Hip Dysplasia In Dogs
Few things are more heart-wrenching for a dog owner than to watch as their furry companion struggles with the agonizing pain and grueling, hobbling motion that comes from the progressive lameness of canine hip dysplasia.
Although canine hip dysplasia (CHD) is a well-known disorder in veterinary medicine (affecting about 15% of all dogs seen in veterinarian clinics), the prevalence, especially amongst certain large breeds, suggests there are yet undiscovered treatments that can potentially mitigate this degenerative condition in your dog.
Canine hip dysplasia can drastically reduce a dog’s functional mobility and erode their Quality of Life–so it’s important for dog owners and canine caretakers to understand the disease process and it’s possible causes.
The Role Of Genetics In Canine Hip Dysplasia
Canine hip dysplasia (CHD) is a complex genetic disorder with polygenic (multiple genes acting together to produce a genetic variation) and multi-factorial developmental disorder characterized by hip joint laxity, joint degeneration, and without intervention can lead to osteoarthritis (OA).
Canine hip dysplasia (CHD) is the most common inherited orthopedic trait in dogs–identified by an abnormal formation of the hip socket that, in its more severe form, can cause crippling lameness and eventually swollen, painful arthritic joints.
In dogs with hip dysplasia, the hip joint fails to develop properly from an early age so instead of sliding smoothly the hip joint rubs and grinds internally on itself. Over time, this results in deterioration and thickening of the joint capsule and the eventual loss of functional mobility, potentially crippling the dog.
Despite it’s known genetic causation, the appearance of canine hip dysplasia can also be influenced by lifestyle factors–giving rise to the potential impact and possible therapeutic application of dietary supplements like CBD-rich hemp oil to alleviate painful symptoms and provide long term palliative care for your dog’s condition.
If It’s Hereditary, Are Certain Breeds Affected More Than Others?
Yes, although any dog can be affected, it is predominantly seen in larger dogs such as German Shepherd Dog, Saint Bernard, Labrador Retriever, Golden Retrievers, Old English Sheepdog, and Bulldogs. Large mixed-breed dogs are also at risk for developing hip dysplasia and should be fed a special large breed growth diet their first year.
Signs Of Hip Dysplasia In Dogs
Suspicion about hip dysplasia often arises from investigating breeder history and direct owner observation. In it’s classic form, canine hip dyslpasia (CHD) progresses from a dog “bunny hopping” (where both legs move together as a self-protection to support the affected limb), as well as difficulty rising after rest, struggling to negotiate stairs or decreased jumping ability.
Since the hip cannot move fully, the dog’s body compensates by adapting its use of the spine often causing secondary problems like spinal stifle (degenerative joint), or soft tissue problems.
Virtually any movement your dog does that involves the ball and socket hips joint can show signs of hip dysplasia. Any decreased activity, intermittent lameness or a reluctance to run are common intermediary complaints as the condition progresses.
Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
While some dogs can begin to show early symptoms of hip dysplasia as young as 4 months, other dogs develop it later in life in conjunction with age-related osteoarthritis. In either case, there are a number of symptoms associated with canine hip dysplasia (CHD) that dog owners should be familiar with.
How To Tell If Your Dog Has Hip Dysplasia
Weakness and pain in the hind legs are the usual clinical indicators of CHD. The dog appears wobbly and is reluctant to rise from a sitting or lying position. Some pets will limp or be reluctant to climb stairs. These symptoms can be seen in puppies as early as a few months old but are most common in dogs one to two years of age.
Dogs with mild hip dysplasia on radiographs (X-rays) may develop a minor arthritic condition without ever showing clinical symptoms until they are older. In fact, although hip dysplasia begins in puppyhood, most dogs do not develop clinical signs until they are older. It often takes years of gradual bone degeneration until a dog becomes symptomatic.
These symptoms will vary depending on the severity of the disease, the level of inflammation, the degree of ‘looseness’ in the joint, and how long the dog has suffered from hip dysplasia.
