Preventing and Managing Pet Hip Dysplasia

Boxer Puppy Relaxing On The Sofa

As caring pet owners, it’s crucial to understand this common orthopedic condition that can significantly affect your furry friend’s quality of life. In this blog, we’ll explore the ins and outs of hip dysplasia, covering preventive measures, early detection, and effective management strategies. If you’re a pet owner in Silver Spring, Maryland, looking for expert veterinary care, don’t hesitate to contact Apex Vets for more information and to schedule an appointment.

Understanding Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a condition that primarily affects large dog breeds but can also be found in smaller breeds of dogs and cats. It occurs when the hip joint doesn’t develop properly, leading to a loose and unstable connection between the thigh bone (femur) and the hip socket (acetabulum). When the joint is loose, the bones rub on each other abnormally. This can result in pain, inflammation, reduced mobility, and secondary arthritis.

How to Prevent Hip Dysplasia 

Responsible breeding practices are key to reducing the prevalence of hip dysplasia. Reputable breeders screen potential breeding dogs for hip dysplasia using diagnostic tests like hip x-rays and ensure that only dogs with healthy hips are used for breeding.

Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for reducing the risk of hip dysplasia. Extra weight places additional stress on the joints, increasing the likelihood of joint problems. Large breed puppies should be kept at a low, normal weight, and it is best to avoid high protein/high calcium, high calorie diets. These diets have been shown to increase the incidence of hip dysplasia. Consult your veterinarian to determine an appropriate diet and feeding plan for your dog’s breed, size, and activity level.

Regular, low-impact exercise helps build strong muscles that support the hip joints. Avoid high-impact activities like jumping or excessive running, especially in growing puppies until their bones stop growing. Swimming is an excellent exercise option as it provides a full-body workout without straining the joints.

Diagnostic Techniques: How Vets Detect Hip Dysplasia

Routine visits to your veterinarian are essential for early detection of hip dysplasia. Your vet will perform a thorough physical examination. Laxity of the hip joint can be felt before any changes occur in the joint. Ask your vet if the joints feel loose. They may recommend diagnostic tests such as x-rays to assess your pet’s hip joint health. Be vigilant for signs of hip dysplasia, which include:

  • Unable or unwilling to jump up 
  • Difficulty rising or getting up in the back end 
  • Stiffness especially after resting 
  • “Bunny Hopping” – hopping on both back legs when running instead of moving them separately
  • Reluctance to climb stairs
  • Exercise intolerance, slower than expected or easily tiring 

If you notice any of these signs, consult your veterinarian promptly.

Treating Hip Dysplasia 

Your veterinarian may prescribe pain-relieving medications or recommend joint supplements to help maintain joint health and alleviate discomfort. Your vet may also provide guidance for a balanced diet and exercise plan to ensure your dog or cat maintains a healthy weight.

Physical therapy can play a significant role in managing hip dysplasia. Therapeutic exercises and modalities like hydrotherapy can improve joint flexibility, strengthen muscles, and enhance overall mobility. In severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary. Surgical procedures such as femoral head ostectomy (FHO) or total hip replacement can improve joint function, alleviate pain and return your pet to normal activity levels. 

Creating a Hip-Friendly Home Environment for Your Pet

  • Orthopedic Bedding: Provide your pet with a comfortable, supportive bed that cushions their joints and reduces pressure points.
  • Assistive Devices: Mobility aids like harnesses and ramps can help your dog or cat navigate daily activities with ease.
  • Environmental Modifications: Make your home more accessible by adding rugs or carpets to provide traction on slippery surfaces, and using elevated food and water bowls to reduce strain while eating.

Understanding and proactively managing hip dysplasia can greatly improve your dog or cat’s quality of life. By following preventive measures, detecting symptoms early, and implementing effective management strategies, you can provide the best possible care for your furry companion. If you suspect your pet may be experiencing hip dysplasia or if you’re interested in preventive care, reach out to Apex Vets today. Contact us today for more information.