As your dog grows, the bones that connect her thighs and pelvis may grow at different rates. This creates a mismatched ball-and-socket joint that can lead to pain and a condition called hip dysplasia. The condition usually is hereditary but can result from diet and excess weight. Though painful, hip dysplasia is treatable. Medicines coupled with improvements in diet can greatly enhance an affected dog's quality of life.
Hip dysplasia begins development during the growth years. It can begin in puppies as young as three or four months, but typically sets in at about a year or two. The severity of the condition depends on how differently the femur and pelvic socket grow. Mild cases may not show up until well into adulthood, with mild to moderate arthritis. In more serious cases, a dog will likely have difficulty sitting or getting up, and may walk with a limp or favor one hind leg.
The qualify of life for a dog with dysplasia greatly depends on the severity of his condition and how you treat or manage it. Left untreated, hip dysplasia is painful and is sure to worsen as he ages. Anti-inflammatory drugs are one line of treatment. Though no drug can reshape the bones to make them fit properly together, prescribed anti-inflammatories can reduce the swelling of muscles and ligaments surrounding the joints, allowing your dog to move and live more comfortably.
A better diet and some supplements can vastly improve your dog's quality of life. The main goal is to keep her thin and as light as possible and still be healthy. Less weight to carry puts less stress on displaced hips, leading to less discomfort. In addition to a properly monitored diet -- ideally composed of fresh, natural foods -- glucosamine and antioxidant supplements lessen the deterioration of ligaments that protect thigh and pelvic bones from rubbing together. Do not alter your dog's diet or administer supplements without your veterinarian's approval.
Larger breeds are more prone to hip dysplasia because they tend to grow rapidly. When exercising an at-risk puppy, be sure to monitor and control his play and exercise. Discourage high-impact play, such as wrestling or games of Frisbee. Also critical to monitor is his calcium level. Too much calcium may encourage uneven bone growth and lead to dysplasia. Puppies of at-risk breeds who eat commercial diets should never be given calcium supplements. Consult your veterinarian for specific plans and diets to help treat dysplasia.
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