Dog's Health
Hip Dysplasia

WHAT IS HIP DYSPLASIA?


Hip dysplasia is a degenerative condition, which can affect any dog. Although the causes may vary, the effects are always the same: loss of mobility, increasing pain, impaired gait, even behavioral and mood-changes in your dog, including snappishness and depression.


Dysplasia is simply the dislocation of a bone from its proper place. "Plasia" is the Greek word for molding, so it's easy to visualize an architectural form, like a beam or column, separating from its stabilizing molding.  Hip dysplasia or displacement is one of the best-known types of dysplasia in dogs. 


WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF HIP DYSPLASIA?



Hip dysplasia robs your dog of its most fundamental drive as an animal: to run. Our domestic pets share common roots as hunting pack-animals, like wolves. While many breeds of dogs have developed specialties, such as the ability to burrow, dig, and swim in the pursuit of prey, all dogs are literally born to run. However, hip dysplasia makes running and even walking painful, sometimes to the point where the animal has difficulty rising from a sleep-position, and resists movement. Playtime with other dogs and humans becomes too excruciating to bear. This lack of activity may result in weight gain, which compounds the discomfort of hip dysplasia.


The condition may even make the dog's hips and lower back too sensitive to touch, during brushing, grooming, bathing-even hugging! So your dog becomes less active, isolated, disconnected, and often low-energy.






SIGNS THAT YOUR DOG MAY HAVE HIP DYSPLASIA:

  • Hobbles, or walks/trots with an irregular gait
  • Tries to keep weight off one of the rear legs
  • Starts to slow down or limp on a favorite walk or run
  • Stays in bed instead of playing outdoors
  • Whimpers or yelps when climbing stairs
  • Flinches when hip area or lower back are touched

In short, hip dysplasia can reduce your feisty, sparkling companion and playmate to a diminished creature, which barely leaves its bed.


WHAT HAPPENS IN HIP DYSPLASIA - WHY DOES IT HURT?


 

The degenerative process of hip dysplasia is gradual, and so the onset of symptoms-the pain, specifically-also is somewhat gradual, taking place over the course of years. In simple terms, the two bones of the hip joint shift out of alignment. The structure of a dog's hip bones is similar to our human hip formation, consisting of a precisely fitted ball-and-socket joint. This is called a "spheroidal" joint, referring to the spherical head of the distal or articulating bone, which fits into the cup-like cavity of the accompanying bone.


The purpose of joints is to provide movement to the body. A healthy canine spheroidal joint controls this movement with the support of muscles, ligaments and tendons. The ends of the bones are covered in tough cartilage, and lined with synovial membrane, with contains a small amount of synovial fluid as lubricant. In fact, the ball and socket joint is the most mobile in the body - in both dogs and humans.  The design allows the articulating or distal bone to rotate around three main axes with a common center, allowing the leg (or, in the case of the elbow ball and socket, the arm) an extremely versatile range of movement. The ability to swivel, pivot and rotate with speed and agility is what makes dogs great hunters.


In the case of the hip, the articulating or distal bone is called the femur. The cup-shaped socket bone is called the acetabulum, located on the pelvis.


Perhaps because they are such hand-working structures, the ball and socket joints are prone to disease, and to simple mechanical wear and damage over time. Winston's Joint System and Winston's Pain Formula (www.dogshealth.com), two products for dogs developed by a naturopathic doctor, offer support and relief for many conditions affecting the joints, including hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory diseases which also are common in dogs, attacking the cartilage, muscles and membrane linings of cartilage and joints.



HERE'S THE BREAKDOWN

  • Hip dysplasia in dogs results in several symptoms which reduce mobility and cause pain:
  • The muscles and joints become lax, and the joint capsule, a strong band of connective tissue which circled the bones for added stability, loses its elastic strength.
  • As this happens, the articular (working) surfaces of the two bones lose contact with each other. The bones slowly separate as the soft tissues around the joint degenerate. The disease may affect both hips, or only the right or left. 

With the loss of protective scaffolding between the bone surfaces, the nerves in the bone-endings themselves are exposed. When bone touches bone, there is acute pain. In addition, the loss of tensile strength of the supporting tendons, muscle and cartilage mean that other structures in the hip and leg must compensate in terms of weight-bearing and movement. This unnatural compensation may cause fatigue, pain, and may even cause the dog to injure itself-running to catch a Frisbee, or climbing stairs, for instance.


