Often, hip dysplasia isn’t caught until pets have been walking
on poorly formed hips for years. That means that by the time
you recognize there’s a problem, serious, irreversible damage
has been done and your cat or dog is now more likely to develop
more severe complications, including possible lameness and
degenerative arthritis. You may
be able to provide better care and reduce painful symptoms in a
pet with the condition by understanding these five basic facts:
1. There Is Strong a Genetic Link to Hip Dysplasia
Most pets with the condition inherit it. That doesn’t mean,
though, that you are powerless to help a cat or dog who is
genetically predisposed to develop hip dysplasia. It’s actually
possible for a pet to inherit the condition but have no
symptoms. That’s because, in
addition to genetics, other factors impact whether or not cats
and dogs will have hip pain that progresses to osteoarthritis.
These influences include over feeding a pet, giving your pet an
excessive supplement of certain nutrients, and letting a pet
regularly engage in exercises that may damage the hip joints.
2. Large Breeds Have a Higher Risk of Hip Dysplasia
The Maine Coon cat is one example of a large cat that is at
risk for hip dysplasia. Saint
Bernards, Newfoundlands, Rottweilers, Chesapeake Bay
Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, and other
large and giant breed dogs are most likely to develop the
condition. Smaller pets do still contract hip dysplasia, but
these animals may actually have no obvious symptoms or pain
from the disorder.
3. Weight Loss Is the First, Most
Beneficial, Step to Take
Symptoms of hip dysplasia, including limping and pain, are
likely to be more severe in pets that are carrying excess body
weight; these extra pounds put more strain on the joints and
accelerate wear and tear. It’s important, though, to help your
pet maintain a healthy weight before hip dysplasia develops.
Specifically, avoid overfeeding puppies and kittens because it
can cause muscles and bones to grow at different rates, which
might contribute to hip dysplasia.
4.Nontraditional Therapies Can Offer Some Relief
Heat applied to the hips is a simple way to help relieve some
of your pet’s discomfort, but there are other treatment options you can try as well
that might appeal to owners who want to avoid surgery and
medication. These include: professional or at-home massage,
acupuncture or acupressure administered by a licensed
practitioner, and giving glucosamine or chondroitin supplements
to promote the rebuilding of cartilage.
5. Surgery Is an Extreme Option for Pets That Don’t Respond to
Surgery for hip dysplasia is a serious procedure that carries
the usual risk of invasive treatments. When necessary, your
veterinarian may recommend removing the femoral head (the ball
part of the ball-in-socket hip joint). This procedure is
usually most effective in pets weighing less than 60 pounds.
For larger dogs, a total hip replacement may be needed. The
diseased joint is replaced by a plastic socket and stainless
steel ball cemented into place. Both procedures offer good
chances for pets to regain mobility while alleviating their
Legg-Perthes Disease In Dogs And Cats
Legg-Perthes disease is a hip joint disease that can occur in
both dogs and cats. It involves disintegration of the head of
the femur, which is the ball of the hip joint. When the femoral
head disintegrates due to a loss of blood supply, it results in
disfigurement of the hip joint as well as bone and joint
inflammation (arthritis). This
can be extremely painful for a pet, but fortunately, the
prognosis after treatment is usually very good.
Legg-Perthes disease also goes by some other names: Perthes
disease, Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease, Legg’s disease, coxa
plana, and aseptic or avascular necrosis of the femoral head.
Causes of Legg-Perthes Disease in Dogs and Cats
The causes of Legg-Perthes disease are not well understood.
There is likely a strong genetic component because the disease
tends to show up in young, small breed, or miniature breed dogs
-- especially terriers. It
can also occur in cats, and may become apparent after an injury
or trauma to the leg or hip.
Disintegration of the femoral head occurs when blood supply to
the area is interrupted. An interruption in blood supply --
also known as “ischemia” -- causes the bone and surrounding
cartilage to disintegrate and die. When this happens, the area
around the affected hip joint becomes irritated and inflamed.
Eventually, the hip becomes disfigured and collapses, and is no
longer able to carry weight.
Legg-Perthes disease can appear in both hip joints
simultaneously or only in one.
Symptoms of Legg-Perthes Disease in Dogs and Cats
The initial symptoms of Legg-Perthes disease often appear in
pets less than one year old. As the disease progresses, so too
will the symptoms, and they typically include:
- Progressive hind leg lameness
- Pain when moving affected limb(s)
- Muscle disintegration on affected limb(s)
- Difficulty rising, sitting, jumping, and running
- Exercise intolerance
- Chewing or licking the affected limb(s)
- “Clicking” sound from affected limb(s)
Diagnosing Legg-Perthes Disease in Dogs and Cats
The symptoms of Legg-Perthes disease can mimic those of many
other conditions, including hip
and injury or fracture. Your veterinarian will need to rule out
these conditions and diagnose Legg-Perthes disease through a
physical examination, a discussion of symptoms, and testing.
Testing may include complete blood work, urinalysis, and
x-rays. X-rays help your veterinarian to diagnose Legg-Perthes
disease by revealing problems such as a widening of the area
between the femoral head and the pelvic socket, bone
fragmentation, irregular femoral structure, and abnormal bone
Treatment for Legg-Perthes Disease in Dogs and Cats
Some pets with mild or early forms of the disease may respond
well to a combination of bed rest, physical therapy,
pain-relief medications, corticosteroids, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug
In most cases, however, surgery will be necessary. The
procedure of choice is a femoral head and neck ostectomy, which
involves removal of the femoral head and neck. This allows for
the formation of a “false joint” made up of fibrous tissues,
granulation tissues, and scar tissues. These tissues
essentially replace the ball-and-socket joint of the hip.
In the rare case of a large dog with Legg-Perthes disease, a
total hip replacement may be necessary. This is an expensive
and complicated procedure that involves removing the entire
damaged joint and replacing it with an artificial femoral head
and hip joint socket.
With both procedures, post-operative care is extremely
important, and you should follow your veterinarian’s
instructions about bandaging, cold compresses, and activity
restriction. Most pets will also require physical therapy
following surgery, and diet should be carefully monitored to
avoid obesity, which can put
stress on the joints.
In addition to the above treatment options, there are some less
traditional treatments that have proven to be beneficial in
some pets with Legg-Perthes disease. They include:
The prognosis for pets treated surgically is very good if the
pet receives appropriate postoperative care and rehabilitation.
After recovery, most pets return to their normal selves and are
able to run, jump, and play.
More on Joint Health
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8 Ways To Treat
Joint Dog Pain
Arthritic Dogs And Cats
This information is for informational purposes only and
is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or
diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to
your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed
veterinarian for accuracy.