Hip Dysplasia

Hip Dysplasia


The hip joint is a “ball and socket” joint: the “ball” (the top part of the thigh bone or femur) fits into a “socket” formed by the pelvis. If there is a loose fit between these bones, and the ligaments which help to hold them together are loose, the ball may slide part way out of the socket (subluxate). With time, as this occurs repeatedly, other degenerative changes in the joint occur (also called osteoarthritis) and your dog will become painful, lame and weak in the hind end.
This disease is progressive; that is, it gets worse with time.

While there is a severe form of hip dysplasia that affects young dogs (less than one year of age), signs of this disease are most common in older dogs. The loose fit at the hip joint will be present in young dogs, but it may take years for the other changes (such as osteoarthritis) to cause pain. Your dog may be painful after exercise, have difficulty with stairs, or even have difficulty getting up. You may only notice this once in a while, but over time you will find it getting worse. There is no cure, but your dog’s pain and lameness may be reduced by making sure that s/he is not overweight, restricting exercise, and using pain-relieving medications and/or alternative therapies such as acupuncture.

Large and giant-breed dogs are more likely to get hip dysplasia later in life if they are overfed and gain weight quickly as puppies. If you have such a puppy, you may be able to reduce the chance of future hip dysplasia by careful feeding. Your veterinarian can help you determine the right body weight and diet for your dog.

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Symptoms:  Your veterinarian will probably suspect hip dysplasia if your large or giant breed dog has pain or lameness in the hips. Your vet will take x-rays to evaluate the general fit of the femur and pelvis, and to look for any osteoarthritic changes in the hip joint. Usually sedation or anesthesia is required to ensure proper positioning of the dog.  In order to see how much looseness there is in the hip joint, your veterinarian may take special stress or distraction radiographs.

Treatment Options:  The degree to which the hips are dysplastic does not always correlate with the amount of pain. Some dogs with very bad hips radiographically are less painful than others whose x-rays show only minor changes.

Although there is no cure for hip dysplasia, there are ways to manage the pain. Your veterinarian will work with you to keep your dog comfortable. Treatments include anti-inflammatory drugs and/ or alternative therapies such as acupuncture. Nutraceuticals such as glucosamine may also be helpful. Controlling exercise and maintaining your dog at an appropriate weight, are important in managing the pain.

Your veterinarian may suggest surgery (such as hip replacement) if the pain is severe, and/or can not be controlled by medical treatment as above.

Known Mode of Inheritance:  The mode of inheritance of this disease is polygenic (caused by many different genes). Scientists do not yet know which genes are involved, or how many genes. Factors that can make the disease worse include excess weight, a fast growth rate, and high-calorie or supplemented diets.

Age of onset:  Varies  

Breeds affected: 

  • Cardigan: yes
  • Pembroke: yes
  • Other Breeds: yes



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