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Hip Dysplasia (HD) in the Dog: Cause and Treatment

You can find out here how hip dysplasia or hip joint dysplasia (HD for short) can be treated in dogs.

Many dog owners fear hip dysplasia (HD for short). Because affected dogs often have severe pain and therefore lose the joy of movement. Many also shy away from the treatment costs for HD: In severe cases, an expensive operation is unavoidable.

What is hip dysplasia in dogs?

Dogs with hip dysplasia or hip dysplasia have a malformed hip joint (dysplasia = malformation). The consequences are painful changes in the joint, so-called arthrosis.

Two hip joints connect the hind legs to the dog’s torso. The head of the femur sits like a ball in the hip joint. A healthy dog can not only move its hind legs forwards and backwards, but also sideways and diagonally.

In the case of hip dysplasia, the dog cannot do this, or only with pain, because the femoral head and the hip joint do not fit together. This can be bilateral or unilateral.

Which dogs are more likely to suffer from HD?

All dog breeds can be affected by hip dysplasia. However, it occurs more frequently in large breeds. These include, for example

  • German shepherd dog
  • German boxer
  • Saint Bernard
  • Bernese Mountain Dog
  • Rottweiler

In dogs, hip dysplasia was first identified in a German shepherd, which is why this breed is still primarily associated with HD. However, any dog can be affected.

Recognize HD in the dog

The symptoms of HD in dogs are common:

  • decreased activity (particularly noticeable in puppies)
  • strong pain
  • passive movements of the hip joint

The vet can diagnose HD using two methods. The safest thing is an X-ray: the dog’s hip joints are overstretched to detect the malformation. The dog is usually anaesthetized for this because the hyperextension can be painful.

The so-called Ortolani test can provide an indication of whether the dog is suffering from hip dysplasia. To do this, the veterinarian presses the thighs vertically in the direction of the spine and then moves them outwards. If HD is present, there is a “clicking noise” – the so-called Ortolani sign. This test can also be painful for the dog, which is why the animal is usually anaesthetized.

Can a dog live with untreated HD?

Many owners wonder if a dog can live with hip dysplasia if left untreated. If left untreated, HD can be associated with great pain and massive restriction of movement – but it doesn’t have to be. There are dogs that get along well into old age, even with severe HD. You should definitely discuss with your veterinarian whether treatment is advisable for your dog.

In general, HD is divided into five degrees of severity:

HD-A: no HD
HD-B: Transition to HD
HD-C: light HD
HD-D: medium HD
HD-E: heavy HD

Apart from veterinary treatment, every owner can do something to improve the life of their dog with hip dysplasia: To avoid pain, affected dogs should not become too heavy. Every gram too much means an unnecessary strain on the joints.

Treatment of hip dysplasia in dogs

Hip dysplasia cannot be cured. Therefore, when treating HD, the following goals are in the foreground instead:

  • The pain should be relieved for the dog.
  • The dog should be able to move better again.
  • The aim is to prevent the arthrosis in the joint from getting worse.

How hip dysplasia in dogs is treated depends on the age of the dog and the severity of the condition. The following therapies are possible for HD:

  • Anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs
  • Physiotherapy (the most common treatment for HD)
  • Feed additives and preparations to build and support articular cartilage and muscles, such as the Groene Os Glucosamine Complex Special
  • Acupuncture
  • Neural therapy (local anesthetics to stimulate the body to heal itself)

Operations are always expensive. It is, therefore, best to have your dog insured. For example, Bayerische offers dog surgery insurance with many attractive benefits. You are free to choose a veterinarian anywhere in the world and will be reimbursed up to three times the rate of the veterinarian fee schedule. Interventions that are necessary for hip dysplasia in dogs are included in the insurance.

How does HD develop in dogs?

Hip dysplasia in dogs (unlike in humans) is not congenital. It develops as you grow. So far, three major factors are known that can cause or promote HD:

  • inheritance
  • wrong diet
  • wrong posture

Although HD can be inherited, genes alone do not determine whether the hip joint malformation occurs or how severe it is. Exercise and nutrition of the puppy play an important role in the first year of life.

Feeding that is too rich can result in growth that is too rapid. This favors an HD. Too much exercise is just as dangerous as jogging, cycling, and long walks with puppies and young dogs under 12 months. With these posture errors, even dogs that come from HD-free breeding can develop HD.

The severity of HD increases from generation to generation. The offspring often have worse hip joints than their parents. Dogs with HD are therefore always to be excluded from breeding without exception.

Preventing HD in dogs

Hip dysplasia can never be completely ruled out if the dog has a predisposition to it. However, they can be avoided or their severity kept low by taking

  • only does sports with puppies and young dogs that put little strain on the joints.
  • needs-based and balanced nutrition for his dog.
  • cartilage-building agents such as mussel meat powder added to the feed, such as the cdVet ArthroGreen plus with green-lipped mussels
  • offers young dogs physiotherapy to specifically build up their muscles. In this way, the hip joint can be relieved.

Hip dysplasia in dogs cannot be cured. Nevertheless, with the right methods, the progression of HD-related arthrosis can be prevented. This will save the dog a lot of pain. As with many other diseases, the following applies to hip dysplasia: the sooner it is detected, the greater the chances for the dog to lead a largely normal life.

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