What can be done for a dog with hip dysplasia?
Excerpt from Ask the Vet About Dogs: Easy Answers to Commonly Asked Questions
Hip dysplasia is a malformation of the hip joints and most commonly affects German Shepherd dogs, Saint Bernards, Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, rottweilers, and mixes of those breeds. Smaller dogs can have hip dysplasia, but they are less likely to show symptoms. Because the ball and socket of the hip joint don’t fit together properly, the joint becomes malformed and the abnormal forces on it cause damage to the protective cartilage that lines the surfaces the joint. When the cartilage begins to break and split and the joint becomes inflamed, the condition is called degenerative joint disease (DJD). Hip dysplasia is diagnosed by X-ray, but not every dog with hip dysplasia develops DJD; some dogs have malformed hips but never develop pain. Symptoms of hip dysplasia can appear as early as four months of age. These dogs have pain in their hips and may have trouble rising to a standing position. They are reluctant to run, jump, or climb stairs, and they have trouble walking on smooth floors. They hold their rear legs close together when standing or walking, and "bunny hop” when they run.
There are many surgical options for treating dogs with symptoms of hip dysplasia. Young dogs (six to twelve months of age) can undergo a procedure called a triple pelvic osteotomy in which the pelvis is cut and tilted so that the hip socket is more normal. This surgery corrects the abnormal forces acting on the joint and may allow the joint to develop properly in the growing dog. Total hip replacement is also an option and can be performed even in advanced cases in older dogs. The procedure is often successful, with more than 90 percent of cases said to be pain-free after recovery. Another option is called excision arthroplasty in which the head of the femur is completely removed. The area where the femur and hip once joined together fills with scar tissue, and the dog is able to use the rear legs somewhat like crutches. This procedure is an option for small dogs (40 pounds and under). These dogs will have a slightly funny walk, and the muscles of their rear legs will become thin and weakened.
Medical therapy of hip dysplasia and DJD cannot correct the anatomic abnormalities of the hips, but they can be used to control inflammation and to minimize joint pain, especially for those dogs with fairly mild symptoms.
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