Hip dysplasia is a skeletal defect in dogs and cats. It is far more common in dogs and it is usually an inherited problem.
Dogs have played an important part in our lives for thousands of years and certain breeds that were developed for specific tasks such as herding, guarding, hunting and pulling were inbred to strengthen certain positive traits. Unfortunately this also strengthened certain negative traits and hip dysplasia is one of these characteristics.
Larger dogs tend to suffer the most from this condition including Boxers, Huskies, Great Danes and German Shepherds. The more active breeds also tend to be at risk such as sheep and police dogs.
How does the dysplasia occur?
At the top of the leg or femur is the femoral head and this normally rests in the socket of the joint called the acetabulum. We normally refer to this as a ball and socket joint.
Although usually inherited, it is not often evident at birth and you might only discover that your puppy has the problem at 6 or 8 months depending on the severity of the condition.
In a puppy with the potential for dysplasia, bones will mature faster than the surrounding muscles that normally keep the two components of the joint in contact. Additionally, the ligaments that assist the muscles in this role are stretched, as the puppy becomes more active. The ball and socket pull further and further apart and the socket is unable to develop fully, resulting in a shallower cup than normal. The cartilage attached to the femoral head now receives more wear and tear as it moves freely in the socket, which leads to degenerative joint disease such as Osteoarthritis. Finally the joint parts as the femoral head disconnects completely from the joint.
Some of the symptoms that you will notice in your dog include:
- Lameness after exercise
- A swaying walk or waddle
- Morning stiffness
- Difficulty when standing up.
- Reluctance to move.
- Irritable temperament
- Does not like being groomed or brushed around the hip area.
- Symptoms worse in wet or damp weather.
You might find this video helpful courtesy of Bug and his owner.
Are there any preventative measures you can take?
- Do your research on susceptible types of dog before you buy your puppy.
- It is important to always see a puppy with its mother and to buy from a registered breeder.
- If your chosen breed of dog is susceptible to hip dysplasia then seeing the mother and finding out about the father will be of help.
- Your breeder should also be able to show you other dogs, possibly related to your puppy that are healthy and without the condition.
- You could insist on a Vet’s examination, as there are certain techniques available for determining the risk of the puppy developing the problem as it matures.
- Watch your puppy very carefully as it becomes more active and pay attention to any stiffness or lameness in play.
- With larger dogs it is a good idea to avoid agility training or mountain walking that are likely to put additional strain on their back ends.
- After 18 months old, when their joints and bone growth is mature enough you can introduce them to a higher level of activity. Obviously some breeds are adapted for mountain work but the majority of dogs are not.
- Do not try and train a large dog to sit up and beg or to stand on their hind legs for extended periods of time.
- Exercise is important however as it is crucial that you develop the muscles surrounding the joints.
- Walking and running for a ball is healthy, just avoid anything that requires the dog to twist and turn.
- Swimming is often used as a therapy – if your dog enjoys the water then there are a few dog pools around. It is a gentle exercise that strengthens the muscles around the joints.
- If your dog is still young when the problem becomes apparent then you need to explore the various options available with your vet. This might include surgery and even hip replacement.
- If you suspect that you puppy has this problem then seek veterinary attention straight away.
- Diet and a healthy weight is vital to reduce the strain on the joints as in humans and as dogs with this condition invariably suffer from arthritis they may need to be on anti-inflammatory and pain relieving drugs.
The alternative therapies that may help.
As our pets get older, dogs and cats alike, they are going to suffer as we do from age related degenerative joint disease. Feeding the appropriate food is essential but you can also add certain supplements into their diet. To be honest although it is convenient and allegedly a complete ‘food’, dry dog food is not a natural diet. First post in the series on allergries and dry vs. wet or homecooked pet food
- I have had a number of canine clients and as a preventative you can add cod liver oil, Glucosamine and Chondroitin sulphate to their diet.
- Turmeric has been used for a long time to ease inflammation and pain but do check with your vet if your dog is on other medication. There are specific canine formulations available.
- Because many dog foods do have these already added, consult your vet before supplementing your dog and also make sure that the brand that you are using is pet friendly.
- Chondroitin helps develop the synovial fluid in the joint and the Glucosamine encourages cartilage renewal, both of these improve flexibility and improve pain levels.
- Cod liver oil is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids and may relieve pain and inflammation. It also contains Vitamin D which helps keep bones healthy.
NOTE. While these may help prevent the onset of joint disease they will not be able to reverse any substantial damage. Always consult your doctor for other pain relief alternatives and never, every give your pet human painkillers.
Grooming and massaging your pet pet not only keeps their skin in good condition and strengthens the bond between you but also offers you an opportunity to check their entire body out for soreness or unwanted lumps. Their reaction to you touching certain parts of their bodies will enable you to catch certain conditions early and to deal with them as quickly as possible. More next week.
©2021 Sally Cronin
I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-three years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.
If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here: My books and reviews 2020
Thank you for dropping in today and your feedback and questions are very welcome.. thanks Sally.