Hip Dysplasia in Dogs and Cats

Hip Dysplasia in Dogs and Cats
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Hip dysplasia is an abnormality of the hip joints that is common in many breeds of dogs, both large and small. Learn more about this hip problem here.

Dysplasia is from the Greek word “malformation,” so as you can guess, dogs and cats with “hip dysplasia” have abnormally formed hip joints. The disorder is often associated with big old dogs that limp or struggle to move about. Despite the stereotype, hip dysplasia onsets at birth or when puppies' joints are growing and forming; because hip dysplasia often worsens with age, many pet owners don't notice there's a problem until their pets are much older. While large and giant breed dogs are more prone to hip dysplasia, this condition can affect any dog or cat.

Causes of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs and Cats

Hip dysplasia is most often an inherited condition. In fact, pets that have a parent with hip dysplasia are twice as likely to develop the condition themselves. However, pets don’t have to have to a genetic link to the disorder. It’s not known what causes hip dysplasia in cats and dogs with no known family history of the problem, but, while any breed can develop hip dysplasia, large breed dogs and cats are at greater risk. If puppies exercise too much while still growing, or if puppies put on too much weight while growing, the stress on their bones can put them at greater risk of developing hip dysplasia.

You may not have any control over whether your pet develops hip dysplasia, but keeping your dog at a healthy weight with regular exercise can reduce the effect and help keep hip dysplasia from developing into osteoarthritis. 

Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs and Cats

In early stages of hip dysplasia there may be no symptoms, but once you begin to see signs that your pet is having trouble with common physical activities, you should see your veterinarian. Dogs and cats with the condition may limp, have difficulty climbing stairs, show signs of pain when the hip is touched, and constantly lick or chew at the hip area in an effort to relieve some of the discomfort.

Treatment for Hip Dysplasia in Dogs and Cats

There is no cure for hip dysplasia and no way to prevent it in a pet that is predisposed to the condition, but there are measures you can take to relieve some of the pain that is common with hip dysplasia and improve your pet’s mobility. Veterinarians usually recommend trying conservative treatments first such as reducing your pet’s weight and avoiding certain activities. Pain-relief medication (such as Metacam), massage, and exercise may also be good options for your pet. If your dog or cat doesn’t respond to these measures, you may want to discuss surgery with your veterinarian.

There is no way to reverse the damage done by hip dysplasia. Diagnosing the problem early, however, and adopting a multifaceted approach to caring for your pet’s symptoms may allow you to manage your pet’s condition and alleviate some of the most serious symptoms.

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.

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