Hip Dysplasia 

The Coxofemoral joint is also known as the Hip, it is formed by the ball at the top of the femur and the socket within the pelvis. The condition Hip Dysplasia describes the process that occurs in growing dogs where the ball and socket are shaped abnormally. Depending on the severity it may result in young dogs showing signs of pain and improper use of their affected hind leg or legs. In mild cases you may never see symptoms or the symptoms may only be seen in older animals. 


Rehabilitation Goals

Muscles are the active support system of the joint. The pain and dysfunction caused by hip dysplasia causes these muscles to atrophy and results in more instability and damage to the joint. 

As soon as your dog is diagnosed with hip dysplasia we begin to work on these muscles to strengthen them and ensure they work in tandem appropriately with the other muscles in the region. This is easiest to maintain if we begin before your dog even shows any symptoms of this disease process. Therapeutic targeted exercise 

If your dog has shown signs of lameness we aim to control the pain causing this lameness. We can use a combination of medications to improve their efficacy while minimising the side effect. Manual therapies also help control pain and keep your dog comfortable. We may also choose to use a TENS machine to complement or avoid medications altogether. 

Compensation may be useful for your dog to remain functional right now and having fun, but they may not take options that will help them keep mobile long term. By using therapeutic exercise we can show your dog better options that will allow them to move freely for many years to come. 

Treatment options

Hip dysplasia in not a condition with a standard approach. It must be tailored to the individual dog. Most importantly there are times where you need to ignore what the X-rays say and treat the dog standing in front of you and their level of dysfunction. (Yup, we are super passionate about this one so there is a blog on it!) 

There are times where the X-rays show a dog that can't walk, and that same dog leaps into the clinic with great muscle tone and awesome range of motion. In those cases rehab is the most appropriate treatment. 

All dogs should begin a rehabilitation program regardless of how recently or long ago your dog was diagnosed with hip dysplasia, or how lame or awesome they look. Many cases who are assessed as candidates for total hip replacement can avoid surgery with appropriate rehabilitation. 

If we don't get the results we are after with rehabilitation then we can discuss surgery with you to help guide you toward the best decision for your pet. Total hip replacement is now available across Australia and is the gold standard treatment as your dog still has a junctional hip joint without any arthritis or abnormal movement. Other cases may also be appropriate for a femoral head osteotomy where the ball is cut off the femur. It is then the muscles that attach the back leg to the spine, similar to the front limb attaching to the thorax by muscles. Early rehab is vital to a great outcome with this surgery to prevent excessive scar tissue forming and limiting your dogs use of the leg. 

Why dogs develop hip dysplasia, can we prevent it?

Hip dysplasia is a very complex disease process.

We know there is an element of heritability and getting a puppy from parents who have been hip scored is a good place to start. You can unfortunately still have a puppy develop this condition even with multiple generations of perfect hips. 

Controlling the environment is something that is hypothesised to help reduce the incidence of hip dysplasia in at-risk individuals. It is the forces transmitted across the hip joint in growing puppies that assists the formation of the joint and we can control these forces through safe weight bearing activities. 

Ensuring your future breeder raises puppies on surfaces with good traction rather than slippery surfaces like newspaper. Ideally they will also be exposed to a variety of different challenges such as slopes, unstable surfaces, obstacles to encourage muscle development and correct muscle patterns. 

When pup comes home we can begin the way we plan to continue. Only rewarding straight sits, showing them how to drop safely and give them opportunities to explore a variety of environments will continue this muscle development.

It is vital for you to control your pups weight right through to old age. Being able to see your dogs last ribs is GOOD! They should have excellent muscle and limit the additional fat they carry. Look at his blog to work out if your dog needs to loose weight to protect its hips. 

Through risk reduction and thoughtful care we can minimise your dogs risk of developing this disease and slow its progression if we do encounter a problem. 

If your pet is suffering from hip dysplasia, or you suspect they might be, we would love to help you improve their life, We are always happy to have a no-obligation chat about your dog, and whether we can help.