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What is Hip Dysplasia?
Hip dysplasia is a skeletal defect in dogs. In hip dysplasia, the ball portion (femoral head) of the hip is not securely seated in the socket portion (acetabulum). This condition is especially common in working and sporting breeds of dogs. Certain breeds are definitely predisposed.
Hip dysplasia is an inherited problem which is not usually present at birth. It develops within the first 6-8 months of life. The exact cause is unknown, but it is generally accepted that the condition is from the combined action of an unknown number of genes. Nutrition and environment are also believed to be contributing factors. Example: Excess calcium in the diet of a puppy food for large breed dogs, along with obesity, high protein and calorie diets, and a lack of or too much exercise.
Concerned dog breeders and veterinarians have tried to reduce the incidence of hip dysplasia through selective breeding. X-rays has been performed on potential breeding pairs in an effort to determine the status of the hip joints. Some progress has been made toward reducing the severity and incidence of canine hip dysplasia, but progress has been slow.
Hip dysplasia is defined as a biomechanical disease. That is, the muscles do not develop and reach maturity at the same rate as the bones. Since the hip depends on muscle power to be stable, it can pull apart and trigger a series of events resulting in hip dysplasia.
If a pup is so poorly developed that it cannot walk, then the demands of the musculoskeletal support system are greater than the strength of the surrounding musculature. The muscles and ligaments are unable to maintain the needed relationship between the femoral head and the acetabulum. This results in a partial or incomplete dislocation of the femoral head. The acetabulum is unable to develop properly if the femoral head is dislocated, and is shallower than normal when the pup reaches maturity. When the femoral head is dislocated, its cartilage covering is subjected to wear and tear. This eventually leads to a miss-shaped femoral head, and osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease.
The degree of hip dysplasia (mild, moderate, or severe) does not effect the signs exhibited by the affected dog. Signs may range from no symptoms to a pronounced disability. Symptoms can appear any time after 4 weeks of age, but are generally not detected, except in severe cases, until after 6 months of age.
Clinical Signs of Canine Hip Dysplasia (These signs often appear worse on cold damp days)
Early clinical signs are caused by the stretching and tearing of the joint. This pain may disappear as scar tissue forms, and the puppy seems to get better. Unfortunately arthritis continues to get worse and eventually signs of pain appear again. Early treatment will slow or stop the development of arthritis.
The diagnosis of canine hip dysplasia is bases upon the dogs history, symptoms, a complete physical exam, and X-rays. X-rays are necessary to confirm hip dysplasia. They can show the shape and depth of the acetabulum, the shape contour and position of the femoral head, and the degenerative joint disease.
Different Hip Rating Levels
Hip dysplasia can be treated surgically, medically, or a combination of both. There is no cure for hip dysplasia, but with appropriate veterinary care affected dogs can live long, healthy, active lives.
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