If your pooch is showing signs of hip dysplasia such as pain or discomfort when exercising, it’s important to get checked right away. In this post, our Los Angeles vets describe symptoms and causes of the condition in dogs, plus surgical options.

What is hip dysplasia in dogs?

We often see this common skeletal condition in giant or large breed dogs, although smaller breeds can also suffer from this condition.

A dog’s hip joint works as a ball and socket. In dogs that experience hip dysplasia, this ball and socket do not develop or function properly.

Instead, they grind and rub, which can lead to breakdown over time and eventual loss in the function of this important joint.

What causes canine hip dysplasia?

As you might imagine, this condition is painful and if not treated, can drastically reduce the quality of life for your dog. It’s also difficult to watch as physical symptoms appear in once-healthy dogs.

Hip dysplasia is hereditary, and genetics plays a significant role in its development in dogs, particularly in larger breeds such as mastiffs, St. Bernards, Rottweilers, retrievers, and bulldogs. Smaller breeds, such as French bulldogs and pugs, can also be affected.

This condition can worsen with age and affect both hips (bilateral). It may be exacerbated by osteoarthritis and associated pain in senior dogs.

Which breeds are prone to canine hip dysplasia?

Though the condition is inherited, some factors, such as improper weight and nutrition, excessive growth rate, and types of exercise, can magnify the genetic predisposition to the condition and increase the risk that it will develop. Obesity causes abnormal stress on your dog's joints, which can aggravate an existing condition or even cause hip dysplasia.

The condition most commonly affects giant and large breed dogs, but hip dysplasia can occur in any breed or size of the dog. This is partly why it’s important to consult your vet regarding the right amount of exercise your dog requires each day and what their ideal diet should contain.

What are the symptoms of hip dysplasia?

While hip dysplasia can start to develop in puppies as young as five months old, it may not appear until they reach their senior years. As with many other conditions, every dog is different. In many cases, owners notice it in pooches that are middle-aged or older.

Watch for these symptoms of hip dysplasia in your pup:

  • Signs of discomfort or pain while exercising (or a reluctance to exercise, run, jump or climb stairs)
  • Their back legs are stiff when he walks
  • Stiffness when running or rising from a resting position
  • Loss of muscle tone in back legs or thighs
  • Grating or grinding of the joint when he moves
  • Lameness in the hind end
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Running with a bunny hop

During your dog’s regular physical exams, your veterinarian will check on its physical health and condition. The vet may move your dog’s hind legs to identify any grinding, painful sensations, or reduced range of motion that may be present in the joint. There may be blood tests as a complete blood count can indicate inflammation as a result of joint disease.

You should also be prepared to give your vet your dog's medical history, a list of his specific symptoms, and any injuries that may have resulted in them. Knowing your dog's ancestry is also beneficial. Along with these, your veterinarian will usually take an x-ray or radiograph to determine the severity of hip dysplasia in your dog and plan a treatment plan.

What are treatment options for hip dysplasia in dogs?

Treatment options for dogs suffering from hip dysplasia could range from changes to lifestyle or diet to surgery. These are the three most common types of hip dysplasia surgery, along with typical costs:

Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO)

Both young and mature dogs can benefit from this type of surgery, which entails removing the femoral head (ball) of the hip joint. The body then creates a “false” joint, which decreases the discomfort related to hip dysplasia. While your dog won’t see the return of his normal hip function, it can be a strategic method of managing pain.

The cost of an FHO surgery typically ranges from $1,200 to $2,500, including pre-surgical bloodwork, procedure, anesthesia, post-surgical care, and medications.

Depending on his health, the surgery, and other factors, your dog may need to stay in the hospital for several hours to several days following surgery. For the first 30 days after surgery, avoid strenuous physical activity. Most dogs will fully recover six weeks after surgery and will be able to resume physical activity.

Double or triple pelvic osteotomy (DPO/TPO)

This veterinary surgery, which is most commonly performed on dogs under 10 months old, involves cutting the pelvic bone in specific locations and rotating its segments, resulting in an improved ball and socket joint. The average cost of this surgery for most dogs is around $3,000 for both hips.

Your pooch will require several weeks before he’ll be able to stroll comfortably again and will need regular physiotherapy for full mobility to return (although you may notice joint stability improve within four weeks). Most dogs will recover within four to six weeks.

Total Hip Replacement (THR)

This option is often the first choice as it is the most effective surgical procedure for hip dysplasia in dogs. It involves using plastic and metal implants to replace the whole joint, which brings hip function back to a more normal range and eliminates most hip dysplasia-related discomfort.

A THR surgery is a drastic option and the most expensive, typically taken when the dog in question is in considerable pain and nearly completely immobile. Artificial components must be custom-made for your pooch and the surgery is performed by certified veterinary surgeons. Cost can be anywhere between $3,500 per hip to approximately twice that - $7,000.

If your dog is bilaterally affected (which many are), surgery can cost up to $14,000, including pre-surgical blood work, surgery, anesthesia, and all medications.

The surgery usually takes about two to three hours, and your pup may need to be hospitalized for one to three days following surgery. To ensure proper healing after hip dysplasia surgery, expect a 12-week recovery period for your dog. Though hip dysplasia usually appears in both hips, surgery may only be performed on one hip at a time, allowing a three-to-six-month gap between procedures.

Hearing that your dog has hip dysplasia can be heartbreaking, as the condition is painful and can significantly reduce mobility. It may also cause financial concerns because surgical options can have an impact on your budget. However, your veterinarian may be able to recommend a treatment option or a combination of treatments to help your dog recover and regain hip function.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you suspect your dog is suffering from hip dysplasia? Our veterinarians at Rancho Park Veterinary Clinic in Los Angeles have experience in identifying many conditions and illnesses in dogs. Book an appointment today.