dogs will recover within four to six weeks after DPO/TPO surgery.
Total Hip Replacement (THR)
Total hip replacement is typically the first choice for surgical treatment of hip dysplasia in dogs, since it is the most effective. THR involves using plastic and metal implants to replace the entire hip joint, bringing hip function back to a more normal range and eliminating most hip dysplasia-related discomfort.
That said, THP surgery is a drastic option and the most expensive. This surgery is usually recommended if the dog is in considerable pain or close to completely immobile. The artificial components used in THR must be custom-made for your dog, and the surgery is performed by certified veterinary surgeons. Cost of THR for hip dysplasia in dogs can range widely depending on your dog's condition, size, age, overall health and other factors, such as if there is bilateral hip dysplasia (which is common). Pre-surgical blood work, surgery, anesthesia and all medications should also be considered.
Total hip replacement surgery usually takes about two to three hours, and your dog may need to be hospitalized for one to three days following surgery. To ensure proper healing, expect a 12-week recovery period. Even if your dog's hip dysplasia appears in both hips, surgery may only be performed on one hip at a time, allowing a three-to-six-month gap between procedures.
Our vets understand that hearing a diagnosis of hip dysplasia in your dog can be heart-wrenching, as the condition is painful and can visibly reduce mobility. This diagnosis can also cause some financial concerns as surgical options can impact your budget. That said, your veterinarian may be able to recommend an option or combination of treatments that can help your dog recover and regain some of their hip function.