Hip Dysplasia is the “mother of all orthopedic diseases”. In total over 70% of all dogs are affected. Hip Dysplasia occurs when a dog’s hip joints don’t develop correctly allowing the Femoral head to partially dislocate. Over time the joint wears down, causing damage to the joint itself. Signs of Hip Dysplasia and arthritis can begin to show at any any age. Dogs of all ages may suffer from Hip Dysplasia or experience long-lasting effects.
Signs & Symptoms Your Dog Has Hip Dysplasia
There are several Hip Dysplasia symptoms and over time they can reduce of your pet’s quality of life and mobility.
- Loss of Thigh Muscle Mass
- Narrowing Stance in Hind Legs
- “Bunny Hopping” Gait
- Decreased Activity
- Decreased Range of Motion
- Trouble Rising or Climbing Stairs
- Difficulty with Jumping or Running
The good news is that there are treatment options and devices available to help! Many of which are very manageable. A few of those options include weight reduction, Physical Rehabilitation or therapy, medication, wearing a hip support brace, and hip surgery.
The most common surgeries performed to correct severe Hip Dysplasia are: Femoral Head Osteotomy (FHO), Total Hip Replacement (THR) or Double/Triple Pelvic Osteotomy.
Diagnosing Hip Dysplasia
To diagnose your dog’s hip dysplasia, your vet will physically exam your dog, as well as order radiographs and perform manual tests on your dog’s hips.
Every dog is different, and the age they are diagnosed can very greatly. Pets can be diagnosed with hip dysplasia as young as 5 months old and may not show any signs of hip pain until their geriatric years.
Hip Dysplasia Severity
Your Vet or Rehab professional will help to determine your dog’s treatment plan and will vary depending on the severity of your dog’s hip dysplasia. Veterinarians rank hip health and the extent of the dysplasia based on the following rankings:
A normal, fully functioning hip is considered ‘Excellent’. In a healthy hip, the femoral head fits tightly into a well-formed hip socket with minimal space between the head of the femur and the acetabulum. A dog with ‘Excellent’ hips have full range of motion and no hip pain.
Mild Hip Dysplasia
The distance between the ball and socket of the hip increases as the ligaments that hold them together develop tears and begin to stretch, reducing the stability of the joint. In many cases, a dog with mild hip dysplasia will require monitoring and may need pain medication later in life.
The rounded femur head barely rests inside the socket and arthritic changes become evident. Such as partial or occasional lameness, or pain when running or moving. Dog’s at this stage may require anti-inflammatories, pain medication, and possible surgery.
The head of the femur is completely dislocated from the joint. The dog may be unable to walk, or only with great difficulty. Pets with severe hip dysplasia may require surgery.
Physical Rehab for Hip Dysplasia
Rehab therapy is a great alternative and more conservative approach to treating your pet’s Hip Dysplasia. Most importantly, you can improve your pet’s overall movement and comfort by combining different techniques and modalities. The Therapist will create a customized treatment plan for your pet based off of their needs and condition.
Rehab Treatment benefits include:
- Decreased Pain
- Improved Range of Motion and Flexibility
- Weight Loss and Increased Muscle Tone
- Increased Strength and Movement
- Overall Improved Health, both mental and physical
Rehab Therapy Methods
Hydrotherapy: used as a tool to exercise and increase muscle mass without having the dog bearing weight on the affected limb or limbs. Reducing stress on the body and encouraging ease of movement.
Laser therapy: a therapeutic treatment used to decrease and manage hip pain while accelerating the healing process.
Manual therapy: a combination of stretching and massage techniques to improve range of motion and reduce joint inflammation.
Acupuncture: an effective treatment option to decrease the pain associated with arthritis and joint diseases.
There are so many exercise possibilities! Balance discs, physio balls, weaving, and underwater treadmills are just a few. Your Rehabilitation professional will guide you through the process of this effective conservative approach and develop the right plan for you and your pet.
Canine Hip Support
There’s good news for pets with mild to moderate hip dysplasia! Incredible results can come from combining the use of a hip support device with therapy. And hip support can be an important part of your pet’s treatment plan.
The Walkin’ Hip-EEZ hip brace system provides hip support by providing compression around the hip joint. By stabilizing and supporting the hip joint, a brace will alleviate pain and allow your dog to get back to their daily life. Most importantly, with its multiple attachments your Therapist can customize the Hip-EEZ to fit your pet’s needs and injuries.
Because this hip brace was developed to be used with Rehabilitation exercises and during walks, it’s perfect for dog’s suffering from hip sub-luxation. Pets with mild to moderate Hip Subluxation can use the Hip Bridge attachment to keep the hip joint in place. Correct placement of the hip bridge is vital. Work with your Vet or Rehab Specialist to place the Hip Bridge correctly for your pet. Additionally, the Hip-EEZ helps support the joint while the pet rebuilds muscle and can be used during as a part of your dog’s rehab program.
The Walkin’ Hip-EEZ can be used to ease the suffering caused by Hip Dysplasia or even as a preventative measure for dogs still in the early stages of hip pain.
Since Hip Dysplasia effects such a high percentage of dogs, it’s important to know there are options beyond surgery. And with time and a commitment to therapy, and with your help, your dog will be able to manage their hip and joint pain.
Renee Mills, VT, CCRP
Renee Mills is a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner and Veterinary product specialist.