What is Canine Hip Dysplasia?
Canine Hip Dysplasia typically develops because of an abnormally developed hip joint, but can also be caused by cartilage damage from a traumatic fracture. With cartilage damage or a hip joint that isn’t formed properly, over time the existing cartilage will lose its thickness and elasticity. This breakdown of the cartilage will eventually result in pain with any joint movement.
No one can predict when or even if a dysplastic dog will start showing clinical signs of lameness due to pain. The severity of the disease can be affected by environmental factors, such as caloric intake or level of exercise. There are a number of dysplastic dogs with severe arthritis that run, jump, and play as if nothing is wrong and some dogs with barely any arthritic x-
Check canine hip dysplasia statistics by breed.
Screenings for Hip Dysplasia are performed by a veterinarian with x-
Hip Screening: Grade Classifications
The OFA classifies hips into seven different categories: Excellent, Good, Fair (all within Normal limits), Borderline, and then Mild, Moderate, or Severe (the last three considered Dysplastic).
Excellent: Superior conformation; there is a deep-
Good: Slightly less than superior but a well-
Fair: Minor irregularities; the hip joint is wider than a good hip. The ball slips slightly out of the socket. The socket may also appear slightly shallow.
Borderline: Not clear. Usually more incongruency present than what occurs in a fair but there are no arthritic changes present that definitively diagnose the hip joint being dysplastic.
Mild: Significant subluxation present where the ball is partially out of the socket causing an increased joint space. The socket is usually shallow only partially covering the ball.
Moderate: The ball is barely seated into a shallow socket. There are secondary arthritic bone changes usually along the femoral neck and head (remodeling), acetabular rim changes (osteophytes or bone spurs) and various degrees of trabecular bone pattern changes
Severe: Marked evidence that hip dysplasia exists. The ball is partly or completely out of a shallow socket. Significant arthritic bone changes along the femoral neck and head and acetabular rim changes.
The hip grades of excellent, good and fair are within normal limits and are given OFA numbers. This information is accepted by AKC on dogs with permanent identification and is in the public domain. Radiographs of borderline, mild, moderate and severely dysplastic hip grades are reviewed by a team of consultant radiologists and a radiographic report is generated documenting the abnormal radiographic findings. Unless the owner has chosen the open database, dysplastic hip grades are closed to public information. Learn more about how the OFA handles hip screenings.
For more detail on these classifications, see What Do Hip Grades Mean.
See an approximation of international hip registries.
Hip Dysplasia Screening Procedures
Radiographs submitted to the OFA should follow the American Veterinary Medical Association recommendations for positioning. This view is accepted worldwide for the detection and assessment of hip joint irregularities and secondary arthritic hip joint changes. To obtain this view, the animal must be placed on its back in dorsal recumbency with the rear limbs extended and parallel to each other. The knees (stifles) are rotated internally and the pelvis is symmetric. Chemical restraint (anesthesia) to the point of relaxation is recommended.
Find more details on veterinary screening procedures, or learn about how the OFA handles those screenings.
For dogs under two (2) years of age, preliminary screenings are available.
Hip Dysplasia Treatment Options
Once osteoarthritis is present on a radiograph, dysplastic changes are irreversible and usually continue to progress over time. If a dysplastic dog has secondary arthritis and pain, most owners elect to first treat their dog with medical management. The key is weight control and exercise. Studies have shown that up to 76% of severely dysplastic dogs with arthritis secondary to Hip Dysplasia are able to function and live comfortable, quality lives with conservative management. With weight control, the goal is to prevent the dog from becoming overweight to reduce mechanical stresses applied to the hip joints. In general terms, the ribs should be easily palpated and there should be an indentation in front of the pelvic wings (waistline).
Controlled exercise is indicated to prevent or relieve the inflammatory process that leads to the pain associated with arthritis. The amount and difficulty of the activity are determined on a trial and error basis. Exercise should start with short leash walks and be gradually increased until the dog reaches the desired level of activity. If clinical signs start to reappear, the amount of exercise is scaled back to a level that will not cause clinical signs. Overall, exercise should fit an individual dog’s maximum intensity level with the goal to maintain muscle tone and cardiovascular function without causing pain, stiffness, and inflammation to the joint. The right amount of exercise helps to maintain muscle tone and strength and stabilizes the unstable dysplastic joint. Exercise also improves joint range of motion which in turn keeps the dog more comfortable. Swimming, because it is a non-
Keep the dog in a warm environment. Warmth tends to help control the pain of arthritis from Hip Dysplasia. As in people, the arthritic pain in dogs tends to be worse in the damp and cold of winter. Providing a well-
There are drug treatments and surgical interventions that can help, but prior to initiating any therapy, the attending veterinarian should be consulted with a complete medical history and physical examination. To locate a surgeon in your area, the following website is available: www.acvs.org. Only those veterinarians who have earned Diplomate status in the American College of Veterinary Surgery are listed.
Hip Dysplasia Drug Treatments
Numerous drugs are available to control the signs of osteoarthritis secondary to canine Hip Dysplasia. Nonsteroidal anti-
The use of these drugs should be tailored for the individual dogs and any improvement noted. If side-
Hip Dysplasia Surgical Options
In younger dogs — usually less than 10 months old — with the only subluxation caused by canine hip dysplasia, a triple pelvic osteotomy (TPO) can be performed to reestablish joint stability and encourage normal joint development and minimize abnormal biomechanical forces on the joint before osteoarthritis occurs. This procedure is not indicated if osteoarthritis is already present. Recovery time is about six weeks and a good success rate has been reported with the return of normal hip function. For older dogs (over 10 months) that already have established osteoarthritis and can no longer be medically managed, a total hip replacement is the treatment of choice for reestablishing normal, pain-
An alternative surgery is a femoral head and neck excision; this is more of a salvage procedure when there is significant osteoarthritis and a total hip replacement is cost-
Heavier dogs usually require more extensive postoperative rehabilitation to help promote an ambulatory pain-