Dog hip dysplasia is one of the most common skeletal diseases seen in canines.  It develops because of certain genetic and environmental factors and is the failure of the hip joints to develop normally.  Dogs with hip dysplasia may have a hard time getting around due to loss of function of the hip joints.

Susceptibility Factors
There are several factors that play a role in a dog's risk for getting hip dysplasia.  Some breeds are more likely to develop it, such as Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Labrador Retrievers, and German Shepherds.  Small breeds can also be affected; however, they are less likely to show clinical signs.  The disease usually onsets while the dog is still young and physically immature, however it can occur in older dogs due to osteoarthritis. Dog hip dysplasia can be caused by a few different reasons which include: genetic susceptibility for hip looseness or laxity, rapid weight gain and obesity, nutritional factors and pelvic-muscle mass.

Symptoms
A number of symptoms may show up if your dog is affected with hip dysplasia.  Here is a list of what to look for:

•    Decreased activity
•    Difficulty getting up
•    Reluctance to run, jump, or climb stairs
•    Pain in hip joints
•    Joint looseness or laxity
•    Loss of muscle mass in thigh muscles
•    Hind-limb lameness, often worse after exercise

As an owner, you will most likely just notice that your dog is more reluctant to be physically active and seems to be in pain.  If you notice these types of symptoms, you should bring your dog to a veterinarian.

Diagnosis

In order for your veterinarian to diagnose hip dysplasia, he/she will need to perform a complete physical exam on your dog, including a blood chemical profile, a complete blood count, an electrolyte panel and a urinalysis.  All of these will be determinants in whether hip dysplasia is that cause for your dog’s problems.  After the vet does an exam, X-rays will be the next step in confirming the hip dysplasia and determining the severity. 

Treatment
Dog hip dysplasia can be treated on an outpatient basis, unless your dog needs surgery.  Physiotherapy is a common tactic to treat it—it can decrease joint stiffness and help maintain muscle integrity.  You will want to make sure that your dog maintains a healthy weight if he is diagnosed with hip dysplasia, because extra weight can put pressure on the joints, making them more painful.  Veterinarians can also prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs and pain medications to reduce swelling and pain. 

It is difficult for owners to see their pets in pain, but dog hip dysplasia is definitely manageable.  Try your hardest to keep your dog physically active and healthy to treat the condition and keep it from getting worse.  Remember to bring him in for regular exams and ask the vet questions if you have any. 

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