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It’s all in the hips - canine hip dyplasia

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

When compared to humans, dogs grow at an alarmingly quick rate, reaching almost full size before they are a year old. As giant and large breed dogs have such a short time to develop, they grow so rapidly that it can affect their joints and bones. This often results in life long disorders and causes them a lot of pain and discomfort. So let’s get the ball rolling with one condition we’re sure you’ve probably heard of: hip dysplasia!

What is hip dysplasia? 

For anyone who can remember basic anatomy from school, the hip joint is made up of a ball and socket. Hip dysplasia occurs when the hip joints have not developed normally causing additional friction between the ball and socket. The deterioration of these joints can lead to osteoarthritis and loss of function in the hips. 

Spot hip pain while they’re still young 

Hip dysplasia in dogs is most frequently associated with large breeds such as German Shepherds, Labradors, Rottweilers and Labradoodles. However, it can affect small and medium dogs too. 

It often begins while the dog is still young and physically immature, usually between the ages of 8 to 12 months old (however there are reports as early as 4 months in severe cases).  It is always best to treat hip dysplasia before arthritis sets in; although it can be difficult to notice that your puppy is lame, particularly if both hips are affected. 

How hip dysplasia diagnosed? 

Specialist orthopaedic vets can diagnose hip dysplasia in dogs quicker than most, particularly in young dogs showing less obvious symptoms. They will perform a thorough orthopaedic examination, and usually carry out x-rays or a CT scan. 

How is hip dysplasia in dogs treated? 

Hip dysplasia can be treated either surgically or medically. For young dogs there is a minimally invasive procedure called Juvenile Pubic Symphysiodesis. This surgery fuses two pelvic bones together, allowing the other pelvic bones to develop normally and change the angle of the hips to reduce the risk of arthritis. This procedure must be done before 20 weeks of age and before any signs of arthritis are evident. 

If left too late and arthritis has set in, other surgical procedures include a total hip replacement, which replaces the existing joint with an artificial one, or femoral head and neck excision which removes the head and neck of the femur bone.

If surgery is not an option, pain relief and anti-inflammatory drugs can be used to manage the pain from the arthritis. Swimming (hydrotherapy), physiotherapy and laser treatments are also great ways to alleviate discomfort. 

Is your puppy at risk? 

If your puppy is at high risk for developing hip dysplasia or you think they could be showing signs of joint pain, then have a chat with your usual vet about possibly seeing an orthopaedic specialist. We will be offering half price orthopaedic consultations* for all juvenile dogs with suspected growth disorders until 30th April 2015. Let’s catch these problems early enough to intervene! Speak to your usual vet about referral now.


*Exclusively for registered Highcroft Veterinary Group clients. Your usual vet must refer your dog to an orthopaedic specialist; pet owners cannot be booked in for an appointment without veterinary recommendation.


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