Hip dysplasia in dogs
Hip dysplasia is a degenerative joint disease common in dogs especially big or larger dogs. A normal pelvis in a dog contains the hip and where the hind legs go into that hip a socket is formed. Between the head of the large bone of the hind leg (femur) and the hip there are different types of soft tissues that allow the leg to move and rotate so that the dog can walk run, jump, sit etc.
Hip dyslasia happens when the pelvic joint develops abnormally. It happens in puppy hood and you can usually see it in an x-ray at the age of 2. What happens is that the head of the femur (leg bone) moves away from the hip just a bit. Then, when the dog moves his leg, the head of the femur grinds away against the soft tissues that connect it to the hip. Over time, the grinding eats away at that soft tissue until both bones become separated.
Usually hip dysplasia in dogs shows itself in mid-life. The dog starts to walk slightly funny, then really funny - until it is extremely painful to walk or move. Other symptoms include leg shaking during sleep.
There are some things that your vet can try if your dog has hip dysplasia, (total/partial hip replacement, injections) but unfortunately, right now the options aren't great.
Arthritis and dysplasia have cartilage break down in common. When the cartilage starts to decompensate, bone starts to rubs against bone and hips pop in and out of sockets. The pain can be excruciating. Strengthening and helping cartilage rebuild is one of the best way to prolong hip-life without surgery. Nutrition is the key to keeping existing cartilage strong and helping your dogs body build new cartilage.
Cartilage, having no blood vessels, nerves, or lymphatics, has no pipeline to oxygen, water and nutrients. Besides water, there are three main components of cartilage: collagen, proteoglycans and a type of cell called chondrocytes.
Collagen is structural ~ it makes cartilage strong and elastic. When nutrients such as amino acids (protein), vitamin C, iron, copper, and manganese are lacking the body can't produce enough collagen.
The cells and proteoglycans fill up the extra spaces around the structural collagen in cartilage. Like half-set jello, they draw and keep water and provide cushion to our joints. Each proteoglycan contains glycosaminoglycans (a protein with specially modified sugars), the most important of these is chondroitin (kon-DROE-it-in) sulfate.
The cells inside cartilage (those cushy chondrocytes) have no direct link to either our blood or lymphatic systems. To get nutrients, surrounding tissues such as the synovial fluid have to ooze. Chondrocytes both produce enzymes that destroy injured or worn out cartilage AND create new cartilage, albeit very, very slowly.
Glucosamine is the most important natural biochemical to kickstart cartilage reconstruction and the amount of glucosamine available in the body determines how much cartilage can be repaired. Taken orally, it is readily asbsorbed into the bloodstream from the gut. A supplement containing both glucosamine, MSM and chondroitin with no or little sodium chloride is less easily metabolized by the liver meaning more is available for cartilage repair. In addition to Glucosamine with MSM and chondroitin, some people have found great success with supplements containing shark cartilage and derivatives from lipids (ie. mussels) such as Sasha's Blend.
Taking supplements which are known antioxidants can also slow or stop the degradation of cartilage. Vitamin C reduces inflammation, is integral to the production of collagen and promotes healing. Natural Vitamin E, specifically d-alpha-tocopherol or mixed tocopherols, protects cell membranes from oxidation. There is an apparent link between people with osteoarthritis and low selenium (a trace mineral which triggers glutathione peroxidase ~ one of the most important antioxidants in the body).
Mineral levels in the body such as selenium should be and can be most easily elevated through proper nutrition. Eating foods rich in niacinamide (vitamin B3), vitamin B6, magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc, and boron as well as the omegas from fish/ fish oils promote good joint health, reduce inflammation and aid cartilage reconstruction. As always ~ nutrients, vitamins and trace minerals in food are best absorbed by the body when foods are eaten in their natural state.
During an HD scare with my bitch a few years ago I submerged myself in forums, books and Q and A's with vets and board surgeons when it comes to surgery options.
From what I learned, specifically with larger dogs, a TPO (Triple Pelvic Osteotomy) if your dog is eligible is the most preferred route. What makes a dog eligible? Typically the dog MUST be under a year old, reason being, nothing is actually replaced as in a THR (Total Hip Replacement). There must be little to no wear on either the acetebulum or femoral head. This surgery is for a specific "type" of hip dysplasia as there are different "kinds". Some dogs have shallow sockets (acetebulum), some are lacking angles in their femoral head. TPO's break the pelvic bone in three areas, then place the acetebulum at the desired angle so the femoral head fits inside. As with any of the HD surgeries, there is intense post-care, usually involving 6 months crate rest and extremely limited activity BUT most dogs can carry out a very active life, even competing in agility competitions after surgery.
Next most preferred surgery for large dogs again specifically is Total Hip Replacements (THR's). This is where the hip is completely replaced. This surgery is usually performed on older dogs, or dogs with significant damage already done to the joint which prevents the option of a TPO. Same recovery time as a TPO, around 6 months of crate rest and extremely limited activity. Depending on the age of the dog, recovery rate is high in those that take care post-surgery. Once again dogs can compete in sports like agility after surgery.
Last option, that I know of, is a Femoral Head Osteotomy (FHO). It's been done in the past only on smaller dogs as the femoral head is completley removed and the muscles and ligaments offer the support for the pelvis and hips that the femoral head normally would. I've read about it being done on larger dogs although the board surgeons I spoke with do not reccomend it, nor would they do it themselves. I'm not sure about the after-care of this option, nor the sucess rate as it was not an option I looked into for my large dog.
For dogs that suffer mild hip dysplasia and for owners that decide surgery is not in their best interest, keeping the dog active in low-impact activities to keep the muscles strong around the pelvis area is also extremely important. Swimming is the absolute best way to keep those muscles strong, but limit the amount of stress on the joint.
And also, something that I went through myself, treat the dog and not the x-ray.
My bitches x-rays showed that she had mild hip dysplasia at 14 months of age. My vet immediately urged me to get a TPO while she still could as there was little to no damage done to the joints. It was very "rush, rush". After speaking with a board surgeon that examined her x-rays he told me exactly that: Treat the dog and not the x-ray. If the time comes she can get a THR, but he was reluctant to believe that she would ever be affected by it, possible when she's older, in the form of "normal arthritis". My dog suffered from no symptoms, she wasn't limping, sore or slow to get up after lying down, but her x-ray said that she had hip dyplasia.
So my most important piece of advice through experience is to look at your dog and decide, not just the x-ray.
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