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Hip dysplasia in dogs

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The hip joint is formed by the ball-shaped top of the thigh bone (the femur) and the socket of the pelvic bone. Normally, these two structures fit together snugly, held firmly in place by muscles and tendons. In hip dysplasia, the joint doesn't develop properly, so that the ball of the femur can slip back and forth in the socket. Over time, this looseness causes damage and inflammation in the joint, resulting in chronic arthritis.

Hip dysplasia can be seen in any dog, including mixed breeds, but it is most common in large and giant breeds, as well as in some smaller ones (eg, pugs). Puppies with hip dysplasia may not initially show any signs. As the dog gets older, the developing arthritis can lead to difficulty getting up or climbing stairs and to a limping gait. Signs are often worse in the morning, or when the dog must walk on a smooth surface that causes the rear legs to slip.

Diagnosis of hip dysplasia is based on the history you provide your veterinarian, a physical examination, and x-rays, which can be useful in evaluating the severity of the problem. Oddly, some dogs can have fairly severe hip dysplasia and arthritis on an x-ray but show little signs of discomfort.

Conservative treatment with anti-inflammatory medications, such as aspirin or carprofen, can relieve pain and inflammation. Your vet may also recommend a supplement such as glucosamine/chondroitin for cartilage and joint health. In some cases, surgery to improve joint function and decrease pain may be an option.

Keeping your dog fit and trim with regular exercise and a balanced diet is also important, because obesity increases the risk of arthritis and its severity.

 

Q&A

What is hip dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia means that there is laxity in the hip joint, so that the ball of the joint moves loosely and sloppily within its socket.  Over time, this looseness leads to arthritis.


What dogs are most likely to get this condition?

Hip dysplasia can be seen in any dog, but is most common in large and giant breeds, as well as certain smaller ones (eg, pugs). 


How can I tell if my dog has hip dysplasia?

Your veterinarian may be able to feel joint laxity on physical exam, but a conclusive diagnosis requires X-rays. 


How is hip dysplasia treated?

Periodic treatment with anti-inflammatory medications may be all that is needed in mildly affected dogs, but those with more severe dysplasia may benefit from surgery to improve joint function and decrease pain.  Your vet may also recommend a supplement such as glucosamine/chondroitin for cartilage and joint health. 



Credit: Written and reviewed by John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, PhDand Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS
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