While there are some definite factors that put a pet at risk
for developing hip dysplasia,
there isn’t a clear known cause. What is definitively
understood, however, is that environmental conditions and
lifestyle can accelerate the wear and tear on the joints
affected by hip dysplasia. This in turn can cause further
deterioration and lead to more pain and less mobility. Knowing
what might impact your pet’s condition can help you avoid
complications associated with hip dysplasia and slow down the
erosion of the joints and other problems.
Pets That Are Predisposed To Hip Dysplasia
Hip dysplasia is considered a moderately heritable condition.
Pets with a parent that had the condition may be twice as
likely to develop hip dysplasia themselves. This has led
veterinarians and breeders to recommend screening dogs and cats
for hip dysplasia before breeding.
Size seems to be a very important risk factor for hip
dysplasia. Large breed cats such as the Maine Coon are more
likely to develop it. Giant and large breed dogs are at
significant risk. In fact, the Orthopedic Foundation for
Animals estimated that 20 to 40 percent of large breed dogs
presented for certification were at risk for hip dysplasia.
These include breeds such as Saint Bernards, Newfoundlands,
Rottweilers, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and
German Shepherds. Smaller pets do still develop hip dysplasia,
but these animals may actually have no obvious symptoms or pain from the disorder.
Causes of Further Complications
If your pet is at risk for the disorder or you have noticed
symptoms of hip dysplasia (such as limping, bunny hopping, or
pain when a hip joint is touched), it’s time to consider what
you can do to help your pet and slow down the degeneration that
will cause arthritis.
Watch your pet’s weight. If your
pet is obese or overweight, you should switch to a low-calorie
diet and increase the amount of exercise your pet gets (as long
as the veterinarian approves it) since excessive weight
increases pressure on the hip and bring on more severe
Use anti-inflammatory and pain-relief medication as needed to
reduce inflammation and help pets enjoy normal activities.Use
nontraditional techniques to reduce pain: massage therapy and
acupuncture or acupressure may
lessen your pet’s discomfort.
Add a supplement if your veterinarian says it okay. Glucosamine or chondroitin supplements
may improve joint mobility and promote the rebuilding of
The other step you can take is to not breed a pet that has hip
dysplasia. When looking for a pet that can be bred, you can
check with the Orthopedic Foundation of Animals to find a pet
that has been certified and does not have hip dysplasia.
Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia
Hip dysplasia was once
thought to be a fairly rare condition, but now veterinarians
identify it as leading cause of orthopedic disease and rear-end
lameness in dogs. While it is significantly less common in
cats, it is a serious condition when it does occur, limiting a
cat’s ability to move freely and becoming a source of severe
pain. Recognizing the early signs of hip dysplasia may help you
slow down the degeneration of the joint and reduce your pet’s
The first signs of hip dysplasia can begin during the early
periods of rapid growth (from four to nine months of age). In
the earliest stage, your dog or cat may be unwilling to go out
in the cold. Dogs and cats may not want to rise on their hind
legs and may struggle when going up the stairs. In general, you
may see your pet avoiding or hesitating to run, climb, or
engage in any unnecessary exercise.
Changes in Mobility
Abnormal wear and tear in the hip joints lead to arthritic symptoms. Thus, a pet may
suffer from stiffness when rising or trying to lay down.
Pets will limp or bunny hop in an effort to shift weight
off their hind quarters where there is severe pain in the hip
joints. Eventually, your dog or cat may intermittently suffer
from lameness that can become chronic after age four.
Signs Evident in a Physical Examination
When examining young puppies or older dogs, veterinarians look
for looseness in the joints. Diagnostic methods may include:
- pushing down the rump of puppies or kittens, which causes
those with hip dysplasia to drop the pelvis down
- rolling pets onto their backs and then trying to spread
their legs into a frog-like position – cats and dogs with hip
dysplasia will resist
- manipulating the hips in a way that will allow the
veterinarian to determine the degree of joint laxity or
looseness (your pet may need to be sedated for this
For a definitive diagnosis, a veterinarian needs to take
X-rays. These will show the severity of any hip dysplasia.
Minor conditions will be evident by some laxity in the joint.
Moderate hip dysplasia will be apparent by erosion of the
joints and dislocation. In severe cases, there will be
clear arthritic changes
in the hips.
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.