WHAT CAUSES HIP DYSPLASIA IN DOGS?


Experts disagree as to the source of hip dysplasia in dogs. 

  • TOO MUCH FOOD? One theory is that feeding a young, growing dog too many calories early in its development contributes to the disorder.
  • TOO MUCH EXERCISE? Another theory is that too much exercise, or the wrong kind of exercise, or simply too much high-impact exercise, such as fetching, jumping and catching a ball or Frisbee on concrete, contributes to hip dysplasia.

 

These theories are not conclusive, though of course appropriate nutrition and training are essential to the health and well-being of any pet.


A factual observation about this condition is that hip dysplasia tends to affect large breeds more so than smaller dogs. This, too, is relative-it is possible for small dogs to become affected by hip dysplasia, too.  However, we correctly associate the condition most frequently with big breeds. Some commonly affected breeds include:

  • German Shepherd
  • Spaniel
  • Setter
  • Retriever
  • Mastiff
  • Great Dane
  • Saint Bernard
  • Afghan Hound
  • Giant Schnauzer

These breeds do carry a genetic predisposition toward the condition. It is also true that purebreds, especially in these large dogs, are most likely to become vulnerable to hip dysplasia, therefore calling upon informed and responsible breeding practices.



But here's the thing: many of us fall in love at the animal shelter. We may generously rescue a dog whose history is entirely unknown. A darling "Shepherd mix" from the pound may represent a complex genetic history, a history to which we have no access. Medical problems may indeed manifest down the line, and hip dysplasia could be one of these. This condition is common, and is not a death-sentence. Winston's Joint System and Winston's Pain Formula (www.dogshealth.com) offer a holistic, gentle and effective way to manage your dog's hip dysplasia, from the first signs of stiffness, discomfort or loss of mobility.









WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT HIP DYSPLASIA:


Our first instinct as dog-lovers is to stop the pain. Sometimes our decision-making process is clouded by emotion-guilt, fear, even panic when we see our beloved canine companion suffering. Many conventional treatments for hip dysplasia in dogs have side-effects, or simply don't work.

  • If your dog is clearly in pain, schedule a visit with your veterinarian. An X-ray examination will be recommended as a first step.
  • Winston's Joint System and Winston's Pain Formula (www.dogshealth.com) may offer your dog safe alternatives, calming inflammation as an immediate solution, and helping to rebuild joint integrity as a long-range treatment.
  • Monitor your dog's weight. Obesity makes hip dysplasia worse. If your dog becomes less active, weight-gain may become a challenge. Eliminate treats, and if possible, offer your dog low-impact exercise like stretching and swimming.
  • Remove unnecessary physical stressors from your dog's life.
  • Replace stairs with a ramp while your dog is recovering, to prevent further damage to the damaged hip.
  • Provide a padded dog-bed-sleeping on hard surface may increase the inflammation associated with hip dysplasia. A gel-bed, which actually contains a soft jelly that conforms to your dog's body, relieves pressure from sore joints.
  • Experiment with low-heat heating pads or fleece-covered hot water bottle, as well as gentle massage, as ways to relax your dog and provide comfort during the healing process.
  • With Winston's Joint System and Winston's Pain Formula (www.dogshealth.com), the degeneration of the hip joint may be slowed or even stopped, and in many cases hip replacement surgery, always a last resort, may be prevented altogether.

Bringing a dog into your life requires a leap of faith, and a demands commitment to that dog's health and well-being. It is virtually impossible verify the genetic "blueprint" of any animal, even if the animal is pedigreed and purchased through a breeder. Recessive genetic tendencies are difficult to identify, and may take us by surprise. Because we are unable to identify the sources of this condition, realistically it is not possible to truly prevent it. Avoiding large breeds and purebreds may be one precaution, but many dogs who are not in either of these categories do experience hip dysplasia as well.  With this in mind, advanced formulas and ongoing research continue to offer non-invasive, non-intrusive, gently effective treatments for the common canine condition known as hip dysplasia.

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