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 discomfort.
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 examination)
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.