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Hip Dysplasia and Treatment Options

Hip dysplasia is abnormal growth of the hip that occurs during a puppy’s growing phase. Hip dysplasia is a hereditary condition which is more prominent in large breed dogs, especially German Shepherds, Saint Bernards, Labradors Retrievers and Golden Retrievers.

The hip is a ball and socket joint composed of the femur, which is the ball, and a portion of the pelvis called the acetabulum, which is the socket. The head of the femur and the acetabulum are coated with a smooth cartilage which allows the hip joint to move without friction. With hip dysplasia, the socket is flattened and the ball does not fit well, allowing for joint laxity. The body tries to fix this joint laxity and this is what leads to arthritis.

Puppies with severe hip dysplasia can develop symptoms as early as 6-18 months of age. However, most dogs do not exhibit signs until they are much older and severe arthritis and bone remodeling has occurred. Most of these dogs do not cry out in pain. Symptoms are typically decreased activity level, difficulty getting up and down and difficulty jumping up.

Hip dysplasia is a hereditary condition and breeding is not recommended in any dog that has had a history of hip dysplasia in their pedigree. Nutrition can also play a large role in the development of hip dysplasia. A large breed puppy that grows too fast is prone to developing hip dysplasia. I recommend feeding a large breed diet, as it contains less calories and decreased amounts of calcium and phosphorous for bone development.

There are several different options for treating hip dysplasia. Many animals with hip dysplasia can be medically managed using pain medication and glucosamine supplements. Unfortunately, dogs will need these medications for the rest of their lives. If detected early enough, there is a surgical procedure that can be performed in young animals called Triple pelvic osteotomy or TPO. This procedure can prevent the dog from developing hip dysplasia and secondary arthritis, but early detection is very important. For older dogs that have already developed arthritis, hip replacement is the surgical treatment of choice. Another procedure that can be performed is called femoral head and neck osteotomy or FHO.

Please e-mail me with your questions at and put “Ask Dr. Anna” in the subject line or mail your questions to 123 West Harrison Guthrie, OK 73044.
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