Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia means abnormal development of the hips. It is a common, often crippling, disease of the hip joints in dogs. There is a genetic basis to the disease and some breeds and blood lines are more commonly affected (usually larger breeds). Affected dogs usually have loose hip joints at a young age. Later on they develop a deforming arthritis of the hip joints and a painful lameness. 

Hip dysplasia is a newly recognized problem in cats as well and is more common in Persians and main coons. Many cats show no signs of pain, even when the disease is advanced. 

Dogs may show signs at any age; however signs are mostly evident in young adults and older dogs. Signs may be mild to unnoticed in some cases or be very severe in others and they tend to worsen with time. Lameness and painful walking are usually more pronounced after exercise. Many dogs "hop like a bunny" while running or walk on their front legs while the rear feet barely touch the ground. Young dogs often lay on their belly with legs outstretched behind them.  

The initial presumed diagnosis is made upon examination. Hip joint laxity is the first indication of hip dysplasia in young dogs, then, at a later stage, pain and abnormal motion range become noticeable. X-rays confirm the diagnosis and may show partial occupation of the joint socket by the head of the femur (upper leg). Dogs that are ten moths or older develop radiographic signs of degenerative joint disease, including flattening of the head (ball) of the femur, a shallow hip joint socket, bone spurs of the joint components, and narrowing of the joint space. 

Treatment varies depending on the severity of the condition. Limited exercise and anti-inflammatory drugs are indicated in less severe cases or when surgery is not possible. Surgery can be done in cases that do not respond to medical treatment or are extremely compromising. There are several surgical procedures, like resection of the head of the femur, hip joint replacement and rotation of the hip direction that are used depending on the individual case. 

Due to the hereditary nature of the disease, dogs diagnosed with hip dysplasia should not be bred. Breeding dogs can have their hips assessed by PennHip method or by the OFA (orthopedic foundation for animals). 

If you have a dog with progressive lameness, please have your veterinarian evaluate him/her as soon as possible. Hip dysplasia is very painful and early treatment will alleviate your dog's suffering.

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