Those Hips Don't Lie- Hip Dysplasia Explained

Ever see a dog walking down the street, strutting their stuff and shaking their hips? While at first you may think they are trying out for the next Beyoncé music video, the truth is that this type of gait may represent underlying orthopedic disease. The classic “swaying hip” or “bunny hop” gait is associated with hip dysplasia, the most common cause of arthritis in dog hips. 

Hip dysplasia is a condition seen in dogs that leads to instability at the hip joint. The hip joint is a ball and socket joint that should rotate smoothly in all angles of normal motion. Instability at the joint, also known as “laxity”, causes a loose fit and subsequent orthopedic changes like loss of cartilage, boney formation, and scar tissue. These changes can lead to signs of pain, limping, and long term joint changes and arthritis.

This condition is most common in our large, stocky, and fast growing breeds, but smaller breed may also be affected. Various genetic, environmental, and nutritional factors can cause the development of “loose hips”. Signs are usually noted in very young dogs, with significant instability at the joint and even a “bunny-hop” gait, and in more mature dogs, with arthritis and decreased motion in the hip joints.

Hip dysplasia can be identified via physical exam and diagnosed with x-rays of the hips. Early diagnosis in young puppies while growing and prophylactic surgical procedures can be helpful when trying to curb and reduce long-term arthritis in these patients. Older patients may be candidate for additional surgical options based on the severity of their disease and subsequent discomfort. Weight management during growth and lifelong is also key to maintaining as best an orthopedic health as possible.

If you see your pup shaking their hips like Shakira, a quick trip to the vet and orthopedic surgeon could be key curving development of arthritis.

Dr. Nicky

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