Signs of hip dysplasia in dogs can look as simple as pain or discomfort when exercising, it’s important to get checked right away. Our Santa Cruz vets describe symptoms, causes and surgical treatment for this condition.
What is hip dysplasia in dogs?
We often see this common skeletal condition in giant or large breed dogs, although smaller breeds can also suffer from this condition.
A dog’s hip joint works as a ball and socket. In dogs that experience hip dysplasia, this ball and socket do not develop or function properly.
Instead they grind and rub, which can lead to breakdown over time and eventual loss in the function of this important joint.
What causes canine hip dysplasia?
As you might imagine, this condition is painful and if not treated, can drastically reduce quality of life for your dog. It’s also difficult to watch as physical symptoms appear in once-healthy dogs.
Hip dysplasia is hereditary, and genetics are a leading contributor to the development of the condition in dogs, especially in larger breeds such as mastiffs, St. Bernards, Rottweilers, retrievers and bulldogs. But even smaller breeds such as French bulldogs and pugs can be susceptible.
This condition can worsen with age and affect both hips (bilateral). It may be exacerbated by osteoarthritis and associated pain in senior dogs.
Which breeds are prone to canine hip dysplasia?
Though the condition is inherited, some factors can magnify the genetic predisposition to the condition and increase the risk that it will develop, such as improper weight and nutrition, excessive growth rate and types of exercise. Because obesity puts abnormal stress on your dog’s joint, this can aggravate a pre-existing condition or even cause hip dysplasia.
The condition most commonly affects giant and large breed dogs, but hip dysplasia can occur in any breed or size of dog. This is partly why it’s important to consult your vet regarding the right amount of exercise your dog requires each day and what their ideal diet should contain.
What are symptoms of hip dysplasia?
While hip dysplasia can start to develop in puppies as young as five months old, it may not appear until they reach their senior years. As with many other conditions, every dog is different. In many cases, owners notice it in pooches that are middle-aged or older.
Watch for these symptoms of hip dysplasia in your pup:
- Signs of discomfort or pain while exercising (or a reluctance to exercise, run, jump or climb stairs)
- Back legs are stiff when he walks
- Stiffness when running or rising from a resting position
- Loss of muscle tone in back legs or thighs
- Grating or grinding of the joint when he moves
- Lameness in hind end
- Decreased range of motion
- Running with a bunny hop
During your dog’s regular physical exams, your veterinarian will check on their physical health and condition. The vet may move your dog’s hind legs to identify any grinding, painful sensations or reduced range of motion may be present in the joint. There may be blood tests as complete blood count can indicate inflammation as a result of joint disease.
You should also be prepared to provide your vet your dog’s health history, a list of his specific symptoms and any injuries that may have caused them. It’s also helpful to know your dog’s lineage. Along with all of these, your veterinarian will also usually take an x-ray or radiographs to pinpoint the severity of hip dysplasia in your dog and chart a course of action for treatment.
What are treatment options for hip dysplasia in dogs?
Treatment options for dogs suffering from hip dysplasia could range from changes to lifestyle or diet, to surgery. These are the three most common types of hip dysplasia surgeries, along with typical costs:
Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO)
Both young and mature dogs can benefit from this type of surgery, which entails removing the femoral head (ball) of the hip joint. The body then creates a “false” joint, which decreases the discomfort related to hip dysplasia. While your dog won’t see the return of his normal hip function, it can be a strategic method of managing pain.
The cost of an FHO surgery typically ranges from $1,200 to $2,500, including pre-surgical bloodwork, procedure, anesthesia, post-surgical care and medications.
Following surgery, your dog could need to remain in hospital for anywhere between several hours and several days, depending on his health, the surgery and other factors. Avoid strenuous physical activity for 30 days after surgery. Most dogs will completely recover about six weeks following the operation, when they can resume physical activity.
Double or triple pelvic osteotomy (DPO/TPO)
Most commonly performed in dogs under 10 months old, this surgery involves cutting the pelvic bone in specific locations and rotating its segments, resulting in an improvement of the ball and socket joint. Typical costs for this surgery for most dogs is in the range of $3,000 for both hips.
Your pooch will require several weeks before he’ll be able to stroll comfortably again, and will need regular physiotherapy for full mobility to return (although you may notice joint stability improve within four weeks). Most dogs will recover within four to six weeks.
Total Hip Replacement (THR)
This option is often the first choice as it is the most effective surgical procedure for hip dysplasia in dogs. It involves using plastic and metal implants to replace the whole joint, which brings hip function back to a more normal range and eliminates most hip dysplasia-related discomfort.
A THP surgery is a drastic option and the most expensive, typically taken when the dog in question is in considerable pain and nearly completely immobile. Artificial components must be custom-made for your pooch and the surgery is performed by certified veterinary surgeons. Cost can be anywhere between $3,500 per hip to approximately twice that - $7,000.
If your dog is bilaterally affected (which many are), surgery can cost up to $14,000, including pre-surgical blood work, surgery, anesthesia and all medications.
The surgery usually takes about two to three hours, and your pup may need to be hospitalized for one to three days following surgery. To ensure proper healing, expect a 12-week recovery period. Though hip dysplasia usually appears in both hips, surgery may only be performed on one hip at a time, allowing a three-to-six month gap between procedures.
Hearing a diagnosis of hip dysplasia in your dog can be heart-wrenching, as the condition is painful and can visibly reduce mobility. It may also cause some financial concerns as surgical options can impact your budget. However, your vet may be able to recommend an option or combination of treatments that can help your dog recover and regain his hip function.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.