Dog arthritis can often develop in the hip joint, which consists of a ball and a socket that connects a dog’s hind legs to its pelvis. This hip joint is supported by a combination of ligaments, connective tissues, cartilage and joint fluid which allow the ball joint to rotate freely within the socket. When this ball and socket connection is loose (also known as subluxation or laxity), the hip can become arthritic and deformed in a condition known as hip dysplasia.
What is hip dysplasia?
Hip dysplasia refers to the abnormal growth or development of the hips. It is a condition that usually affects large and giant breeds such as German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, Great Danes and Saint Bernards. While dogs of all ages can suffer from hip dysplasia, it is a condition that often develops at an early age, although the signs may only start to show in adolescence, between 6 to 18 months of age.
If left untreated, hip dysplasia will eventually lead to potentially severe arthritis.
Cause of hip dysplasia
The following factors seem to increase the risks of developing this condition:
Genetics: Studies suggest that hip dysplasia in a parent will most likely be seen in the offspring as well, prompting the selective breeding of dogs to reduce the incidence of this condition.
Nutrition: Excess weight and obesity appear to increase a dog’s chances of developing dog hip dysplasia. Feeding either too much or too little calcium can also affect the proper development of the hip joint. Overfeeding is known to cause rapid growth of puppies, a risk factor in hip joint abnormalities.
Exercise: Over-exercise and activities that subject the joint to a lot of force also increases your dog’s risk of developing hip dysplasia.
How hip dysplasia works
Hip dysplasia is a laxity of the joints, muscles and ligaments surrounding the hip. This brings about abnormal wear and tear of the joint, subsequently causing arthritis or pain in the area.
Signs of hip dysplasia
The following may indicate a problem with the hip joint:
altered gait when walking or running
restricted movement or extension of the rear legs
difficulty in climbing stairs
Most dogs will only begin to show obvious signs when they are older or when dog arthritis sets in but when you take your dog for regular veterinary checkups, your vet will routinely check for early signs. The condition can be properly diagnosed through physical examination, x-ray, and special tests like the Penn-HIP system.
Surgery: Hip dysplasia is best treated early in life to prevent the onset of painful arthritis which will affect your pet’s mobility and quality of life. A variety of surgical procedures are available ranging from correction of hip alignment to hip replacement, often with good results, especially on younger dogs.
Medical management: Most dogs that do not undergo surgery maintain a medical treatment plan that combines weight management, exercise, supplements, and pain relief medication to slow down the progression of dog arthritis although the looseness of the joint still remains.
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