Hip Dysplasia Symptoms
Hip dysplasia symptoms in a dog might be signs of stiffness or soreness after rising from rest, reluctance to exercise, bunny-hopping or other abnormal gait, lameness, pain, reluctance to stand on rear legs, jump up, or climb stairs, subluxation or dislocation of the hip joint, or wasting away of the muscle mass in the hip area.
X-rays will often confirm the presence of hip dysplasia, but radiographic features may not be present until two years of age in some dogs. Moreover, many affected dogs do not show clinical signs, but some dogs manifest the problem before seven months of age, while others do not show it until well into adulthood.
In part this is because the underlying hip problem may be mild or severe, may be worsening or stable, and the body may be more or less able to keep the joint in repair well enough to cope. Also, different animals have different pain tolerances and different weights, and use their bodies differently, so a light dog who only walks, will have a different joint use than a more heavy or very active dog. Some dogs will have a problem early on, others may never have a real problem at all.
If your dog seems to be showing hip dysplasia symptoms, the classic diagnostic technique is with appropriate X-Rays and hip scoring tests. These should be done at an appropriate age, and perhaps repeated at adulthood - if done too young they will not show anything. Since the condition is to a large degree inherited, the hip scores of parents should be professionally checked before buying a pup, and the hip scores of dogs should be checked before relying upon them for breeding. Despite the fact that the condition is inherited, it can occasionally arise even to animals with impeccable hip scored parents.
In diagnosing suspected dysplasia, the X-ray to diagnose and confirm the internal state of the joints, is usually combined with a study of the animal and how it moves, to confirm whether it is being affected in its quality of life. Evidence of lameness or abnormal hip or spine use, difficulty or reduced movement when running or navigating steps, are all evidence of a problem. Both aspects have to be taken into account since there can be serious pain with little X-ray evidence.
It is also common to X-ray the spine and legs, as well as the hips, where dysplasia is suspected, since soft tissues can be affected by the extra strain of a dysplastic hip, or there may be other undetected factors such as neurological issues (eg nerve damage) involved.
There are several standardized systems for categorising dysplasia, set out by respective reputable bodies (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals/OFA, PennHIP, British Veterinary Association/BVA). Some of these tests require manipulation of the hip joint into standard positions, in order to reveal their condition on an X-ray, and since this is very painful and must be held still for a clear image, often the animal will be anaesthetised or sedated to achieve clear diagnostic results.
It is important to note that a dysplastic animal has probably lived with the condition since it was very few months old, and has therefore grown up taking the chronic pain for granted and have learned to live with it. Dogs suffering such pain do not usually cry out or show it. Sometimes, they will suddenly and abnormally sit down when walking, or suddenly refuse to walk or climb objects which they usually would, but this can equally be a symptom of many other things, including a thorn in the paw, or a temporary muscle pain. So pain recognition is less common a means of detection than the visible gait and other abnormalities associated with hip dysplasia symptoms.
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