Hip dysplasia in dogs is a horribly painful disease. It is a disease that doesn’t just affect large-breed dogs, though traditionally it is assumed that these are the only dogs that get it. There are some solutions to ease your dog’s pain and work with the disease however. The avoidance of obesity, a regular, low impact exercise routine and glucosamine all seem to be parts of the solution. With the proper insight and attention, a dog’s suffering can be assuaged.
The simplest way of looking at hip dysplasia is that the bones of the hips don’t fit together correctly. The thigh bone (the ball) is supposed snugly fit into the hip bone(the socket). Part of that snug fit is for movement, and another part of that fit is for weight support. Obviously, there is more than just bone there, there is a layer of cartilage involved. When any of these factors are compromised, it is called hip dysplasia.
The technical terms of this are that the femur is supposed to fit into the acetabulum. The femur being the thigh bone and the acetabulum being the hip socket. Think of your own leg and how easily it rotates within of your hip. Now imagine an air pocket in there, or a layer of sandpaper covering the femur. Or imagine that it is just loose, and that you can reach down with your hand and wiggle your leg inside of the socket. You are well on your way to comprehending a dog’s hip dysplasia.
If the bones don’t fit properly, there will ultimately be some friction and that can lead to all sorts of arthritic pain issues. The degrees of pain can be mild to none, or extreme. If the ball is knocking around in the socket, this is called subluxation (partial dislocation). If the ball drops completely out of the socket, this is called luxation (complete dislocation). More interesting still is the fact that both legs will be affected, this isn’t a “single-side” issue. The limp that a dog will demonstrate is merely on the most compromised side.
Think again about the sandpaper between the ball and socket. There is supposed to be a smooth surface called the articular hyaline cartilage (or gristle) surface. It is basically a layer of springy cartilage. Obviously, this would be the oil or grease for the machine, but in the case of hip dysplasia, this layer of meaty lubrication is no longer present. What results is bone grinding against bone for each motion in the hip. The ugliest part of this entire cycle is that the dog’s body tries to compensate for this by creating more bone within the hip socket and on the ball of the femur. This in turn can cause lots of painful, freakish misshaping as new bone is worn away.
With the extra “wiggle room” between the bone sockets, joint issues such as arthritis come into play. Interestingly enough, it isn’t just the large breeds like Great Danes, Rottweilers and Mastiffs that succumb to this genetic defect. Smaller dogs like Bulldogs and Pugs suffer from this as well. The breeds of dogs that seem to escape the plague of hip dysplasia are the sighthounds. Greyhounds for example, have low incidents of this disease. It is a tricky disease because it does skip generations. However, if there is dysplasia in the immediate ancestry of the dog, the chances of your pet having it are definitely heightened and that even goes for mutts as well.
Overweight dogs are more prone to hip dysplasia as are dogs with too much or too little calcium in their diets. Other theories suggest that over-exercising a dog at an early age can trigger hip dysplasia as well. Exercise is good, however. A dog that is suffering from hip dysplasia has underdeveloped upper thigh muscles. Muscle mass in that area is said to possibly lessen the chances of the disease.
One way to tell if a puppy will develop into a dog with full-blown or even minor hip dysplasia is to examine how it moves about. If the puppy is slow to do things like pop up on all fours, take stairs or jump, these could be signs of possible joint issues. Another way to determine possible hip dysplasia is if the back legs are cow-hocked. Cow-hocked is a term that refers to a look that similar to being knock-kneed (genu valgum) in humans. Quite simply, the legs bow in at the knees and then back out. A cow-hocked puppy is a strong sign of hip dysplasia.
If you have the finances there are several surgeries that can be done at varying stages of the dog’s life. The most obvious and most expensive being a total hip replacement once the dog reaches adult size. Hip dysplasia in canines is a difficult subject to tackle because it is a hereditary disease. It has been programmed into the dog’s DNA. Relief is what an owner needs to consider. Part of this relief would be exercise that doesn’t involve impact like jumping. Also, the exercise routine should be a regular one and not something that is sporadic. Another aspect would be managing the dog’s diet so that obesity isn’t an issue.
One of the simplest measures a dog owner can employ to help a dog with hip joint issues is to begin dosing the dog with glucosamine. Glucosamine is a proven, preventative additive that is found in some dog foods and can be purchased separately. It is absorbed into the system and goes straight to the joints. It is already in the dog’s system, concentrated in the cartilage. The best thing about glucosamine is that it is anti-inflammatory and actually helps regenerate cartilage. Of course, it isn’t an absolute solution, but a dog can feel the benefits of glucosamine supplements as short as ten days after it has started taking it. Also, there are few adverse reactions to glucosamine. Heavy doses of it can cause an upset stomach which might lead to diarrhea or even vomiting. Glucosamine is mostly known for being easily ingested (some dogs find a dose to be a treat) and helpful to a dog’s system.
Hip dysplasia in dogs is a disease that brings extreme discomfort. It is a disease that affects most dogs, and it is inherited through the family tree. There are some treatments for it, and there are some ways to ease the pain it causes. Proper weight, low-impact exercise and glucosamine all seem to be parts of the solution. Obviously, it would be better if dogs didn’t have to contend with such a hereditary disease, but with proper attention and care, a lot of the suffering can be alleviated.