What Is Hip Dysplasia?

Learn about this crippling joint disease and holistic approaches to helping your pet live a more comfortable life.

By | Posted: Tue Nov 13 00:00:00 PST 2001

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For more than thirty years, the OFA has been examining and rating hip X-rays of dogs suspected of having hip dysplasia and dogs who are being considered for breeding. The OFA requires a ventrodorsal view of the dog's hips, so the X-rays are taken while the dog is lying on her back with her legs relaxed and as flat on the table as possible. Often, if the technicians and doctors are proficient in taking this type of X-ray and the dog is cooperative, there is no need for tranquilizers.

The OFA studies the resulting X-rays for the condition of the hip joints, as well as the presence of degenerative disease. Hips may be classified as excellent (normal); in a range of in-between classifications-good, fair, and borderline dysplastic; or as dysplastic. Within the range of dysplastic hips, OFA ranks hips as mild, moderate, or severe. The X-rays are generally taken when a dog is two years old, particularly if the dog is to be used for breeding purposes. Younger dogs may also be X-rayed if they are having trouble with their hips and it is suspected that they are suffering from hip dysplasia. The OFA will not certify a dog as clear of hip dysplasia unless she is at least two years old.

The International Canine Genetics (ICG) organization, based in Pennsylvania, uses a more recent approach to X-raying dogs' hips for abnormalities called PennHIP. The PennHIP test was developed in the 1980s and involves taking three different specific views of the hips while the dog is under general anesthesia. Since there is a degree of difficulty and expertise required to achieve the correct positioning for the X-rays, the ICG evaluates only those radiographs that have been taken by veterinarians who have been trained and certified for PennHIP X-rays.

Once the X-rays are completed, the ICG measures various distances between the ball and socket of the hip joint. These values are then plugged into a formula to achieve a numerical "laxity" value. Using this value, the ICG determines whether the dog is normal or dysplastic.

Hope and Promise
Receiving the diagnosis that your dog has hip dysplasia is not good news, but this diagnosis no longer means that your dog has been given a crippling death sentence. Granted, there are no known cures for hip dysplasia.

Once the disease has begun, its effects cannot be reversed. But if the disease is caught early enough, there are many promising holistic treatments that may be able to slow or halt its progression long enough for your dog to enjoy a full and relatively pain-free life. At a minimum, holistic modalities in the hands of a skilled practitioner have the potential to make your dog feel much more comfortable, both physically and mentally.

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