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Posted on 11-23-2012

Hip Dysplasia is a term used often in the veterinary field as well as by breeders. The definition of hip dysplasia is the malformation and degeneration of the coxofemoral (hip) joints. This is one of the most common skeletal diseases in the dog. It can be a very painful, life long, genetic problem that breeders can attempt to avoid by not breeding affected dogs. However, hip dysplasia can be managed with appropriate pain medication or surgery, if indicated. 004_2.JPG

Hip dysplasia is a genetic defect. This causes an affected animal to be predisposed to abnormal movement of the immature hip joint. This causes abnormal forces across the joint and then interferes with normal development of the shape of the bones as well as overloads the cartilage that lines those hip bones. Then, small fractures of the cartilage can occur as well as degenerative joint disease.

Certain large breed dogs are most commonly affected such as St Bernards, German Shepherds, Retrievers and Rottweilers. Signs typically begin as young as 4 months of age and depend on the degree of damage to the joint and duration of the disease. Owners will most likely notice decreased activity, difficulty standing, reluctance to climb stairs or jump, intermittent lameness in the hind end and an abnormal gait or stance.

The best way to diagnose this disease is with x-rays of the hips.

Treatment of hip dysplasia can be medical or surgical. The choice depends on the dog's age, weight, severity of disease and financial considerations of the owner. Physical therapy can play a tremendous role in treatment by decreasing joint stiffness and helping to maintain muscle mass and strength. Swimming is an excellent alternative to weight bearing exercise because it encourages joint and muscle activity without exacerbating joint injury. Weight control is another crucial treatment. This will ultimately decrease the load on the affected joints.

There are three different surgeries that can be performed: Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (best for 6-12 mo old patients), Total Hip Replacement (best for mature dogs with severe degeneration), and Excision Arthroplasty (best for small breeds).

Medications can be administered such as analgesics and anti inflammatories for pain control. However, this is a progressive disease and degeneration of the joints will continue.

If you think your dog may be affected with some of the signs described above, please schedule an appointment with one of our veterinarians at Eagle Animal Hospital (610)458-8789. We serve Chester Springs, Downingtown, Exton and the surrounding areas.

Written by Jennifer Granite, veterinarian at Eagle Animal Hospital

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