What are some of the things we as dog owners can
do to help a dog with hip dysplasia?
Hip dysplasia is a syndrome in which a dog’s (or less often, a cat’s) hip joints do not develop properly. This causes premature arthritis in the hips. Hip dysplasia is most common in large breeds of dogs. It has a hereditary component. Careful breeding has reduced the incidence of hip dysplasia over the last several years.
Hip dysplasia is sometimes confused with age-related arthritis. Many older animals suffer arthritis in their hips that is not related to abnormal development of the joints. However, in either instance the outcome is the same–arthritis that causes pain, stiffness, decreased mobility and a lower quality of life.
There are several techniques (some old, some new) for managing hip displasia and arthritis in pets.
Preventing hip dysplasia is by far the best option. Careful breeding is the most important aspect of hip dysplasia prevention. Less effective, but still important, is to feed at-risk puppies (Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers and other large breeds) a diet that promotes slower growth. Talk to your vet about this.
For pets diagnosed with hip dysplasia by a veterinarian, several techniques may delay the onset of arthritis. The most effective of these is weight management. Carrying extra weight puts tremendous strain on the hip joints.
Other techniques that can delay the onset of arthritis (or help to ameliorate the symptoms of arthritis after it develops) include administration of oral or injectable glucosamine, oral omega-3 supplementation, and physical therapy (mild exercise, swimming, hydrotherapy, and range of motion exercises). Young dogs diagnosed with severe hip dysplasia may benefit from a surgical technique known as triple pelvic osteotomy.
For the unfortunate individuals that are suffering from arthritis, all of the techniques listed in the preceding two paragraphs (except for triple pelvic osteotomy) can be beneficial. Additionally, treatment with the much maligned NSAID medicines can lead to a dramatic improvement in quality of life. Other, newer pain medicines such as amantadine are emerging as well that may be highly beneficial when used in conjunction with NSAIDs. Some prescription diets may lead to clinical improvement in arthritic pets.
A new generation of treatments for arthritis in the hips is also entering use in clinical practice. These treatments include stem cell injections, stimulation with certain types of lasers, and a technique known as extracorporeal shock wave therapy (it sounds scary, but it’s quite benign).
The treatment of last resort for arthritis of the hips is surgical hip replacement. Recent clinical advances have made this option more attractive than it was in the past.
The long and short of it is that there is a wide array of treatments for hip dysplasia and arthritis in pets. Many of them are new and not widely known. Your best bet is to find a vet who is passionate about comprehensive management of the syndromes. Sit down with this vet and develop a treatment plan that is right for you and your pet.
Image credit: Joel Mills. Licensing information: CC.