Effects of Hip Dysplasia – From the Dog’s Point of View
Hip dysplasia is one of the most common skeletal disorders in dogs. Affected animals usually start out being mildly uncomfortable in one or both of their hind legs (unilateral versus bilateral hip dysplasia). Their discomfort progresses to pain, lameness, limping and abnormal rear movement as their condition worsens. Dogs with hip dysplasia eventually may have trouble standing up and be intolerant of long walks or prolonged exercise. Their hip joints may click when they rise or move, and they may shift their weight back and forth from front to rear to try and relieve some of the discomfort. Older dogs with adult-onset hip dysplasia will suffer many of the same effects, except their lameness will probably worsen more rapidly than that of younger animals.
Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs – What the Owner Sees
It is important for owners to recognize the symptoms of hip dysplasia so that management and treatment options can be pursued as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, this is not always easy, because hip dysplasia can mimic a number of other degenerative musculoskeletal disorders. Owners of dogs with hip dysplasia may notice one or more of the following signs:
- Hind limb lameness or limping in one or both hind legs
- Abnormal “bunny-hopping” gait
- Weakness in one or both hind legs
- Pain in the hip and pelvis area when touched, manipulated or stretched
- Reluctance to rise (difficulty standing up after rest)
- Reduced activity level; exercise intolerance
- Reluctance to run, jump, play, climb stairs, get into the car, jump on furniture or engage in other normal activities
- Audible clicking sound coming from the hip area during motion (“crepitus”)
- Narrow hind-end stance
- Poor rear conformation and musculature
- Shrinking or wasting of hind-end muscles from disuse (“atrophy”)
- Enlargement of shoulder muscles from overuse (“hypertrophy”)
- Arched or roached back and extended hocks from shifting weight to the forelimbs
These signs may be intermittent or persistent and tend to worsen after exercise. Affected dogs may seem fine most of the time but will be especially stiff in the morning or after getting up from a nap.
Dogs at Increased Risk
Large and giant-breed dogs have the highest incidence of hip dysplasia; these include Saint Bernards, Newfoundlands, Mastiffs, German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers and Rottweilers, among others. Small breeds can also be affected but are less likely to show signs of the disease. Both sexes are equally at risk, and symptoms tend to show up either very early (by 12 months of age), or much later in life. The discomfort associated with hip dysplasia can be exacerbated by obesity, rapid weight gain and accelerated growth from excessive calorie intake. Trauma to the hips or pelvic area can also contribute to or worsen the symptoms of hip dysplasia.