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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Hip dysplasia is a crippling, degenerative joint disease that affects the ball-and-socket joint of an animal's hip. Hip dysplasia is a problem found primarily in dogs, although many practitioners believe that the disease has been underdiagnosed in other species such as cats. The records of the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) show that 24.8 percent of Maine coon cats evaluated from 1974 through 1996 were dysplastic.

Among dogs, large- to giant-sized breeds continue to be those most frequently troubled by this disease, with as many as 50 percent of some breeds suffering from hip dysplasia, according to a release from Cornell University. Some breeds with a high rate of hip dysplasia include Bernese mountain dogs, bloodhounds, boxers, rottweilers, and Saint Bernards, but smaller breeds, such as the Welsh corgi and the toy breeds, can develop the disease, too. Hip dysplasia may be underdiagnosed in small-sized dog breeds simply because their minuscule weight and light frames enable them to function without showing symptoms of the disease. The belief is that a lax and disfigured hip may not cause a tiny 10-pound dog, such as a Yorkshire terrier, as much pain as a giant-sized 150-pound dog in which even a mild case of dysplasia can be crippling.

Is My Dog Dysplastic?
Typical symptoms for hip dysplasia include pain, heat, and sometimes swelling in the joint. The dog may be grouchy when touched, wanting to be left alone. The dog may also appear cow-hocked (a condition where the back elbow joints turn in), stand toe-out, and perhaps have some muscle atrophy. (When a dog is in pain, she doesn't want to move the part that hurts, so if a hip is sore, she may not want to use her rear legs. After a few weeks, these muscles become flabby.)

The dog may be uncomfortable after sitting for long (or short) periods of time. Often, a dog with abnormal hips will "puppy sit" (sit on one hip), rather than sit squarely on her haunches (although some adult dogs with normal hips may also "puppy sit"). The dog may have a fever, have trouble moving, or may pace or pant with pain. An indicator that something is wrong may be as subtle as the dog suddenly shying away from you.

Of course, these symptoms can be the same as those displayed for a variety of conditions and/or diseases unrelated to hip dyplasia. For example, if a dog has strained the ligaments and tendons of the hip joint while chasing a squirrel, there may be some pain or heat in the hip region. A dog with hip dysplasia-like symptoms may actually be suffering from arthritis or even Lyme disease. In other words, the symptoms of hip dysplasia are somewhat vague. A clinical diagnosis (made by feeling the hips) is not sufficient to determine whether a dog has hip dysplasia. The only way to definitively determine whether or not a dog is dysplastic is to X-ray the dog's hips.

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carole   southampton, District of Columbia

10/1/2013 9:54:30 AM

I have a 9mth Jorkshire Terrier called Ellie..We found out last friday wot was causing her all this pain...Hip Dysplasia...The ball has died, and no blood was getting to it,, it needed to be cut off and hope it healed itself in time..no food or water since 5pm y,day..I took her there for 8.30am this morning for her operation. I had a call 12.30 to say they couldnt do it today as too any sick animals came in (bless them) so have to wait another 10days Carole

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Grace   Long Island, NY

5/24/2009 3:03:36 PM

Hip Displasia is when the dogs hip bone does not fit correctely into the hip Joint.

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Patricia Deeds   Laurel, MD

6/6/2008 8:37:55 AM

I lost my dog under sedation April,28,2008 he was supposed to be neutered but it did not happen. So the drugs today are still not safe. The necropsy report stated that my dog was healthy. Xylazine & Atropine were used. I also suspect that the vet misused the drug as well. It states that the drug should not be used if the dog is dehydrated.My dog had been withheld food and water for 14 hours. I am devastated. FDA we site lists this drug as contribuying to many dogs, cats, horses and cattle and sheep. I bet they take this drug off of the market soon. My dog was 2 yrs 10 months old.

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