What is Hip Dysplasia?
Hip dysplasia is a term used to describe the abnormal development of the hip joint and can be seen in puppies as young as 2-3 months of age. Dogs with hip dysplasia are at risk of developing a severe, debilitating arthritis in their hips later in life. Signs of hip dysplasia may include difficulty rising after rest, exercise intolerance and intermittent or continual lameness. Sometimes, however, there are no clinical signs at all. An x-ray is needed to diagnosis hip dysplasia.
What can I do to prevent Hip Dysplasia?
Hip dysplasia is a heritable disease, so the best way to minimize your puppy's risk of developing this condition is to only purchase dogs from breeders who have had their dog's hips OFA certified. OFA, or The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, is a national organization that evaluates and grades the conformation of dogs' hips. Excellent, Good and Fair rating are considered to be three degrees of normal, and it is only these dogs that should be bred. If you have your dog's hips evaluated, and they are rated as Borderline, Mild, Moderate or Severe dysplasia- you should not breed this dog, or purchase a puppy from a parent whose hips have this rating.
There is no way to prevent hip dysplasia if your dog is carrying the genetic information for poor hip conformation. Unfortunately, there is some false information saying that hip dysplasia can be prevented by not allowing your puppy to run, jump up and down, or walk on slick floors. This is not only untrue, but restricting exercise in your pet can cause more behavioral problems, make them more difficult to train, and can contribute to obesity. Improper nutrition, and allowing your puppy to grow to fast can also exasperate hip dysplasia- it is important to visit your veterinarian regularly and monitor his or her growth.
I'm planning on breeding my dog, when can I get her hips certified?
You can have a preliminary x-ray taken at any time to see if there are early signs of hip dysplasia, but your dog's hips can only be certified if he or she is 24 months of age or older to day. Some female dogs will show subluxation of the hips when radiographed during her heat cycle. We recommend that x-rays be taken of female dogs 3-4 weeks before or after a heat period.
What happens when I get my dog's hips certified?
We take an x-ray of your dog's hips and send the x-rays in to the OFA where a team of radiologists evaluates your dog's hips. We normally give your dog a mild sedative before taking the x-ray to ensure that we can position your dog properly. It is becoming increasingly important to have your pet permanently identified before taking the x-rays either with a tattoo or microchip. We can microchip your pet the day of the x-rays. It generally takes 4-6 weeks to get the results back- don't breed your dog until you know the status of your dog's hips. Bring your registration papers the day you bring your pet in for certification, we need your dog's dam and sire registration numbers to fill out the OFA paperwork. There are two fees involved- one check is written to the veterinary clinic for the radiographs, another is written directly to the OFA and is mailed with the x-rays.
What happens if my dog is diagnosed with hip dysplasia?
First, don't breed your dog- get him or her neutered or spayed. If your dog has been diagnosed with hip dysplasia at an early age (usually between 4 and 12 months), there is a surgery that can be done to slow or arrest the development of arthritis. This surgery is called a Triple Pelvic Osteotomy or TPO surgery. A dysplastic hip is one in which the socket does not fit over the ball properly. In a TPO surgery, the pelvis is cut around the joint, and refitted so that the socket fits more snuggly over the ball. This procedure can only be done before arthritis has begun to develop in the joint.
If your dog is not a candidate for the TPO surgery, or it is not a feasible option for you, a joint protectant can be given to help keep the joint as healthy as possible, and hopefully slow down the development of arthritis. Glucosamine and Chondrotin sulfate, is a combination of agents that act to decrease the breakdown of joint cartilage, provide building blocks for cartilage synthesis and have some anti-inflammatory effects. Since Glucosamine and chondrotin are considered nutritional supplements, they do not have the same regulations imposed on them that the pharmaceutical industry has. One study published by the University of Maryland Pharmacy School (Journal of the American Nutraceutical Association, Spring 2000) reported that 84% of the glucosamine and/or chondrotin sulfate products tested did not meet label claim. (Some had zero of those ingredients in the bottle). Therefore, it is important to consult your veterinarian about choosing a brand that has had its ingredients tested by an independent laboratory.
Anti-inflammatory drugs can be given later as arthritis begins to set into the joint, and your dog becomes painful.