Hip dysplasia is a largely genetic condition caused by hip joint instability that occurs when a dog’s muscle development doesn’t keep pace with bone growth. It can also develop as a result of a dog becoming obese and putting additional strain on the weight-bearing hind legs. Hip dysplasia is most commonly seen in large breed dogs, though smaller dogs can also be susceptible. Dogs born with hip dysplasia usually start to exhibit symptoms between four and 12 months of age when they experience a period of rapid growth. The condition has several noticeable signs to alert you to seek medical intervention.
Dogs with hip dysplasia may show pain in the hips, with young dogs walking slowly or painfully the way an older or arthritic dog might walk. He may wince or cry when climbing stairs or when jumping up or down to surfaces and exerting pressure on the hind legs. If you press on the rear of a pup with hip dysplasia, it may cause the pelvis to lower, and if your dog is on his back, he may not be able to extend his hind legs without experiencing pain.
A dog with hip dysplasia will avoid putting pressure on his hips and hind legs. He may sway or hop when he walks or runs as a way to take pressure off painful hip joints. You might notice a stiffness in his movements, and he may hold his back legs close together. He may also have a difficult time rising from a down position, and it may appear his hind legs slip out from under him when he tries to stand. Your dog may hesitate to participate in physical activity that increases discomfort.
Physical Appearance and Behavior
Your dog may develop a stronger looking upper body as he uses his front legs to compensate for his painful back legs. Concurrently, he may experience a loss of muscle mass in his hind legs. His back legs may appear lame, stiff or unusually lax, especially after exercise. Like any dog in pain, your dog may be prone to snappish behavior if his hind quarters are touched, pressed on or moved in an uncomfortable way.
Diagnosis and Treatment Options
Canine hip dysplasia is diagnosed through X-rays. Your dog may need to be sedated to ensure proper and accurate film is taken without causing him undue pain. Your vet can gauge the severity of the condition when making treatment recommendations, which may include anti-inflammatory medications and joint supplements. Don’t let your dog with hip dysplasia run on pavement, climb stairs or jump up or stand on his hind legs. Avoid long walks, especially on hard surfaces. Keep your dog at a healthy weight to help reduce pressure on his hip joints
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.