Hip dysplasia is an abnormal formation of one or both hips in a dog that can occur in any breed and causes pain or discomfort when exercising or simply changing position. In today's blog, our Pico Rivera veterinarians explain hip dysplasia, its symptoms, and the surgeries used to treat it.

What is hip dysplasia in dogs?

Your dog's hip joint functions as a ball and socket joint. Hip dysplasia is a condition in which one or both of your dog's hips develop abnormally. When a dog has hip dysplasia, the ball and socket that comprise the hip have not developed properly and are not functioning as they should. Instead, the ball and socket grind and rub against each other, eventually leading to breakdown and loss of function in the affected hip joint.

While hip dysplasia is most commonly seen in giant or large breed dogs, it can also affect smaller breeds.

Hip dysplasia can drastically reduce your dog's quality of life if left untreated, as the condition causes pain and limits your dog's ability to move normally. Hip dysplasia is also a difficult condition for pet parents to deal with because it can be upsetting to see an otherwise healthy dog struggle with the symptoms of this condition.

What causes canine hip dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is primarily a hereditary condition, with genetics playing the most important role in the development of the condition in dogs. Hip dysplasia is most common in large and giant breed dogs like mastiffs, St. Bernards, Rottweilers, retrievers, and bulldogs, but smaller breeds like French bulldogs and pugs may also be affected.

If not treated early on, this condition will most likely worsen with age and affect both hips (bilateral). Hip dysplasia in senior dogs may be exacerbated by other painful conditions such as osteoarthritis.

Although hip dysplasia is an inherited condition, some other factors can exacerbate the genetic predisposition. Improper weight and nutrition, accelerated growth rate, and certain types of exercise can all contribute to the condition's development. Obesity puts abnormal stress on your dog's joints, which can aggravate or even cause hip dysplasia.

Regardless of the breed of dog you own, it's critical to consult your veterinarian about the appropriate amount of daily exercise for your pup, as well as the best diet for their age, size, and breed.

What are the symptoms of hip dysplasia?

When it comes to hip dysplasia symptoms, every dog is different, just like every other condition. Although the condition can begin as early as five months of age in a puppy, it may not become apparent until the dog is in its middle or senior years. As their puppy grows into adulthood, pet parents should keep an eye out for the following symptoms:

  • Signs of discomfort or pain while exercising (or a reluctance to exercise, run, jump or climb stairs)
  • His back legs are stiff when he walks
  • Stiffness when running or rising from a resting position
  • Loss of muscle tone in back legs or thighs
  • Grating or grinding of the joint when he moves
  • Lameness in the hind end
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Running with a 'bunny hop'

How is hip dysplasia diagnosed?

Hip dysplasia is just one of the many conditions that veterinarians look for when a dog comes in for an exam. During your dog's routine physical exams, your veterinarian will examine their physical health as well as the condition of all of their joints. Your veterinarian may move your dog's hind legs to detect any grinding sounds, signs of pain, or decreased range of motion. If your veterinarian suspects that your dog has hip dysplasia, he or she may recommend blood tests to detect inflammation as a result of joint disease.

Your veterinarian will also request a complete health and medical history for your dog, including a list of specific symptoms and any injuries that may have caused them. Knowing your pet's ancestry can help you predict whether or not your dog will develop hip dysplasia. Standard x-rays can also be very useful in determining the severity of your dog's hip dysplasia and charting a treatment plan.

What are treatment options for hip dysplasia in dogs?

Treatment options for dogs suffering from hip dysplasia range based on the severity of the condition, from changes in lifestyle such as diet and exercise to pain meds and surgery. 

What are options are available for dog hip dysplasia surgery?

When it comes to treating hip dysplasia in dogs, there are 3 main surgical options available:

Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO)

FHO can help both young and old dogs. This surgery involves removing the femoral head (ball) of the hip joint, allowing the body to create a "false" joint that alleviates the pain associated with hip dysplasia. FHO will not restore normal hip function in dogs; however, it can be an effective method of pain management.

While the price of FHO surgery will vary depending on your dog's size and age, as well as the severity of the condition, you can expect to pay between $1,200 and $2,500, which includes pre-surgical bloodwork, procedure, and anesthesia, post-surgical care, and medications.

Depending on their health and other factors, your dog may be required to stay in the hospital for several hours to several days following surgery. Your veterinary surgeon will give you specific instructions for caring for your dog after FHO surgery, but you must keep him out of strenuous physical activity for at least 30 days. In most cases, your puppy will recover completely within six weeks of the operation. They can resume regular physical activity once they have fully recovered.

Double or triple pelvic osteotomy (DPO/TPO)

These hip surgeries are most commonly performed on dogs under 10 months old and involve cutting the pelvic bone in specific locations and then rotating the segments to improve the ball and socket joint. As with all surgeries, the cost of this treatment varies, but most dogs will pay around $3,000 for both hips.

Following these procedures, it will take several weeks for your dog to be able to enjoy proper leash walks again, and they will require regular physical rehabilitation (physio for dogs) for full mobility to return (although you may notice joint stability improve within as little as four weeks). The majority of dogs will recover within four to six weeks of DPO/TPO surgery.

Total Hip Replacement (THR)

Because it is the most effective, total hip replacement is usually the first option for surgical treatment of hip dysplasia in dogs. THR involves the use of plastic and metal implants to replace the entire hip joint, restoring hip function and alleviating most hip dysplasia-related discomfort.

THP surgery, on the other hand, is the most drastic and expensive option. This surgery is usually recommended if the dog is in a lot of pain or is nearly immobile. THR requires that the artificial components used be custom-made for your dog, and the surgery is performed by certified veterinary surgeons. The cost of THR for hip dysplasia in dogs can range from $3,500 to $7,000, depending on your dog's condition, size, age, overall health, and other factors. If your dog is affected on both sides (which is common), surgery can cost up to $14,000, which includes pre-operative blood work, surgery, anesthesia, and all medications.

Total hip replacement surgery usually takes two to three hours, and your dog may need to stay in the hospital for one to three days afterward. Expect a 12-week recovery period to ensure proper healing. Even if your dog has hip dysplasia in both hips, surgery may be performed on only one hip at a time, with a three-to-six-month gap between procedures.

Our veterinarians understand that learning your dog has hip dysplasia can be heartbreaking, as the condition is painful and can significantly reduce mobility. This diagnosis may also raise financial concerns, as surgical options may have an impact on your budget. Having said that, your veterinarian may be able to recommend a treatment option or combination of treatments that can help your dog recover and regain some hip function.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you suspect your dog is suffering from hip dysplasia? Contact Pico Rivera Animal Hospital to book an appointment today.