WA Veterinary Emergency & Specialty

Hip Dysplasia

What is Hip Dysplasia?

This is a hereditary and developmental disease that affects the hip joints of dogs. Certain breeds are more likely to be affected than others. Although its occurrence in large and giant breeds is well documented, there is evidence that it may also be present in smaller breed dogs (e.g. British and Australian Bulldogs) and cats (e.g. Main Coon) as well.

Predisposing factors

The hip joint is a ‘ball and socket’ joint. Poor conformation of the hip and thigh bone structures and weak soft tissue constraints result in a ‘looseness’ of this ball and socket joint. This looseness or laxity allows the ball part of the joint to move in and out of the socket, instead of remaining stable as it should in a healthy, normal, tight fit. This abnormal movement can create wear and tear in the joint, leading to reshaping of the joint, arthritis and pain.

Clinical signs

Although signs of hip dysplasia may not appear until after the dog matures and develops osteoarthritis later in life, some puppies as young as five to six months can be significantly affected. Hip pain, stiffness, abnormal gait patterns, and a reluctance to exercise are all possible signs of hip dysplasia.

Diagnosis

The disease is usually diagnosed using radiographs (x-rays).

Treatment

Surgery may be indicated in some patients. A number of surgeries can be performed in young growing dogs e.g. the Double Pelvic Osteotomy (DPO) and Juvenile Pubic Symphysiodesis (JPS) to try and prevent remodelling changes of the hip joint associated with laxity and therefore reduce the amount of dysplasia. For mature pets, Total Hip Replacement (THR) is the procedure of choice, where a dog’s diseased hip joints are replaced with prosthetic ones. The goal of any surgery is to provide your pet with some measure of normal activity and function and to minimise the pain associated with the condition. A very high level of success is reported with these surgeries when performed in the right patient. However, as with all major procedures, it is very important to follow your veterinary surgeon’s recommendations with regards to recovery and rehabilitation.