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What is canine hip dysplasia?
Canine hip dysplasia is the abnormal development and growth of a
dog's hip joint. It occurs commonly in large breed dogs such as
Labrador retrievers, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, and Saint
Bernards, but it can occur in dogs of any breed and size, and even
in cats. There is no single cause of hip dysplasia; rather it is
caused by multiple factors, some of which include genetics and
nutrition. The abnormal development of the hip joint that occurs in
young dogs with dysplasia leads to excessive hip joint laxity
(looseness). This laxity causes stretching of the supporting
ligaments, joint capsule, and muscles around the hip joint, leading
to joint instability, pain, and permanent damage to the anatomy of
the affected hip joint. If left untreated, dogs with hip dysplasia
usually develop osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease).
Dogs with hip dysplasia commonly show clinical signs of hind
limb lameness, pain, and muscle wasting (atrophy). Owners report
that their dogs are lame after exercise, run with a "bunny-hopping"
gait, are reluctant to rise or jump, or aren't as active as other
puppies. Many dysplastic dogs will show these signs early in life
(6-12 months of age), but some dogs do not show signs of pain until
they are older.
Radiographs (X-rays) of a normal dog's pelvis and hips. The head
of the femur (arrow) is seated deeply within the acetabulum,
indicating excellent hip joint congruity.
What are the treatment options for hip dysplasia?
Depending on your pet's age, physical condition, and degree of
hip pain/lameness, there are several surgical treatment options.
Young dogs that show hip pain early in life (usually 6-12 months of
age) that have no evidence of osteoarthritis (degenerative joint
disease) on pre-operative radiographs (X-rays) may qualify for a
triple pelvic osteotomy (TPO). This procedure allows your pet to
keep its own hip joint, and eliminates pain and lameness by
correcting the laxity within the hip joint.
Dogs older than 12 months that have osteoarthritis or
dislocation of the hip joint secondary to severe hip dysplasia can
be treated with either a total hip replacement (THR) or
femoral head ostectomy (FHO). The advantage of total hip
replacement is that it eliminates pain and lameness and provides
normal range of motion and gait (how your pet walks) by removing
the affected joint and replacing it with a prosthetic (artificial)
joint that is biomechanically similar to the original joint. Total
hip replacements are usually very successful for the lifetime of
your pet, and active dogs are able to resume a high level of
activity for the remainder of their lives.
Radiographs (X-rays) of a juvenile dog with subluxation of both
hip joints secondary to hip dysplasia. The head of the femur
(arrow) is poorly seated within the acetabulum, indicating poor hip
joint congruity. There is no evidence of degenerative joint disease
Femoral head ostectomy (FHO) is another procedure used to treat
dogs with pain from hip dysplasia. In this procedure, the painful
hip joint is surgically removed; however, a replacement joint is
not placed. Instead, a "false" joint made of scar tissue is allowed
to develop. Due to the fact that the hip joint is removed, dogs
that have this procedure often have an abnormal gait at the walk
and run, even in the absence of pain. For active dogs, return to
high levels of activity is more variable. Although biomechanically
inferior to total hip replacement, the advantage of FHO is that it
reduces pain without the long-term risks and commitment of a total
hip replacement. In mature, otherwise healthy dogs with moderate to
severe hip pain from hip dysplasia, we usually recommend a hip
replacement over FHO, assuming there are no major client
constraints or patient contraindications.
Many pets with hip dysplasia can be managed with
conservative/medical therapy. Conservative therapy does not cure
arthritis caused by hip dysplasia, but is aimed at controlling the
pet's clinical signs (hip pain, lameness, reluctance to exercise).
Conservative treatments include administration of joint supplements
(Adequan ®, Cosequin ®), pain medications, weight loss, and rehabilitation. Many dogs can be made
comfortable with conservative treatment; however, arthritis, pain,
and lameness often worsen over time. At this point surgery is
Radiographs (X-rays) of a mature dog with degenerative joint
disease secondary to chronic hip dysplasia. The head of the femur
(arrow) and acetabulum are severely arthritic, as evidenced by the
flattened femoral head, thickened femoral neck, numerous
osteophytes, and shallow, sclerotic acetabulum.
If my dog has hip dysplasia and I want to pursue additional
consultation or treatment at Texas A&M, how can I schedule an
Appointments can be scheduled with the Orthopedic Surgery
Service by contacting the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital
Monday through Friday at 979-845-2351. Either you or your
veterinarian can make the initial phone call, but we will need to
speak with your veterinarian prior to confirming the final
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