Hip dysplasia describes when one or more of your dog's hips form abnormally. This can occur in any breed, and causes significant pain and discomfort while exercising or even just shifting position. Here, our West Chester vets explain more about hip dysplasia in dogs, its symptoms and the surgeries used to treat this condition.
What is hip dysplasia in dogs?
Your dog's hip joint works similarly to a ball a socket. Hip dysplasia is the abnormal formation of one or more of your dog's hips. When your dog is diagnosed with hip dysplasia, the ball and socket which make up their hip has not developed properly and won't function like they should. Instead their leg and hip bones rub against one another, leading to a breakdown of the joint over time and eventual loss of function in the affected joint.
While hip dysplasia is much more common in large or giant breeds of dog, smaller breeds can also suffer from it. If not promptly treated, hip dysplasia can significantly reduce your dog's quality of life as it causes a loss in mobility and ongoing pain. Hip dysplasia can also be quite difficult for dog owners. It's upsetting to see an otherwise healthy dog deal with its symptoms.
What causes canine hip dysplasia?
More often than not, hip dysplasia is a hereditary condition, with your pup's genetics being the leading contributor to its development. Hip dysplasia is commonly found in large and giant breeds of dog like mastiffs, St. Bernards, retreivers, Rottweilers and billdogs, but many smaller breeds like pugs or French bulldogs may also commonly experience this condition.
If left untreated in the early stages, this condition will likely continue to worsen with age and affect both hips (bilateral). Hip dysplasia may be compounded by other painful conditions such as osteoarthritis in senior dogs.
Although hip dysplasia is an inherited condition, some other factors can exacerbate the genetic predisposition. Improper weight and nutrition, accelerated growth rate and some types of exercise can all play a role in the development of the condition. Obesity puts abnormal stress on your dog’s joint, and may aggravate pre-existing hip dysplasia or even cause the condition.
Regardless of which breed of dog you own, it’s important to consult your vet regarding the right amount of daily exercise for your pup, and the most appropriate diet for their age, size and breed.
What are symptoms of hip dysplasia?
As with many other conditions, every dog is different when it comes to displaying symptoms of hip dysplasia. Although the condition typically starts to develop when the puppy is as young as five months old, it may not become apparent until the dog reaches their middle or senior years. Pet parents should watch for these symptoms as their puppy grows into adulthood:
- Grating or grinding of the joint when he moves
- Back legs are stiff when he walks
- Loss of muscle tone in back legs or thighs
- Lameness in hind end
- Decreased range of motion
- Running with a 'bunny hop'
- Stiffness when running or rising from a resting position
- Signs of discomfort or pain while exercising (or a reluctance to exercise, run, jump or climb stairs)
How is hip dysplasia diagnosed?
Hip dysplasia is one of many common conditions which vets keep an eye out for whenever a dog comes in for an examination. Throughout your dog's physical examination, your vet will check in on their physical health and well-being, as well as the condition of each of your dog's joints. They may move your dog's hind legs to identify any grinding sounds, reduced range of motion or signs of pain. If your vet suspects that your dog has hip dysplasia, they will likely recommend blood tests which may indicate associated inflammation.
Your vet will also request your dog’s complete health and medical history including a rundown of specific symptoms, and any injuries that may have caused them. Knowing your pet’s lineage can offer insights into your dog's likelihood of developing hip dysplasia. Standard x-rays can also be very helpful in diagnosing the severity of your dog's hip dysplasia, and to chart a course of action for treatment.
What are treatment options for hip dysplasia in dogs?
Treatment options for dogs suffering from hip dysplasia range based on the severity of the condition, from changes in lifestyle such as diet and exercise, to pain meds and surgery.
What are options are available for dog hip dysplasia surgery?
When it comes to treating hip dysplasia in your dog, there are 3 main options for surgical treatment available to you:
Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO)
FHO can benefit both young and mature dogs. This type of surgery entails removing the femoral head (ball) of the hip joint, allowing the body to create a “false” joint, which decreases the discomfort related to hip dysplasia. Dogs undergoing FHO will not see the return of normal hip function; however, it can be an effective method of managing pain.
While factors such as the size and age of your dog, as well as the severity of the condition, will all affect the price of FHO surgery, you can expect to pay from $1,200 to $2,500, including pre-surgical bloodwork, procedure, anesthesia, post-surgical care and medications.
Double or triple pelvic osteotomy (DPO/TPO)
These hip surgeries are most commonly performed in dogs under 10 months old, and involve cutting the pelvic bone in specific locations then rotating the segments, resulting in an improvement of the ball and socket joint. As with all surgeries, cost of this treatment varies but for most dogs it will be in the range of $3,000 for both hips.
Following these surgeries, your pooch will require several weeks before they'll be able to enjoy proper leash walks again, and will need regular physical rehabilitation (physio for dogs) in order for full mobility to return (although you may notice joint stability improve within as little as four weeks). Most dogs will recover within four to six weeks after DPO/TPO surgery.
Total Hip Replacement (THR)
Total hip replacement is typically the first choice for surgical treatment of hip dysplasia in dogs, since it is the most effective. THR involves using plastic and metal implants to replace the entire hip joint, bringing hip function back to a more normal range and eliminating most hip dysplasia-related discomfort.
That said, THP surgery is a drastic option and the most expensive. This surgery is usually recommended if the dog is in considerable pain or close to completely immobile. The artificial components used in THR must be custom-made for your dog, and the surgery is performed by certified veterinary surgeons. Cost of THR for hip dysplasia in dogs can be anywhere between $3,500 per hip to $7,000 depending on your dog's condition, size, age, overall health and other factors. If your dog is bilaterally affected (which is common), surgery can cost up to $14,000, including pre-surgical blood work, surgery, anesthesia and all medications.
Our vets understand that hearing a diagnosis of hip dysplasia in your dog can be heart-wrenching, as the condition is painful and can visibly reduce mobility. This diagnosis can also cause some financial concerns as surgical options can impact your budget. That said, your veterinarian may be able to recommend an option or combination of treatments that can help your dog recover and regain some of their hip function.