Large breed dogs are often afflicted with abnormal development of the hips. This is a problem we commonly refer to as Hip Dysplasia. This abnormal development occurs during a dog’s growth phase. The hips are a ball and socket type joint, with the femur (thigh bone) making up the ball portion and the pelvis making up the socket portion. When a dog has hip dysplasia the socket is flattened and the ball is not held together tightly, thus slipping occurs. The joint is then unstable. This instability leads to arthritis when the body attempts to stabilize the joint. Radiographs (x-rays) are the best way to diagnose hip dysplasia.
Dogs with hip dysplasia generally present to their veterinarian in one of two ways. The first is a young dog usually between 6 and 18 months of age who presents to their veterinarian for pain and discomfort involving their hips. These dogs have not yet developed arthritis. The second is an older dog who has hip dysplasia as a young dog, but becomes painful later in life due to the developing arthritis. Treatment includes surgical and medical options for both scenarios. Surgical options for young dogs, such as triple pelvic osteotomy and juvenile pubic symphysiodesis, involve changing the alignment of the pelvis to produce a better ball and socket joint. For older dogs surgical intervention consists of either a total hip replacement or a procedure called a FHO (Femoral Head/Neck Osteotomy), where the ball portion of the hip is removed so the dog develops a false joint, thus minimizing pain. All of these surgical options are best performed by a veterinary surgical specialist.
Medical management is appropriate for either young or old dogs when surgery isn’t an option. Medical management consists of weight reduction where necessary, non-steriodal anti-inflammatory medication (Rimadyl/Deramaxx), cartilage protecting agents (glucosamine/Adequan), acupuncture and/or cold laser therapy.
If your dog has been diagnosed with hip dysplasia, your veterinarian will speak with you about the pros and cons of each procedure. Then you can make an informed decision about which procedure is best for you and your pet.