Hip Dysplasia Symptoms:
- Stiffness in affected joint
- Chronic or intermittent localized pain
- Decreased activity or reluctance to movement
- Limping or lameness in hind-end
- Decreased range of motion (ROM)
- Decreased thigh muscle mass
- Difficulty rising, jumping, running, or climbing stairs
- Swaying, “bunny hopping” gait
- Looseness & grating in the joint during movement
In more advanced, long-standing cases of hip dysplasia, some dogs will present with a narrowing of their stance to maintain balance and equilibrium. Along with atrophy of the hind-quarters, there can be a noticeable enlargement of the shoulder muscles as they compensate for the loss of strength and flexibility in the hip, spine and hind quarters.
Despite these recognized symptoms and patterns of joint degeneration characteristic of CHD, there is significant variability in the progression and ultimate severity of the disease.
Diagnosing Hip Dysplasia In Dogs
Canine hip dysplasia is commonly diagnosed by your veterinarian through physical examination and confirmed with radiographic (X-ray) evidence to determine the presence & severity of physical damage to the acetabulum (the socket in the hipbone that receives the head of the femur) as well as examine the surrounding support surfaces.
However, some dogs will show clinical symptoms of hip dysplasia (uncoordinated gait, pain, etc.) but the physical features on radiographs may not be present until after two years of age.
A clear differential diagnosis by your veterinarian is important for treatment purposes as a now-classic-study demonstrated that one-third (1/3) of dogs referred to a surgeon for ‘hip dysplasia’ have, in fact, a torn ACL.
Don’t assume from the general list of symptoms that your dog has hip dysplasia; your veterinarian should rule out other possible causes that could include degenerative myelopathy, uni-or-bilateral ACL tears or spinal disease (‘cauda equina’ syndrome).
Once the diagnosis of canine hip dysplasia (CHD) is confirmed, you and your veterinarian can decide the best-course-of-action for treating your dog.
Hip Dysplasia Treatment For Dogs
Treatment for canine hip dysplasia begins by understanding that this condition begins early in a pet’s life and progresses as they grow older. First and foremost, CHD is partially a heritable condition so the disease process will change over the life of your dog–therefore, any treatment needs to be subject to consistent review and re-assessment to monitor for any significant changes in symptom severity as your dog ages.
As symptoms progress and change so to should the type of intervention be adapted to your dog’s current limitations and projected future physical healthcare requirements.
Although there is no complete cure for canine hip dysplasia, there are quite a few treatment options available, ranging from lifestyle modifications, prescription medication and for more severe hip dysplasia situations surgery may offer the best long-term prognosis.
Conservative management of mild cases of canine hip dysplasia generally consists of a combination of mechanisms to reduce progression of joint damage and alleviate discomfort. These ‘home-care’ treatments incorporate nutritional supplements and complementary methods intended to reduce pain and inflammation and make your dog more comfortable while maintaining Quality of Life through this progressive condition.
Dog Hip Dysplasia Home Treatment
If for medical or financial reasons your dog is not a good candidate for surgery, there are other, more natural comfort care methods you can use to treat your dog’s painful, inflamed joints. For mild to moderate cases of canine hip dysplasia (including dogs with arthritis), pet owners can achieve a high degree of successful pain relief using a wholistic, integrative approach of natural, non-invasive, home-care treatments.
Depending on the severity of your dog’s symptoms, home remedies for pet hip dysplasia can be effective therapies done in the convenience of your home environment to bring long-term symptom relief to your furry home companion.
Natural Hemp Oil For Canine Hip Dysplasia
Even without substantial clinical proof, many pet parents are beginning to give cannabinoid-containing, CBD-rich natural pet products to their companion animals in hopes that they provide therapeutic benefits–many of them showing signs of pain relief with small doses.
Research shows that Cannabidiol (CBD) reduces pain and decreases inflammation associated with arthritis & canine hip dysplasia.
