Hip Dysplasia: A heartbreaking Diagnosis And Some Information

In the early seventies, many young dogs were put to sleep after being diagnosed with hip dysplasia. It was practical choice in the old days and dog owners would agree with the decision from the veterinarian due to the understanding that “the dog would be crippled in time, for the rest of his life, or that he will not be able to hunt, track, or do obedience work because of his injured hips”, according to the doctor.

Not All Veterinarians Agreed With This Diagnosis

The truth is that every young dog with hip dysplasia has a good chance of leading a normal and functioning life if nothing is done for the hips except to let time elapse until he has fully reached his maturity stage. Because of this fact, many reputable veterinarians would not perform surgery on an immature dog.

There are no published and worthwhile statistics which show that young dogs subject to such surgery turn out better than those that were not operated. Moreover, those that were left alone are still eligible to compete in dog shows, tracking, and obedience trials. Not only does experience dispute the worth or need of surgery but severing tendon or muscle in the young dog doesn’t make any scientific sense. Its effect is to let the “ball” slide out of its “socket”, and this creates “hip dysplasia” artificially.

When done later in life on a dog with persistent hip pain, the operation can provide immediate relief of discomfort by altering the weight-bearing surface of the hip joint. However, no worthwhile statistics have been published to show the length of time that such relief will persist or the percentage of adult dogs that were improved by surgery.

Hip Dysplasia May Not Be Genetic In Dogs

Since hip dysplasia was accepted to be genetic in humans, early researches were focused on trying to establish whether it was a dominant, recessive, or other characteristic in dogs. Sufficient statistics have accumulated to conclude that canine hip dysplasia is genetically influenced but a Swedish study on 11,036 German Shepherds showed that ten years of selective breeding not only failed to reduce the number of canine hip dysplasia offspring but also did not reduce the number of grade two or three (moderate or severe) cases.

The Swedish authors concluded that canine hip dysplasia was not as greatly genetically influenced as they formerly had thought. They found that other characteristics of the pelvic inlet were suggestive indications and that the rate of bone maturation of the dog is also important.

The Greyhound, the only breed of large dog that’s not affected, has very slow bone maturation. When the Greyhound was crossed with the German Shepherd, hip dysplasia did not appear in the first generation. It was discovered that a very restricted diet, which contributes to slow growth, reduced hip dysplasia in affected breeds.

Although we still do not understand exactly the causes of canine hip dysplasia, it is reasonable to believe that a program of breeding based on the x-ray diagnosis of this condition should be carefully scrutinized.

Hip Dysplasia part two
Hip Dysplasia Surgery Options: Ask What Your Veterinarian Can Do

We usually associate bone and joint problems with older dogs, but puppies also have their own skeletal issues. By far the most well known joint problem – hip dysplasia – is most commonly seen in larger dogs, but can occur in any breed.

Those commonly affected include Labrador and golden retrievers, Newfoundlands, great Pyrenees, great Danes, Doberman Pinschers, and of course, German Shepherds.

Hip dysplasia results in looseness of the hip joints. While some dogs do not show symptoms, those with severely loose hips show signs of lameness, usually in one hip, though both can be affected.

This condition can affect dogs of any age, but is often a common cause of lameness in young puppies. It has both a genetic and environmental component. Large dogs intended to be used for breeding should be screened via the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and preferably PennHip testing to determine their hip structure. Those with signs of dysplasia should not be bred.

Even adult dogs with normal hip structure can still have puppies with bad hips, so all puppies should be checked for hip dysplasia. This is easily done at the time of spaying and neutering at four to six months of age. A simple radiograph of the hips, done when the puppy is sedated, usually allows diagnosis.

There Are Several Surgery Options For Hip Dysplasia

Treatment varies with the severity of the disease. Puppies found to have hip dysplasia during routine screening, but who are not showing symptoms, often need no treatment other than a joint supplement to minimize cartilage damage.

Puppies with clinical signs can be managed with restricted exercise, joint supplements, and limited use of NSAIDS to control pain. Those that do not respond to medical therapy will usually require surgery.

The type of surgery done depends on the skill and preference of the surgeon, the cost of the procedure, the age of the puppy at the time of diagnosis, the degree of hip looseness, and the dog’s size.

1) Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO)

This involves surgically removing the head of the femur (the long bone of the leg involved in the disease). This relieves pain and creates a false joint between the femur and acetabulum (hip bone). This is an excellent procedure for puppies, however the leg will be slightly shorter than its opposite and a slight non-painful limp may persist.

2) Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (TPO)

This is a procedure in which the pelvis is cut in three places and then rotated to give greater coverage to the head of the femur. This resolves the dysplasia, the pain, and returns the dog to normal function. It is a very involved operation and not every surgeon is trained to do it. It is also limited based on the size and age of the dog, as well as the amount of dysplasia present at the time of surgery.

3) Total Hip Replacement (THO)

Considered the gold standard of hip surgery, total hip replacement is also the most expensive, averaging $3,000 or more per hip. In this procedure, your dog literally receives a new hip (head and neck of the femur and new acetabulum). Again, not every surgeon is trained to perform it and not every dog is the ideal candidate. However, it is the surgery of choice for many patients and gives excellent results in most cases.

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