5 Common Myths About Canine Hip Dysplasia

Posted by Christy Caplan
Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia (CHD) refers to a developmental problem of the canine coxofemoral joint. Subluxation of the femoral head leads to abnormal wear and eventual degenerative joint disease. Any vet or expert will tell you that the cause is complicated.

There are two primary causes of hip dysplasia, genetics and diet or nutrition. The genes involved in hip dysplasia have not been conclusively identified, but it is believed to involve many genes. Advances in nutritional research have shown that diet also plays an important role in the development of hip dysplasia. 

Hip dysplasia is mostly seen in large breeds (German Shepherds, Mastiffs, Golden retrievers, Newfoundlands, Rottweilers, and Labrador retrievers) although any breed can get it. Affected dogs can show slight or severe changes.

Clinical signs vary 

Clinical signs vary tremendously from slight discomfort to a severe disabling disease. A hip radiograph under general anesthetic is the preferred method for diagnosing hip dysplasia.  Signs to watch out for include: 

  • Decreased activity
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Difficulty or reluctance rising, jumping, running, or climbing stairs
  • Lameness in the hind end
  • Looseness in the joint
  • Narrow stance
  • Swaying, "bunny hopping" gait
  • Grating in the joint during movement
  • Loss of thigh muscle mass
  • Noticeable enlargement of the shoulder muscles as they compensate for the hind end
  • Pain
  • Stiffness

When it comes to CHD, one of the most common questions people ask is about surgery for a younger dog diagnosed and if this is the appropriate course of action. Expert, Dr. Julie Buzby with Dr. Buzyby's Toe Grips tells us,

"Certain procedures/interventions can be done early and only in a specific window of time and dramatically change the course of a dog's life with respect to long term pain and mobility management. Knowledge is power."

Surgery isn't always the answer though. For pet parents that are interested in treating CHD without surgery, our staff wanted to help dispel some myths about canine hip dysplasia that are often very confusing.

5 Myths about CHD

1. Weight management isn't a priority 

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This is Bear’s last hydrotherapy session this side of his surgery & he finished it on a high (incline)! 🌊 —————— All going well, Bear will have a shiny new hip this time next week! The vets are hoping to either perform the surgery on the day of his consultation or the following morning, so paws crossed everything goes to plan!🤞🏼 ~ Thank you SO much to everyone who has already donated to Bear’s gofundme page! We’re truly humbled by the support and generosity of our insta family, you guys really are the best - we couldn’t do this without you! ~ With less than 7 days to go til his first op & the prospect of his 2nd one following soon after - we’re hoping to continue fundraising via his page (link in our bio) in addition to our ongoing saving; but we still need your help! ~ If you can help us by donating, sharing our story or just mentioning us to your friends; we would be incredibly grateful! ~ www.gofundme.com/help-bear-be-a-puppy-again ~ (Direct link in our bio!) ~ Watch this space for updates throughout Bear’s journey! ~ Thanks again for your support & well wishes, we love you guys! ❤️ —————— #hipdysplasiadogs #hipdysplasia #gofundme #donate #gofundmedonations

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Weight management should be at the top of the list when talking about CHD. The goal is to keep your dog lean and fit!

If you live with a breed that is predisposed to hip dysplasia but hasn't been diagnosed (yet) on rads, weight management is an area you can begin addressing that may help prevent the wear and tear. A dog should be kept lean, visit Buzby's canine condition body score, which will help owners determine how to make sure these dogs don't carry around excess pounds. Consistent exercise in the form of leash walks would be ideal.

2. Acupuncture? Really?

Alternative treatments are found to be very successful in treating hip dysplasia. Buzby has acupunctured hundreds of hip dysplasia patients over the past two decades, often using electroacupuncture to potentiate the effect, with very positive results.

3. Nsaids cannot possibly help 

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I was diagnosed with hip dysplasia in early February at 8.5 months old. I saw many AMAZING doctors who helped Mommy and Daddy decide a hip surgery called a double pelvic osteotomy would be my best course of treatment. Yesterday, I had my 9 week follow-up appointment with my surgeon. He said I’m healing great and can go on walks 2x/day now! I even heard him mention that I can go off-leash and to the park next month! These photos are my x-rays at diagnosis, immediately post-op, and 9 weeks post-op PLUS a photo of me being a good boy at the vet! #hipdysplasiadogs #doublepelvicosteotomy #medvetindianapolis #medvetindy #veterinarian #goodboy🐶 #dogsofinstagram #dogstagram #rescuedogsofinstagram #adoptdontshop

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Anti-inflammatory medications (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), aspirin, corticosteroids) may be suggested by your vet and if your dog isn't a candidate for surgery then these will likely make a big difference.

4. Dogs that "sploot" have great hips 

Not every dog stretching is considered splooting. Sometimes, dogs who stretch their legs this way do that because they're in pain, which could be caused by diseases such as arthritis or hip dysplasia, so make sure that you rule out CHD. 

5. Small breeds never get diagnosed 

According to the American Kennel Club,

"Owners of small dogs are not off the hook either. Small and medium breed dogs can also develop hip dysplasia, although it is less common." 

Swimming is supposed to be a wonderful form of exercise for these cases since muscle tone is increased with the hip joints in a non-weight bearing position.

If you want to do more research, check out the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) health testing can help breeders determine the condition of their dogs' hips, ensuring that they only breed dogs with hip joints rated normal grade or higher. Dog owners looking for a puppy can research any breed and common health risks, as well as potential parents, in order to pursue the healthiest offspring possible. Read more about how OFA works, which includes links to OFA certificates so you know what you're looking for when interviewing breeders. 

If you are concerned, review the above signs of hip dysplasia. This information can help you determine if you need to see the vet for X-rays which will provide you with a confirmed diagnosis.

We talk a lot about physical therapy as this is a proven modality that can help dogs diagnosed with CHD and can minimize the overall side effects. Some dog breeds are more prone to this but remember to reach out to OFA for details and breeder information as this can make a difficult decision easier when choosing a puppy.

Surgical options will be presented to you by your vet or specialist so please defer to their recommendations. There are so many misconceptions online so you want to be careful and disregard the myths you hear about! If surgery isn't an option these 5 alternatives should be discussed with your vet as they can walk you through what's safe to ensure your dog's quality of life is thriving despite this diagnosis. Your vet will talk to you about pain medications and joint supplements available.

Keep any rapid weight gain down as weight management will make a difference with all breeds whether you live with a giant breed or small breed! This advice also applies to young dogs and older dogs.

What course of action would you take if your dog was diagnosed? Please leave us a comment below!

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5 Common Myths About Canine Hip Dysplasia