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In order to fully understand hip dysplasia in dogs, pet parents must understand the basic anatomy of the affected area. The hip joint is a “ball and socket” joint. In a normal “ball and socket” joint, the ball rotates freely in the socket. The bones match one another perfectly and there is no friction. In a dog with hip dysplasia, the “ball and socket” do not fit correctly together. There is a separation of the ball and socket. This disease can potentially become bilateral meaning both sides of your dog are affected.

Breeds at High Risk for Developing the Condition

Hip dysplasia may occur in any breed but is most prominently found in large-breed dogs including:

  • Great Dane
  • Saint Bernard
  • German Shepherd
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Rottweiler
  • Golden Retriever

Age also plays a role in the development of hip dysplasia. As a dog ages, he is more likely to develop hip dysplasia.

Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia

Dogs of any age can develop hip dysplasia even though it is most commonly found in senior-stage dogs. In some cases, there are dogs who develop hip dysplasia as early as five months of age. Symptoms of hip dysplasia include decreased activity levels, difficulty getting up, reluctance to climb the stairs, apparent pain, loss of muscle in the thigh and/or lameness of the hind limbs.

Causes of the Condition

Hip dysplasia is most commonly known as a genetic disease. If a dog’s parents have hip dysplasia, their young are at a high risk for developing the condition. If there are not any carriers of hip dysplasia, there are a significantly lower risk of developing hip dysplasia. Selective breeding is crucial in the prevention of hip dysplasia.

Nutrition also plays a role in the development of hip dysplasia. If a dog has both affected genetics as well as poor nutrition, the likelihood of developing hip dysplasia is extremely high. Dogs carrying extra weight, obese dogs, place more stress on the joints. Correct nutrition can heavily reduce the risk of developing the condition.

Exercise is another factor which plays a role. If a dog is over or under-exercised at a young age, they will have an increased risk. Moderate exercise will strengthen the muscles. Swimming is an excellent, low pressure method of exercise to reduce the risk of developing hip dysplasia.

Treating Hip Dysplasia

To treat hip dysplasia, your dog may need surgery. Your veterinarian will make this decision based upon case severity, your dog’s size, age and activity level.

  • Triple Pelvic Osteotomy: This procedure is performed in dogs under 10 months of age who show signs of hip dysplasia. This procedure involves breaking and realigning the pelvic bones. This is an extensive as well as expensive surgical operation; however, it has been proven to be highly successful.
  • Juvenile Pubic Symphysiodesis: This surgery is less invasive than the Triple Pelvic Osteotomy and is performed on dogs younger than 20 weeks of age. This surgery fuses the two pelvic bones together to allow the other pelvic bones to develop correctly.
  • Femoral Head and Neck Excision: This procedure involves the removal of the head of the femur and replacing the hip. This is only used in cases where a hip replacement is not feasible. This is often utilized in patients weighing less than 40 pounds.
  • Total Hip Replacement: This is often the best option for dogs who have hip dysplasia as it results in a functional joint and alleviates joint pain. There is no limit in regard to size for this procedure. This procedure is expensive; however, it has been proven to be highly successful.

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances. 

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.