Hip Dysplasia Diagnosis and Management

Hip dysplasia is a common developmental disorder of the hip joint that affects almost all breeds of dogs. Over time, dogs with hip dysplasia often develop secondary osteoarthritis. Symptoms associated with hip dysplasia range from none to severe pain and lameness of one or both hind legs and may occur during puppyhood or later in life.

Dogs suspected of having hip dysplasia are diagnosed as having the condition based on palpation of the hip joints during a physical examination and with radiographs. Treatment for the condition often depends on the severity of the clinical signs and may involve medical management (weight control, exercise moderation, anti-inflammatory/pain medications and/or joint supplementation, stem cell therapy, platelet rich plasma therapy) or various surgical interventions (Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (TPO), Femoral Head and Neck Ostectomy (FHO), Juvenile Pubic Symphysiodesis (JPS), Total Hip Replacement (THR)). 

Both hips are usually affected but symptoms may be more severe on one side. Commonly presented with larger breed, Hip dysplasia is manifested by varying degrees of laxity (looseness) of the hip joint with instability and malformation of the joint components. Arthritis is the long-term consequence of hip joint laxity.

Symptoms of hip dysplasia may be subtle. They can include the presence of lameness in one or both hind legs and the reluctance to climb stairs or jump. Dogs that are affected often become less active and less playful. They may be reluctant to go on walks and their gait may be a "bunny hop" at certain speeds.

Once hip dysplasia is diagnosed, the treatment consists of either medical (conservative) or surgical management.

Medical management includes weight reduction, pain management, neutraceuticals/joint supplements (e.g. glucosamine and chondroitin), and physical therapy. Medical management has some long-term disadvantages. First, it can be costly over the lifetime of the pet; second, it does not consistently remove pain associated with arthritis; and finally, it does not give the pet a biomechanically normal hip allowing full athletic activity (unlike a total hip replacement).

Surgical management includes Total hip replacement (THR) which is the only option that will restore the biomechanics of the hip joint to normal with pain-free function. THR is one of the most successful operations used in people and animals. A femoral head ostectomy (FHO) is an old procedure where the femoral head is removed, creating a false hip joint (pseudoarthrosis). Although FHO alleviates pain, it is has been shown scientifically to not restore the biomechanics of the normal hip joint. FHO generally has a three-month recovery. Alternatively, a triple pelvic ostectomy is an operation used to treat very young dogs with hip dysplasia only selected dogs are able to have this operation.