Dog Hip Dysplasia
Hip dysplasia is a condition affecting the hip joint, which occurs in humans but is more commonly associated with animals, especially dogs (Canine hip dysplasia).
Many mistakenly think that the ailment is a form of arthritis, but that is simply not the case. Often, dogs that suffer from hip dysplasia will develop arthritis, but this condition is a result of hip dysplasia and not the disease itself. Even when detected early, there is no “cure” for hip dysplasia; it must be treated with medication to reduce the amount of pain that the dog suffers or be corrected as much as possible with surgery.
Hip dysplasia is a congenital disease that, in its more severe form, can eventually cause crippling lameness and painful arthritis of the joints. It is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. It can be found in many animals and occasionally in humans, but is most commonly associated with dogs, and is most common in medium-large pure bred dogs, such as German Shepherd Dogs, Labrador or Golden retrievers, Rottweilers and Mastiffs, but also occurs in some smaller breeds such as spaniels.
Hip dysplasia is one of the most studied veterinary conditions in dogs, and the most common single cause of arthritis of the hips. In humans it occurs at a rate of about 4 births per thousand (0.4%)
In a hip sufferring from dysplasia, two things are commonly abnormal. First, the caput is not deeply and tightly held by the acetabulum. Instead of being a snug fit like a normal hip would, it is a loose fit, or a partial fit. Secondly, the caput or acetabulum are not smooth and round, but are mis-shapen, causing abnormal wear and tear or friction within the joint as it moves.
The body reacts to this in several ways. First, the joint itself is continually repairing itself and laying down new cartilage. However cartilage repair is a relatively slow process (the most rapid bodily repairs are often in systems with a blood flow, which cartilage lacks).
So the joint may suffer degradation due to the abnormal wear and tear, or may not support the body weight as intended. The joint becomes inflammed and a cycle of cartilage damage, inflammation and pain commences. This is a self-fueling process, in that the more the joint becomes damaged, the less able it is to resist further damage. The inflammation causes further damage. The bones of the joint may also develop osteoarthritis, visible on an X-ray as small outcrops of bone, which further degrade the joint.
The underlying deformity of the joint may get worse over time, or may remain static. A dog may have good X-rays and yet be in pain, or may have very poor X-rays and apparently almost no problems. The hip condition is only one factor to determine the extent to which dysplasia is causing pain or affecting the quality of life. In mild to moderate dysplasia it is often the secondary effects of abnormal wear and tear or arthritis, rather than dysplasia itself, which is the direct causes of visible problems.
What Causes Hip Dysplasia?
In dogs, there is considerable evidence that genetics plays a large role in the development of this defect. There might be several contributing genetic factors, including a femur that does not fit correctly into the pelvic socket, or poorly developed muscles in the pelvic area. Large and giant breeds are susceptible to hip dysplasia, and Cocker spaniels and Shetland sheepdogs are also known to suffer from it. Cats are also known to have this condition, especially Siamese.
To reduce pain, the animal or person will typically reduce their movement of that hip. In animals this may be visible as "bunny hopping", where both legs move together, or less dynamic movement (running, jumping), or stiffness. Since the hip cannot move fully, the body compensates by adapting its use of the spine, often causing spinal, stifle (a dog's knee joint), or soft tissue problems to arise.
As we mentioned above, there is no “cure” for hip dysplasia. However medication can be given to control the pain and reduce inflammation of the joint, but the only way to treat the condition on any permanent basis is through surgery.
The best way to combat hip dysplasia is through selective breeding. If the either of the potential parent animals show traits of hip dysplasia, they should not be bred and should be spayed or neutered to ensure they do not pass on the trait. All breeding dogs should be X-Rayed at a young age to check for signs of the condition. Many times a dog that appears perfectly healthy and has no signs of the condition can actually have hip dysplasia.
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"A puppy is but a dog, plus high spirits, and minus common sense."
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