How do you diagnose hip dysplasia in dogs? Here’s What to Do Next

What Is Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is one of the most common orthopedic conditions seen in dogs. While this condition most commonly affects large and giant breeds, any size dog and even cats may be affected.

Hip dysplasia is the abnormal growth and development of the hip joint. The hip joint is a “ball and socket” joint. The ball is the head of the femur. The socket is part of the pelvic bone, the acetabulum. Normally, the head of the femur fits very tightly within the acetabulum. In hip dysplasia, the joint does not fit together snugly, causing instability. As a result, the joint will partially subluxate or move in and out of the socket. This may cause cartilage damage and severe arthritis in dogs as early as one year of age.

Glucosamine for Dogs With Joint Disease

Large breed dog foods often contain joint supplements like glucosamine. If your veterinarian diagnoses your dog with arthritis, glucosamine will likely be part of a comprehensive treatment plan. They will most likely recommend a chewable supplement with a veterinarian-grade dose of glucosamine and chondroitin.

You can also purchase supplements with these ingredients for dogs that might be prone to developing arthritis and hip dysplasia down the line. Joint supplements are often used as an early intervention and throughout the progression of arthritis, as they are safe for long-term use in most patients. While research is still limited, these supplements may help reduce symptoms of hip dysplasia.

What is the Treatment for Hip Dysplasia?

“There are many options available for treating hip dysplasia,” Kirkwood says, “and the best treatment depends on the age, condition, and lifestyle of the dog.” She typically recommends surgery for young dogs with long, active lives ahead, as it provides the most long-term comfort.

There are two common surgical options for dogs with hip dysplasia: total hip replacement, which involves implantation of an artificial hip joint, and femoral head ostectomy, in which the head and neck of the femur are removed and scar tissue forms to create a “false joint.”

For older dogs and those for whom surgery isnt an option, Kirkwood says medical management at home can effectively manage pain. Hip dysplasia home treatment is also often recommended for dogs with mild to moderate disease.

“The most commonly used medications to help with joint pain from hip dysplasia are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs),” she explains. However, its important to note that NSAIDs (like carprofen) can have significant side effects and must be closely monitored. “Supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin can help prevent cartilage breakdown in the joint, which can ease pain as well,” Kirkwood adds.

Other potential treatments include cold laser therapy, acupuncture, and physical therapy. Your veterinarian will work with you to determine the best options for you and your pet. Bear in mind that treatments often need to be adjusted over time, so be sure to follow your vets recommendations for follow-up visits.

Ortolani sign hip dysplasia test in dogs

Pet parents of large-breed dogs fear the words “hip dysplasia,” but it can happen to dogs of any size.

So, what exactly is hip dysplasia, and why is it such a concern for pet parents? Here’s everything you need to know about hip dysplasia in dogs—from signs and symptoms to treatments and care.

Hip dysplasia is a condition that occurs during the growth stage in dogs. It results in the loosening of the hip joint, which causes dysfunction and pain.

As the dog grows, the cartilage and bone of the hip begin to wear down. Over time, this causes arthritis, muscle atrophy, and limited mobility.

Dogs can be very stoic and may not show all of these clinical symptoms. However, this condition is very painful, regardless of whether your dog has symptoms.

German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, and Labrador Retrievers are the most commonly affected breeds, but any large and giant breed dogs are at risk for canine hip dysplasia.

If you have a large or giant-breed dog, set up monthly checkups between 8 weeks and 10 months of age to help determine if surgical options are needed.

Early diagnosis of the disease can decrease or even prevent the long-term arthritis that is caused by hip dysplasia in dogs. There are several options for treating canine hip dysplasia, including a few surgical options as well as managing the condition through medications.

Your vet will consider many factors before recommending the proper treatment for your dog. Your pet should have a complete orthopedic evaluation before determining if surgery or medical management is right for you.

There are many factors to consider before choosing a surgical option. In many cases, surgical intervention has a good prognosis and can return dogs to normal function for a normal life.

Prior to 18 weeks of age, dogs can have a joint-saving procedure called juvenile pubic symphysiodesis. Dogs younger than 10 months can have a procedure called a triple pelvic osteotomy.

For adult dogs that are skeletally mature and have increased joint pain and limited mobility, the most common procedures are total hip replacements and femoral head osteotomies.

Talk to your primary care veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary surgeon to determine the best options for your pet.

Surgery can eliminate pain that sometimes even life-long medical management cannot. It may decrease the risk and cost of lifelong medications, and sometimes, in the long run, it can end up being the more affordable option.

To give an example of how much variation there is in cost, some insurance claims for total hip replacements can range from $1,500 to $7,000.

But if you compare this to the cost of medical management, which includes pain medications and joint supplements, surgery can end up being much less expensive over time, and could be more effective.

For example, for a dog that lives 10 years that shows signs at age 2, you might spend $4,800 to $19,200 over their lifetime for medications to manage the condition:

Medical management consists of following a multimodal approach to pain management while maintaining joint and muscle health.

You can also speak with your primary care veterinarian about a prescription dog food for joint health that can replace daily joint health supplements. Some of these options include:

Depending on your dog’s pain level, prescription pain medications (such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are commonly used to decrease inflammation, which is major cause of pain.

Physical therapy and low- to moderate-impact daily exercise encourage joint health and mobility, muscle health, and weight loss.

Regardless of surgical or medical management, any dog suffering from joint pain should be kept at an ideal weight. Keeping your dog at an ideal body condition will ensure that your dog does not have excess weight on his or her joints.

Speak to your primary care veterinarian about a weight-management plan. A healthy weight prevents the joint pain caused by increased weight.

With proper surgical and medical management, a dog with hip dysplasia can live a normal, healthy life.

Your dog should see your veterinarian every six months for a physical examination to ensure joint health and promote muscle strength and mobility.

At this time, there is no known way to prevent hip dysplasia in dogs. It appears to be a hereditary condition, and many dogs, especially large and giant breeds, are born with it.

It’s recommended to start joint supplements for high-risk dogs as early as 3 months of age to ensure good joint health and protect the cartilage of the joints.

You should also work with your vet to make sure that you keep your dog at a healthy weight. Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the amount of stress on a dog’s joints.

Get practical pet health tips, articles, and insights from our veterinary community delivered weekly to your inbox.