Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

A fairly common degenerative disease in dogs, canine hip dysplasia, is often misunderstood. Many mistakenly think that an ailment is a form of arthritis, but that is simply not the case. Often, dogs that suffer from hip dysplasia will develop arthritis, but this condition is a result of hip dysplasia and not the disease itself. The condition is most common in mid to large size dogs that grow rapidly and can be a source of severe pain and limited mobility for the animal. Even when detected early, there is no “cure” for hip dysplasia; it must be treated with medication to reduce the amount of pain that the dog suffers or be corrected as much as possible with surgery.

What is Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is essentially an abnormal formation of the hip joint. This formation causes looseness in the joint that causes an array of problems for the dog. The most common results of hip dysplasia include pain and lack of mobility. Dogs that are severely affected cannot move their hindquarters at all. There are many degrees of dysplasia; they range from only the slightest abnormalities in the connection of the joint to complete dislocation of the femur from the hip socket.

What Causes Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is primarily caused by genetics. If one or both parent animals carry a genetic trait for hip dysplasia, it will be passed on to their offspring. Genetic conditions and their likelihood of being passed on are measured in terms of “heritability factoring.” Something that is determined completely by genetics, like eye color or gender, is considered to have a heritability factor of 1, indicating that the condition is 100% genetic. A condition that has absolutely nothing to do with genetics, like a sprained ankle, has a heritability factor of 0. Scientists have determined that hip dysplasia carries a heritability factor between .25 and .85, meaning that there is a 25% to 85% chance that the condition is genetic in origin. While injuries to a young pup – incurred before or after birth – can cause the condition, almost all hip dysplasia is passed on genetically.

How is Hip Dysplasia Treated?

As stated earlier, there is no “cure” for hip dysplasia. Medication can be given to control the pain and reduce inflammation of the joint, but the only way to treat the condition on any permanent basis is through surgery. The best way to combat hip dysplasia is through selective breeding. If the either of the potential parent animals shows traits of hip dysplasia, they should not be bred and should be spayed or neutered to ensure they do not pass on the trait. All breeding dogs should be X-Rayed at a young age to check for signs of the condition. Many times a dog that appears perfectly healthy and has no signs of the condition can actually have hip dysplasia.