Dealing With Hip Dysplasia in Your Dog

If you have a larger-sized dog, you may be concerned about hip dysplasia – and rightly so. Although hip dysplasia is most commonly found in larger breeds, it is important to keep in mind that the crippling disease can affect dogs of all sizes. Therefore, it is important to know how to recognize the signs and symptoms, what you can do to prevent it and how it should be treated.

What is Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is a serious condition that results in a weakened hip. When your pet becomes affected by the disease, the hip actually begins to deteriorate and becomes arthritic. Depending upon the severity of the arthritis, the disease can be only slightly disabling or it can be severely crippling. Regardless, the condition occurs when the ball-and-socket joint of the hip develops and the femur is unable to fit properly into the socket.

How Does Hip Dysplasia Develop?

Certain breeds of dogs are genetically predisposed to developing hip problems, particularly larger breeds such as rottweilers and retrievers. In addition, male dogs are more likely to suffer from the disease than females, but there are other factors that contribute to the development of hip dysplasia as well. These include the rate of your dog’s growth, the speed at which it gains weight and the type of diet you feed your pet.

What are the Signs of Hip Dysplasia?

The initial signs often begin to develop in dogs while they are still young puppies between the ages of 3 and 12 months, but the onset can also occur after your beloved pet becomes older. Signs to watch for include:

• Apparent lameness in one or both hind legs • Staggering or swaying when standing • Signs of discomfort when attempting to stand up or lie down • A general reluctance to jump or run • Problems with getting up • An unusual gait when running, including a bunny-hopping type of gait • Changes in running and jumping behavior

In addition to these visible signs of hip dysplasia, you may notice a clicking sound when your pet walks and gets up. You may also notice a decreased amount of muscle mass in the rear legs of your pet.

How Can Hip Dysplasia Be Avoided?

While genetics play a significant role in whether or not your pet develops hip dysplasia, and ultimately responsible breeding can help to minimize the chances your pet will develop hip problems, there are some steps you can take to help prevent the disease from manifesting in your canine friend. First, take steps to control the growth rate of your puppy by avoiding overfeeding. Follow the feeding guidelines on the food package closely and cut back on the calories if your puppy seems to be getting overweight. You should also provide your dog with plenty of opportunities for exercise throughout its lifetime in order to prevent obesity.

It is also important to keep a close eye on your canine friend and to notify your veterinarian if you notice signs of hip problems. The sooner your pet receives treatment for the disease, the better its chances of recovery and leading a long, healthy and active life.