Dog Hip Dysplasia: Symptoms, Causes & Surgeries

If your pup is exhibiting signs of hip dysplasia, such as discomfort and pain while exercising, it is critical to get them checked out by a vet as soon as possible. Here, our Apple Valley vets will walk you through the causes, symptoms and surgical treatment options for this condition in your dog.

What is hip dysplasia in dogs?

This is a common skeletal condition in large or giant breeds of dog, although smaller breeds are also capable of suffering from the condition as well.

Your dog's hip joint works like a ball in a socket. In dogs experiencing hip dysplasia, this ball and socket don't function or develop properly.

Instead they grind and rub, which can lead to breakdown over time and eventual loss in the function of this important joint.

What causes canine hip dysplasia?

As you might imagine, this condition is painful and if not treated, can drastically reduce quality of life for your dog. It’s also difficult to watch as physical symptoms appear in once-healthy dogs.

His dysplasia is a hereditary condition, meaning that genetics are the primary contributor to its development in a given dog, especially in larger breeds like mastiffs, Rottweilers, retrievers, bulldogs and St. Bernards. Even in smaller breeds like pugs or French bulldogs, however, this condition is quite common. 

This condition can worsen with age and affect both hips (bilateral). It may be exacerbated by osteoarthritis and associated pain in senior dogs.

Which breeds are prone to canine hip dysplasia?

Although this is an inherited condition, some factors can magnify your dog's predisposition to developing this condition, increasing the risk that it will develop. This include improper weight and nutrition, types of exercise and excessive growth rates. Since obesity puts an abnormal strain on your pup's joints, this can aggravate pre-existing conditions or cause hip dysplasia. 

The condition most commonly affects giant and large breed dogs, but hip dysplasia can occur in any breed or size of dog. This is partly why it’s important to consult your vet regarding the right amount of exercise your dog requires each day and what their ideal diet should contain.

What are symptoms of hip dysplasia?

While hip dysplasia can begin the develop in puppies as young as five months old or less, it may not seem like they have this condition until they reach their senior years. As with many other conditions, hip dysplasia shows itself in dogs in different ways and at different times. Each pup is different. In many cases, owners notice it in pooches that are middle-aged or older.

Watch for these symptoms of hip dysplasia in your pup:

  • Decreased range of motion
  • Running with a bunny hop
  • Back legs are stiff when he walks
  • Lameness in hind end
  • Stiffness when running or rising from a resting position
  • Loss of muscle tone in back legs or thighs
  • Grating or grinding of the joint when he moves
  • Signs of discomfort or pain while exercising (or a reluctance to exercise, run, jump or climb stairs)

During your dog's regular physical examinations, your vet will check on their physical health and their condition. The vet may move your dog's hind legs in order to identify6 pain, grinding or a reduced range of motion, which can all signify hip dysplasia. These may also be blood tests conducted. Complete blood counts can help indicate inflammation caused by this joint condition.

You should also be prepared to provide your vet your dog’s health history, a list of his specific symptoms and any injuries that may have caused them. It’s also helpful to know your dog’s lineage. Along with all of these, your veterinarian will also usually take an x-ray or radiographs to pinpoint the severity of hip dysplasia in your dog and chart a course of action for treatment.

What are treatment options for hip dysplasia in dogs?

Treatment options for dogs suffering from hip dysplasia could range from changes to lifestyle or diet, to surgery. These are the three most common types of hip dysplasia surgeries, along with typical costs:

Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO)

Both mature and young dogs are able to benefit from this kind of surgery, which involves removing the femoral head of your pup's hip joint (the ball on the end). The body will then create a "false" joint which will decrease your dog's discomfort. While your dog won't recover their full range of motion, this can be an excellent and strategic method to relieving their pain.

The cost of an FHO surgery typically ranges from $1,200 to $2,500, including pre-surgical bloodwork, procedure, anesthesia, post-surgical care and medications.

After this surgery, your dog may need to remain in hospital form anywhere between several hours to several days depending on their health surgery and other factors. Your dog should avoid any strenuous activity or exercise for at least 30 days after their surgery. After about 6 weeks, most dogs will have fully recovered and can resume their normal level of physical activity.

Double or triple pelvic osteotomy (DPO/TPO)

Most commonly performed in dogs under 10 months old, this surgery involves cutting the pelvic bone in specific locations and rotating its segments, resulting in an improvement of the ball and socket joint. Typical costs for this surgery for most dogs is in the range of $3,000 for both hips.

Your pooch will require several weeks before he’ll be able to stroll comfortably again, and will need regular physiotherapy for full mobility to return (although you may notice joint stability improve within four weeks). Most dogs will recover within four to six weeks.

Total Hip Replacement (THR)

This option is often pet owner's first choice since it is the most effective surgery for hip dysplasia in dogs. It involves plastic and metal implants to replace the whole joint and brings hip function back to a more normal range as well as eliminating most of your pup's discomfort.

A THP surgery is a drastic option and the most expensive, typically taken when the dog in question is in considerable pain and nearly completely immobile. Artificial components must be custom-made for your pooch and the surgery is performed by certified veterinary surgeons. Cost can be anywhere between $3,500 per hip to approximately twice that - $7,000.

If your dog is bilaterally affected (which many are), surgery can cost up to $14,000, including pre-surgical blood work, surgery, anesthesia and all medications.

This surgery usually takes between 2 and 3 hours, and your dog may require hospitalization for 1 - 3 days after the operation. To make sure your dog properly heals, you should expect a recovery period of about 3 months. Although hip dysplasia usually occurs in both hips, this procedures generally  performed one hip at a time with 3 - 6 months between procedures. 

Hearing a diagnosis of hip dysplasia in your dog can be heart-wrenching, as the condition is painful and can visibly reduce mobility. It may also cause some financial concerns as surgical options can impact your budget. However, your vet may be able to recommend an option or combination of treatments that can help your dog recover and regain his hip function.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Have your detected symptoms of hip dysplasia in your dog? Our Bear Valley Animal Hospital vets in Apple Valley have extensive experience identifying and treating common conditions and providing advanced treatment for dogs. Contact us today.