What is Hip Dysplasia?
Hip Dysplasia is caused by the abnormal development of the hip joint. The hip joint is a ball and socket joint. The head (top) of the femur (long upper leg bone) is the ball and it sits in a socket (acetabulum) of the hip bone (os coxae). The head of the femur is supposed to sit very snugly in the acetabulum. It is allowed a rolling motion, but is NOT supposed to have a sliding motion.
So, in a dog with Hip Dysplasia the ball (head of femur) is usually too small and the socket is too shallow. This results in a "loose" joint. In other words, instead of getting that snug fit, the joint has too much motion. This can allow the joint to subluxate or "pop in and out". Over time, this extra motion cause "wear and tear" on the joint and results in arthritis.
What Causes Hip Dysplasia?
Hip Dysplasia is primarily the result of genetics. That is why it is more common in certain breeds of dogs such as Labs and Rottweilers. As the puppy ages, the joint doesn't develop correctly and results in Hip Dysplasia.
What are the Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia?
It is often hard to diagnose Hip Dysplasia in really young puppies. All puppies have pretty loose joints. The question is whether they are going to develop normally or abnormally as the puppy grows. However, by the time the puppy is about 6 months old, you will often start to see evidence of hip dysplasia. The puppy may have a "rolling gate" where you can actually see the hip joint slipping when they walk. This is often missed due to the fact that puppies are pretty resilient and will ignore the inconvenience of a slipping hip joint.
Typically, Hip Dysplasia is diagnosed once the dog has fully matured and the joint starts to break down. The dog will have trouble rising, may cry out if their hips are pushed on, may have trouble maneuvering up stairs, or jumping into cars or onto the bed.
What Can I Do For My Dog if He Has Hip Dysplasia?
The only "cure" for Hip Dysplasia is hip replacement surgery. As you can imagine, this is pretty expensive and only a few specialist will even perform the surgery. The second best thing that you can do is make sure that you keep your dog fit. The hip joint should NOT have to work overtime. Obesity will cause the joint to break down much faster causing severe arthritis. Mild forms of exercise such as swimming and walking will help keep the joint healthy.
There are several good medications for not only pain relief, but also to help keep the cartilage in the joint healthy.