Meta-data analysis of 25 studies suggest that cannabinoid-based pharmacotherapies may serve as effective replacement/ adjunctive options regarding pain alleviation. Although every dog is different and they will each have their own unique reaction, CBD for dogs can increase the comfort and mobility in the home environment for the majority of dogs suffering from painful hip dysplasia symptoms.
In addition to causing other canine health disorders like diabetes, obesity puts a lot of stress & strain on your dog’s joints, which can exacerbate a pre-existing condition like hip dysplasia or even cause CHD. Your dog should be fed a ‘species-specific’ diet with limited treats and table scraps to prevent unintended weight gain.
Proper weight maintenance is often the single most important thing that you can do to help a dog with hip dysplasia & arthritis.
Consequentially, reducing a dog’s weight can sometimes be enough to control the majority of the most severe symptoms of arthritis in many dogs.
Numerous studies indicate that achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight contributes to delayed onset and reduced clinical indicators (limping) associated with hips and joint pain. Proper nutrition can also influence a dog’s likelihood of developing hip dysplasia, as can too little exercise – or too much!
When done in a reasonable fashion, daily exercise stimulates cartilage growth and reduces joint degeneration, though excessive exercise can actually do more harm than good. Regular long walks for dog’s with early-onset or mild hip dysplasia can also help prevent depletion of muscle mass to the rear-end & hips. Performing soft-tissue massage and ICE massage on affected hips and joints are effective ways to reduce localized inflammation and provide a means of temporary pain relief.
Prescription drugs for CHD are intended to alleviate pain and reduce damaging inflammation. Typically anti-inflammatory medicine, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), like aspirin or corticosteroids are used for hip dysplasia symptoms. Often, the prescription medications Carprofen and Meloxicam (often sold as Rimadyl and Metacam), are used to treat the arthritis that accompanies dysplasia.
The effectiveness of over-the-counter medications like NSAIDS can vary dramatically within and between animal species and there can be negative side-effects. Adverse reactions of these drugs include the potential to cause Opioid Addiction and their use should be closely monitored.
Given the low risk of adverse effects and observed benefits for animal health and well-being, acupuncture should be considered as a potential tool in all hip dysplasia treatment strategies.
There are situations where its therapeutic advantages stand out: dermatology, osteoarticular pathology, behavior, geriatrics, weak organs (kidney, liver, etc.).
Another benefit of acupuncture is often to treat the cases where the owners do not have the means to pay for surgery. Cases of ruptured cruciate ligaments or paralysis are great examples where acupuncture has shown great results.
Surgery for Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
Despite the prevalence of CHD, a single one-size-fits-all standard surgical procedure has yet to be identified that will treat every dog’s unique situation. As such, there are numerous surgeries to prevent progression of degenerative hips and joint changes or alleviate pain and restore joint function.
Based on subjective assessment of nine joint parameters established by The Orthopedic Foundation for animals, conformation of canine hip dysplasia, arthritic conditons involving hips and joints are screened & categorized as excellent, good, fair, borderline, mild, moderate, or severe.
The first three categories are considered to be normal while the last three are “dysplastic” and therefore potential candidates for some form of canine hip dysplasia surgery.
Hip Dysplasia Surgery
There are essentially two mainstream surgical options for young dogs with salvageable hips;
- Double or Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (DPO/TPO) and juvenile pubic symphysiodesis,
And two surgical procedures for patients with severe degenerative joint disease;
- Femoral head ostectomy (FHO)
- Total hip replacement (THR)
But which surgical treatment to accept can be confusing. Total hip replacement is often applied in advanced cases of hips and joint degeneration and is considered a salvage procedure. There are no clear guidelines for the best time to implement total hip replacement, but the average time between onset of signs and surgery is 10 months.
Surgery may not be an option for many canine patients due to family economics, the pet’s age (weighed against long-term outcome), the patient’s other symptoms and comorbidity’s, including obesity and prior historical hips and joint injuries, or even postoperative care issues (e.g. time and financial investment, patient restraint following surgery) and even altered lifestyle, and environmental concerns need to be taken into consideration before making a decision of this magnitude.
