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This is a hereditary condition affecting the ball and socket joint of the back hips of a dog.  The socket (acetabulum) is formed in a manner that is too shallow and does not effectively hold the ball (femoral head) at the top of the femur in place.  While this condition is common, the severity depends on the laxity, or looseness, of how well the bone is being held into place.  This is a genetic condition and if it is present, then there is no avoiding that fact, but sometimes the effect is so slight as to not display symptoms.  Other times, it is so severe that it can be crippling for a dog.  The joint affected is not just made of bones, but of connective tissue, muscle tissue, and ligaments.  When the ball moves around, these soft tissues are affected.  Osteoarthritis, an inflammation of the joint cartilage, as well as arthritis, deterioration of the joint cartilage, are common with this condition.

If a dog displays signs of hip dysplasia,  there is nothing that can be done to eliminate this.  There are things that can be done to minimize the effects.  Some people use supplements, glucosamine and chondroitin, while worse cases may require aspirin or a prescribed pain reliever but this should never be done without consulting a veterinarian.  Being overweight exacerbates the situation, so diet, as well as exercise, are important and yet can be the very thing that causes symptoms to show.  Low impact exercises, especially swimming, are very good for this.  Having a cushioned bed so that the joints are not taking too much pressure while sitting or lying down are important.  Damp, chilly weather will certainly cause symptoms to worsen.  Warm, dry areas for the dog to sleep in will help them.  Some dogs benefit from short periods of massage on the joint and, in severe cases, may need help for the joint to go back into place.  In very extreme cases, surgical options may be the best option.

Large breeds are more prone to this but there are breeds that are particularly susceptible: American Staffordshire Terrier, English Bulldog, French Bulldog, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Great Dane, Labrador Retriever, Pug, Rottweiler, and St Bernard.  These dogs have a greater probability, but any breed can have this condition.  Early display of symptoms will be dealing with the laxiity but later symptoms will be based around Osteoarthritis and Arthritis.  Symptoms can include:

  • Decreased Activity
  • Reluctance to Run or Jump
  • Difficulty with Stairs
  • Limping After Exercise
  • Swaying Gait
  • Narrow Stance in Hind Limbs
  • Pain in Back Hips
  • Decreased Range of Motion
  • Loss of Muscle Mass in Legs
  • Hip Joint Displacement