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Hip Dysplasia is the most common developmental orthopedic condition in dogs.

It is defined as the abnormal development of the hip joint, resulting in laxity of the hip joint. Loosening of the soft tissue surrounding the joint in early age results in joint incongruency. In cases of hip dysplasia, the femoral head (head of the thigh bone) can become flattened, whilst the hip socket may become flattened and shallow.

Overtime, abnormal movement secondary to the abnormal development of the joint can cause a progressive loss of cartilage, joint capsule stretching, scar tissue formation and bony spurs to form around the joint. Hip dysplasia also results in degenerative and inflammatory changes that are characteristic of osteoarthritis. As the condition progresses, degenerative and inflammatory changes occur leading to osteoarthritis. Whilst all dogs with hip dysplasia develop secondary osteoarthritis of the affected joint, the rate of progression is varied and therefore difficult to predict. Some dogs may have degenerative changes before 1 years of age, whilst many do not develop osteoarthritis until much later in life. The development of osteoarthritis can further affect the joint function, and dramatically impacts the prognosis of the condition.

Affected dogs are born with normal hips, but by 2 weeks changes occur that predispose them to excessive joint laxity and alterations in the shape of the femoral and pelvic components of the joint. As the dogs are not fully grown when the condition first occurs, there are cases where dogs can ‘grow out’ of the condition as they mature. This may occur due to changes in the joint capsule, or remodeling of the hip socket itself, which increases stability of the joint.

Hip dysplasia is extremely breed dependent and occurs primarily in medium and large breed dogs. Breeds that are more commonly affected include the Newfoundland, Great Dane, Rottweilers, German Shepherds and Retrievers. It is a polygenetic (has more than one source) genetic condition, which can be influenced by reproductive status, age, body condition and conformation, diet, rapid growth rate and other environmental factors.

Clinical signs of dogs with Hip Dysplasia include stiffness of the hindlimbs, exercise intolerance and lameness. You may also find that your dog has difficulty rising from a sit or lay or climbing the stairs. Dogs with Hip Dysplasia often have a prominent hip sway or bunny hopping gait and muscle wastage over the gluteal, quadriceps and hamstring muscle groups and can be protective of the hip area.

There are 2 main treatment options for dogs with hip dysplasia.

The first of these is conservative management. For optimum results, a multimodal approach to management is required, including activity restriction/ modification, pain management, and weight loss. Hydrotherapy is a key component of conservative management of dogs with hip dysplasia. Our aim in these cases is to build up the hindlimb musculature, allowing support to the hip joints, as well as managing any secondary osteoarthritis. Additionally, as dogs with hip dysplasia often display several gait abnormalities, gait training in our underwater treadmill is beneficial to remove any compensatory behavior, therefore preventing secondary issues from developing.

The second is surgical intervention. There are numerous options in terms of surgical intervention, and these will be specifically chosen by your vets. In all cases of surgical intervention, hydrotherapy can help in recovery to rebuild any lost muscle mass and strength and in gait retraining. In cases of muscle weakness, hydrotherapy can be really beneficial to provide gentle non or partial weightbearing exercise that will allow your dog to get back on their feet and back to themselves more quickly!

Contact us to discuss your treatment