Whichever option is chosen, the same recommendation offered as part of conservative management of hip dysplasia should be implemented post-operatively. This includes weight management, joint supplements, exercise modification, physical therapy, pain medication, and anti-inflammatory agents like natural Cannabidiol (CBD).
Ultimately, by following veterinarian recommended care and treatment, canine hip dysplasia (CHD) is a manageable disease that should provide patients with adequate pain relief and an improved Quality of Life for their dog.
Preventing Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
It’s no surprise, given the technical advances in veterinary medical science, that treatment costs are increasing every year. And with many pet insurance plans excluding or limiting benefits for conditions like cancer and hip dysplasia, it becomes ever more important to prevent this lifelong degenerative condition from an early age.
How Do I Get My Dogs Hips ‘Certified’?
To get a cleared certification, a dog must be at least 2 years of age, and have x-rays performed under sedation or, ideally, general anesthesia. These x-rays are submitted to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, where three veterinarians who are specialists in radiology read the x-rays independently and subjectively offer their opinion. Be sure to ask your breeder for certified hips registration & accurate history of their pedigree lineage.
Hip Dysplasia in Puppies
Canine hip dysplasia (CHD) is not an affliction with one single cause but an array of heritable and environmentally induced disorders that affect the complex architecture and functional growth of the canine hip beginning as young adolescent dogs and puppies.
While not all cases of hip dysplasia can be prevented, there are certain things that pet owners can do to reduce a dog’s risk of developing this disease from early youth.
Dog owners can ensure their puppy’s healthy skeletal system development by feeding an appropriate ‘species-specific’ nutritious diet–especially if you have a large breed puppy.
This will promote a healthy head-start on proper bone growth & joint formation and prevent the excessive rapid growth spurts that contributes to the underlying disease process.
As your senior dog ages providing them appropriate levels of exercise and a healthy diet will prevent obesity, which is a major contributing factor to hip dysplasia. Obesity also causes many other health problems in pets, from diabetes to elbow dysplasia, so hold off on excessive ‘low-nutritional-value’ treats and other fatty foods.
Although hips and joint changes characteristic of CHD are associated with large breed dogs, small dogs are not exempt from developing early signs of hip displasia as well. Care should be taken to ensure dogs of all stages in life are consuming a healthy diet to prevent the onset of hip dysplasia.
Dogs With Hip Dysplasia – A Compendium of Care
Hip dysplasia is a genetic disease that is affected by factors such as diet, environment, exercise, growth rate, muscle mass, and hormones.
But despite almost a century of investigative research, many aspects of the development and progression of hips and joint changes associated with canine hip dysplasia remain to be discovered. Ambiguity in disease progression may also be reflective of variations in gene-expression within and between dog breeds that have yet to be uncovered.
Incremental advances in the diagnosis, surgical treatment, and prevention of the joint degeneration associated with CHD are helping dog owners make better choices to bring permanent, long term relief to our furry friends with hip dysplasia symptoms.
While diagnosis and treatment of CHD are central to individual patient care, prevention through early nutritional design and by selective breeding can hopefully eliminate this debilitating condition.
With this in mind, there has been renewed effort focused on identifying more natural, ‘home-based’ treatments like proper exercise, weight control and daily supplements like glucosamine and CBD-rich hemp oil to alleviate the pain associated with arthritis & canine hip dysplasia–And provide a sustainable Quality of Life for our canine companions.
Authors Update: This article was originally published Sep 27, 2018. Since that date, a survey of 2130 US Veterinarians in 2019–‘Veterinarians’ Knowledge, Experience, and Perception Regarding the Use of Cannabidiol for Canine Medical Conditions’–shows that most veterinarians (61.5%) felt comfortable discussing the use of CBD with their colleagues, but only 45% felt comfortable discussing this topic with pet parent clients.
Overall, the survey found CBD was most frequently discussed as a potential treatment for pain management, anxiety, epilepsy and seizures. Perhaps most interesting, participants agreed that CBD products offer clinical benefits and expressed support for expanded use of full spectrum CBD products for animals.
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