Get Hip to a Common Canine Problem

Written By Dr Sarah Austin

Puppies are one of the best things in the world, bringing joy and possibility to their families. 

However, sometimes as a puppy grows, all may not go to plan. 

One of the most common developmental disorder of dogs that we see at the clinic, and around the world, is hip dysplasia. 

This is when the ball (femoral head) and socket (acetabulum) of the hip joint do not develop properly. 

This results in a deformed joint that is incongruent and lax and the effects can be seen as early as young puppyhood. 

However it may not be evident until a dog's older years, with the development of osteoarthritis as a consequence of the poor shape. 

Any dog can be affected but some breeds are more susceptible. Examples of these are golden retrievers, German shepherds, Bernese mountain dogs and the Labrador.

Hip dysplasia has multiple contributing factors and is brought about by a combination of genetics and environment, such as diet and weight. 

Given the strong genetic component, multiple screening programs have been developed. These are slowly helping, however as the genes involved are complicated, this still remains a common disorder.

So what do you do? There are a few measures that can help prevent or diagnose hip dysplasia early. 

Take your puppy to the vet for regular check ups, especially if you notice any signs of lameness. If both hips are affected this may not always be as obvious as a limp. 

It may be a reluctance to sit or jump, stiffness in the mornings or after a lot of exercise. 

It is important to remember that the symptoms of hip dysplasia will not always be apparent until later on in your dog's life when secondary arthritis develops. 

These dogs can have the above signs but also difficulty rising and weakness and muscle wastage in the hind legs.

Other tips include a good quality balanced diet for puppies, especially during growth. 

Also they should not be too vigorously exercised while still developing, and if possible, research the hip scores and health of the parents and grandparents of your puppy before purchasing.

The diagnosis of hip dysplasia is based on a vet manipulating the hips for laxity and then confirming with radiographs. Treatment varies depending on the age and severity of the dysplasia. 

This can be conservative management, including exercise moderation, joint supplements and medication. 

Weight control from puppyhood into old age is very important, as there is a strong link between heavier dogs and developing the disorder or worsening of clinical signs.

The other treatment options are surgical. Many surgery interventions need to be done at quite a young age and therefore early diagnosis is key. 

See to your local vet to discuss these.