Hip Dysplasia
By: Dr. Tony Luchetti  


Canine hip dysplasia is a common condition in large breed dogs.  Hip dysplasia occurs when a dog has abnormal development of the hips.  The hips are a ball and socket type joint. The femur (thigh bone) makes up the ball portion and the pelvis makes up the socket portion.  When a dog has hip dysplasia the ball and socket joint don’t fit together smoothly.  This is usually due to either a malformation of the ball or inadequate coverage of the socket.   This malformation causes an unstable joint, and eventually leads to arthritis as the body tries to stabilize the joint on its own.  The best way to diagnose hip dysplasia is with x-rays.


Usually dogs with hip dysplasia present to their veterinarian in one of two ways.   The first is a young dog usually between 6 and 18 months of age who presents to their veterinarian for discomfort of the hips, but doesn’t have arthritis yet.  The second is an older dog who has also had hip dysplasia as a young dog, but for reasons not completely known, doesn’t develop discomfort until arthritis has set in.   The treatments for each of these dogs is usually either surgical or medical.  For young dogs there are surgeries (such as triple pelvic osteotomy and juvenile pubic symphysiodesis) which can change the alignment of the pelvis to produce a better ball and socket joint.  For older dogs surgical management consists of either a total hip replacement done by a veterinary surgical specialist or a procedure called a FHO, where the ball portion of the hip is removed so the dog develops a false joint, thus minimizing pain.

laserTherapyMedical management is appropriate for either young or old dogs when surgery isn’t an option.  Medical management consists of weight reduction where necessary, non-steriodal anti-inflammatory medication (Rimadyl/Previcox), cartilage protecting agents (glucosamine/Adequan), and cold laser therapy.

If your dog has been diagnosed with hip dysplasia, your veterinarian will speak with you about the pros and cons of each procedure.  Then you can make an informed decision about which procedure is best for you and your pet.