Hip Dysplasia (HD) is a degenerative condition where the ball and socket joint becomes malformed, and instead of functions smoothly, they grind against each other, leading to skeletal degeneration and severe inflammation
As one of the most common skeletal diseases, HD affects a vast majority of the most common breeds, like the Labrador, German Shepherd and Saint Bernard. While larger dog breeds are most susceptible to HD, smaller breeds can also fall prey to this condition, where both genetic and environmental factors play a factor in the onset and progression. The most straightforward method to detect and track the progression of HD is through frequent x-rays, which might actually end up being detrimental to skeletal health.
Despite being one of the most prevalent, HD is still one of the most misunderstood conditions. Malformation in the hip and ball socket leads the animal’s body to produce additional bone-line fragments in the region which restricts movement. It is an extremely painful condition, where over a prolonged period, muscle in a particular region deteriorates and the animal experiences trouble getting up/sitting down before losing hind function entirely. While a genetic predisposition plays a large factor in the onset of the disease, modulating environmental factors like physical activity, diet and supplementary nutritional intake can arrest the disease in its early stages. The most concerning factor of this condition is that is mostly diagnosed only in its later stages when pain management and avoiding further deterioration is the only solution.
Recognizing signs of early onset is key to staving off this chronic condition, which eventually leads to a lack of complete hind mobility. While a thorough physical, along with a blood profile and urine analysis can help your veterinarian diagnose Dysplasia before it sets in, knowing your pet’s parental history can help highlight the need for early intervention. Genetics plays a significant role in the development and progression of this condition, where a history of canine arthritis and osteopenia, along with previous instances of Dysplasia in the gene pool makes your puppy prone to the disease. Environmental conditions, such as the lack of adequate exercise and obesity also aggravates this condition.
Common symptoms of this condition include, but are not limited to:
? Inflammation and tenderness in the hip joints.
? Persistent lax mobility in the hind legs.
? Swaying gait.
? Restricted range of motion in the hip.
? Disproportionate muscle development (where shoulder muscles are enlarged to compensate for extra weight which the canine exerts on the front legs in trying to avoid putting pressure on hind limbs).
? Reluctance to engage in physical activities like running, jumping, or climbing stairs.
It is crucial to monitor your dog’s everyday activity to look out for these signs as most small breeds do not exhibit and cynical symptoms until severe progression and large canines might not exhibit cynical symptoms early.
While there are surgical procedures, like pubic symphysiodesis surgery, where parts of the pelvic bone are fused together to increase mobility, it is only effective in dogs that are younger than six months. Excision arthroplasty is another, much more invasive procedure where the hip and ball joints are removed and muscles surrogate their function. This is however only effective in dogs that weigh less than 44 pounds and exhibit favourable muscle growth in the region. Surgical interventions for older dogs are still limited, where a diagnosis usually leads to outpatient treatments, with anti-inflammatory and painkiller prescriptions to manage the severe pain that accompanies this condition. Physiotherapy is often prescribed to stall the progression of the disease, along with strict daily dietary and exercise regimen.
The staggering costs of these procedures are only secondary to the rapidly degrading quality of life for your canine companion. As many large breeds are meant to be working dogs, in farms or other industries, Dysplasia takes a severe toll on their productivity. While catching the disease early is critical to stall the progression of the disease, monitoring environmental conditions can prevent triggering the condition even with the presence of a genetic disposition.
? Ensuring that your pet gets adequate physical exercise, especially in the early phases of muscular and skeletal growth, along with regular calcium and multivitamin to supplement a healthy diet can warrant great physiological integrity. Swimming is one of the most beneficial cardiovascular activities for canines, which exerts minimum pressure on their joints and promotes even muscle tissue growth and repair.
? Avoiding slippery surfaces that might lead to misalignment is also imperative to ensure healthy skeletal and muscle growth. Prolonged safe cardio activity like swimming, helps prevents obesity, which is one of the primary causes of this condition. Osteoarthritis, another triggering condition can also be avoided in older dogs, through regular exercise and by monitoring their daily calorie intake.
Larger breeds like the Saint Bernard and Labrador, who are the most prone to Dysplasia are infamous for being prone to both rapid weight gain and other degenerative bone conditions like osteoarthritis. Consulting with your vet early on can help you customize a diet and exercise plan that suits both your puppy’s needs and your own financial and time constraints.
You should also be well-informed about where you bring your puppy home from. Puppy mills which are rampant as the primary source for pedigree pups are notorious for their severely exploitative treatment of their breeding herds. They often breed their animals in decrepit conditions, with minimal nutrition and next to no physical activity, which compromises their immune system, that is passed on to the pups.
Research has proven that your puppy’s immune system is entirely reliant on its mother’s immune health in the early months of development where external vaccines are avoided. Additionally, puppy mills are infamous for in-breeding their animals, which leads to a severe shrinking of the gene pool resulting in genetic predispositions to a host of diseases, including various forms of Dysplasia. Avoiding this industry by not purchasing your dogs from puppy mills not only ensure that you bring a healthy puppy home, but also dissuades sinister breeders from abusing their own animals.