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Hip dysplasia is a condition that we find in some larger breeds of dog. The problem with hip dysplasia is that the hip does not fit together very well. So the hip is made up of the cup inside the pelvis and the top of the femur of the back leg. What should happen is this femur should fit nice and snug inside the cup of the pelvis and so when it rotates, it has a lot of contacts there and has really good movement within the joint of the hip. So when you fully extend the leg, it can go all the way back and you can flex it all the way up. This is a congenital condition, so animals are... Dogs are born with this. If they are going to have hip dysplasia, it does not happen because of something you have done, it is something they are born with.

And it does not always become apparent until they grow into a certain size. So normally from nine months onward is where you may start to look at it. Up to that point, they are growing and they are not as heavy as they are once they get to nine months plus. And so the movement or the lack of range of movement in the hip is not always apparent. Once it is, we need to look into what we are going to do about it. So there are varying degrees of hip dysplasia, some are quite mild and others are far more advanced. In those advanced cases, they are the ones that may require surgery and they effectively have a hip replacement. So they have a ball and socket joint that is then giving them the range of movement that they would have in a normal hip. It can affect one or both sides of the hips and does not seem to change from breed to breed, it is just random.

The most common breeds that get affected are Labradors, German Shepherds, Rottweilers and we do see some in Border Collies as well. And the reason it would become apparent as they will start to, when they are running, start to bounce on their back legs instead of running independently on their back legs they tend to do what is called bunny hopping. They may also sit a little bit funny, that would be the first clue. When we do x-rays, we try to do them as late as we possibly can. So in a six-month-old dog, not all the bones will have had their full growth yet. And so interpreting those images and to see the degree of hip dysplasia, is not always as easy as it is when they are older.

Once confirmed and diagnosed, we either go down a surgical route or a management route. So in the milder cases, it may be that we want to do physiotherapy just to try and build up the muscle and improve the range of movement in that limb. As they get older, cases of hip dysplasia, dogs with hip dysplasia, are more likely to develop arthritis in the hip joint and therefore we are looking for signs of pain and reduced mobility in the hips and then treating that accordingly with pain relief and joint supplements, acupuncture, hydrotherapy and physiotherapy as required ongoing throughout their lives.

Hip dysplasia is similar to any of these congenital joint diseases, in that if your dog is overweight or too heavy, then the pain and the range of motion is going to be more impaired. So it is really important with any dog, whether they go for the surgical option of a hip replacement or whether you are managing them with pain relief and joint supplements, to make sure their weight is good for them. And if they are overweight you need to get into your vets, contact your veterinary nurse and get them booked into your local veterinary weight watchers.