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“My dog has hip dysplasia; what should I do?”
If your dog has been diagnosed with hip dysplasia, talk to your veterinarian about the different treatment options that are available.
• If your young dog qualifies for a TPO, early surgical intervention can restore joint function and reduce degenerative damage to the joint.
• For more advanced cases, an FHO or surgery for an artificial hip may be needed.
• Talk to your veterinarian about which painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications are right for your pet.
• Ask about physical therapy, cold laser therapy, and acupuncture.
• Low-impact exercises, like swimming, will help your pet stay active without stressing the hip joint.
Canine hip dysplasia is the abnormal formation of the hip joint and one of the leading causes of rear leg lameness in dogs. Hip dysplasia is most prevalent in larger breed dogs, especially German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Saint Bernards and Rottweilers. On the other hand, hip dysplasia is uncommon in the Doberman, Great Dane, and Greyhound. The condition can occur in small and medium sized dogs as well, for instance, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Pug, and the Sussex and Clumber Spaniel. This condition affects male and female dogs equally. With hip dysplasia being a common condition in dogs, it is important that dog owners understand the symptoms, causes and treatment options.
Hip dysplasia is caused primarily by genetics, although other factors also play a role. Studies have shown that feeding a puppy too much of a high-calorie diet can cause the puppy to grow too quickly, which then increases the risk for hip problems.
The earliest symptoms can occur between four months and one year, although the signs may not be apparent until the dog is middle-aged or older. These symptoms include pain when walking, a swaying gait or limp, “bunny hopping” when running, and, most commonly, difficulty getting up due to pain in the hindquarters. Hip dysplasia is not an “all or nothing” condition, but occurs on a spectrum determined by the amount of hip dysfunction.
In a normal hip joint, the head of the femur (thigh bone) fits snugly into the socket. Dogs with mild dysplasia have a mild separation between the ball and hip socket. Dogs with moderate dysplasia will have more separation, which causes wear and tear leading to degenerative arthritis. Dogs classified as severely dysplastic have a full separation of the femur from the hip socket which leads to severe arthritis.
Diagnosing hip dysplasia requires x-rays of the hips; this almost always requires sedation or anesthesia for proper positioning. This can be done by your veterinarian. There are three methods of getting the hip x-rays: OFA, Penn-Hip, and DLS. These are just different methods of positioning and measuring. With OFA and Penn-Hip you can also send the hip films to a radiologist for an official evaluation and certification. People who want to breed their dog often do this; if you breed two dogs with good hips you are more likely to get puppies with good hips. OFA will evaluate your dog at any age, but the dog needs to be at least 24 months of age to be certified. DLS is a new system recently developed by Cornell University.
Treatment for hip dysplasia depends on the severity of the disease, the age of the dog, and what expense the owner is willing to incur. Some young dogs may be helped by a surgery called a triple pelvic osteotomy (TPO). Especially in small to medium dogs, another effective surgical option is an FHO (femoral head ostectomy) where the head of the femur is removed. On the other hand, the dog with a severely arthritic hip may be helped only by surgery to implant an artificial hip. Most cases will need pain meds, anti-inflammatory drugs, and glucosamine. Other treatment modalities are laser therapy, physical therapy, water treadmill, and acupuncture.
Baker Institute for Animal Health, Cornell University
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Don't take a good vet for granted, that's what I say. I currently live in another state and have taken my 10 year old dog to numerous vets over the years (California, Colorado, Vegas, and then some). Never have I ever received the attention and care I've gotten w/Dr. Hines. Within the past 3 months alone, my dog went to 3 different vets for a horrible and painful skin problem that broke out all over her body.
The first vet: I spent more time ponying up the $175 for the visit than the Dr. spent actually looking at my dog. He performed a woods lamp exam for ringworm. Even without Google or a veterinary degree, I could tell it wasn't ringworm. Thanks for taking my money.
Second vet: "Here's some spray, now here's your bill. Bring her back in two weeks so I can charge you another visit." No tests, nothing.
Between the two, I felt like I got nowhere. No definitive answer on why this affected my dog and the medication given wasn't even for a diagnosed condition. Just some general topical spray. I could have bought it at Petsmart and saved myself the time and money.
Recently, on a visit to Idaho, I planned ahead to bring my dog to the Rupert Animal Clinic. I asked the same questions, had the same concerns and now have different results. Dr. Hines gave me options on what route to take, ran appropriate tests and communicated with me every step of the way (even calling me personally when test results came in). My primary concern was cancer. Our dog is like our child- we'll pay the money if we can keep her healthy and safe. In the future, I've resolved to bring my dog to Rupert Animal Clinic on our annual trip for all of her exams. I know she won't be treated as a little cash cow to exploit an owner's love for pets.