Hip dysplasia is a disease of the hips that commonly affects large breed and giant breed dogs. It is a complex disease – one that cannot be easily distilled to a single gene or a single factor – that affects the hip joints in such a way that degeneration inevitably results.

What is Hip Dysplasia

The hip is what we call a “ball-and-socket joint”. For this joint to work, the “ball” of the femur has to sit in the “socket” of the hip and is held together by really tough fibrous material which makes up the joint capsule. To keep everything moving smoothly, the edges where the bones meet is covered by smooth cartilage and the capsule is filled with a lubricant which reduces friction during movement.

For all of this to function normally, the ball needs to sit securely in the socket. It may not sit properly due to a number of factors, including a too-shallow socket (acetabulum) and/or a malformed ball (femoral head). Studies have also implicated changes to the lubricant (synovial fluid) and changes to the connective tissue making up the joint capsule in hip dysplasia.

Why Hip Dysplasia Matters

With hip dysplasia, the joint becomes unstable and the forces that act on it go funny. This causes the moving parts to be bumped in the way they shouldn’t be, resulting in degeneration of the joint. What’s more, the instability can sometimes result in the hip popping out.

Can you spot the popped out hip?

The degeneration in the short term doesn’t mean very much, although all that bumping around can cause hip pain. In the long term, though, the slightest movement can be a chore when there is full-fledged degeneration. This degeneration, known as arthritis, can be very, very painful, as you would expect of worn cartilage, microfractures in the bone, and loads of inflammation. Many dogs, especially those in their senior years, find this pain debilitating and it can severely affect their quality of life.

What Can We Do?

It starts with acquiring your furbaby from a responsible breeder who has done all the tests required to ensure that the puppy you buy has the best genetic foundation. This doesn’t rule out the possibility of hip dysplasia, but it certainly reduces the chances.

The next thing is to feed your puppy a good diet. This is especially true if your puppy is going to be a really big dog. As we’ve discussed before, a high-quality diet is one that has had feeding trials performed, so we absolutely know that your puppy is getting all the micronutrients required.

And, if your furbaby already has hip dysplasia, it’s important to decide whether the case is surgical or whether it can be managed medically. Some cases are severe enough that total hip replacement is required. These are usually performed by surgical specialists to ensure the best results.

Is your pet struggling with mobility? Discuss your options with your veterinarian! The goal is to ensure that your pet has the best quality of life possible.

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