Hip Dysplasia is a very common joint disorder found in dogs. It results from the abnormal development of the hip joint in puppies, causing a lack of cushioning and a looseness in the joint—and thus cartilage damage and osteoarthritis. It can also cause a lot of pain in movement.
While any dog can suffer from Hip Dysplasia, it is most common in large or giant breeds such as German Shepherds, Lab Retrievers, Great Danes, Rottweilers, Golden Retrievers, and Saint Bernards. Serious cases of Hip Dysplasia are sometimes found in puppies, but it is more common later in life.
Limping is the most common symptom of Hip Dysplasia. Also watch for walking or running with an altered gait; pain and discomfort during or after exercise or when waking up in the morning; and decreased or avoidance of activity. Later, dogs may lose muscle tone or have difficulty getting up. In more serious cases, puppies will begin showing symptoms as early as five months of age.
While Hip Dysplasia is primarily hereditary, overweight dogs are at higher risk—so make sure your dog eats well and exercises to maintain a healthy body weight. Use moderation, however, as over-exercise at a young age is another suspected cause of Hip Dysplasia.
If you notice any of the symptoms described above, you should contact your vet. If more serious cases are caught during puppy-hood, a simple surgical procedure can often counteract Hip Dysplasia. Treatments are more complicated with mature dogs, but usually include surgery, oral or injectable arthritis medications, anti-inflammatory drugs, and sometimes physical therapy. There are also products such as ramps or raised drinking bowls to assist arthritic pets.