Hip dysplasia (joint disease of the hips) in dogs

Large breed dogs are more likely to suffer from hip dysplasia

One of the biggest concerns of dog owners, especially large breeds, is whether their young pet will fall victim to the suffering of degenerative joint disease of the hips as a result of genetic hip disease. This can take a few different forms in pets. The two most common diagnoses especially of young animals are hip dysplasia in young large breed dogs, and Legg-Calve-Perthes disease in small breed dogs.

Many affected pets display varying degrees of stiffness, pain and weakness of the lower legs. These pets can experience trouble rising from a laying position or going up or down stairs, lameness of varying degrees, and a gait that is often characterized as “bunny-hopping” of the rear legs, because the dog looks like a rabbit in using its rear legs.

Over the years there have been many suspected causes and contributing factors including genetic causes, nutritional factors and even toxic factors such as over vaccination or misuse of chemical pesticides. One of the bigger debates in the veterinary community over the decades is how best to diagnose these various hip disorders. For many years it was often felt that a technique known as the OFA was most accurate in diagnosing or predicting which dogs would develop clinical signs of hip dysplasia. However, in recent years a newer and seemingly more accurate technique known as the PennHip has apparently replaced the OFA technique in diagnosing and predicting future hip joint disease.

As its name implies, this x-ray technique, which can be done on animals as young as a few months, was developed at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. In essence, it seems that through assessing the laxity and looseness of the hips seen in x-rays has a far superior predictive quality in telling which dogs are going to be most severely affected. It is important for animal guardians to seek out an appropriate PennHip trained veterinarian in doing these special types of x-rays, rather than a general practitioner.

Once excessive laxity and/or hip dysplasia or joint disease is diagnosed, I find it very important for guardians to be more proactive in helping minimize the development and progression of degenerative joint disease of the hips. In my opinion this is best done through appropriate natural nutrition through great pet food diets, or natural homemade diets through books by nutritional experts like Donald Strombeck or Richard Pitcairn, DVM, PhD. One of the fathers of veterinary nutritional therapy in veterinary medicine, Wendell Belfield, DVM, has long advocated the use of high doses of antioxidant vitamins and nutrients such as vitamin C and other nutrients that reduce inflammation and strengthen the collagen and connective tissues of joints throughout the body.

Products like Proanthozone and fatty acids such as Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Pet can also help reduce free radical inflammation and strengthen the lubrication of the hip joints.   Super Joint Enhancer provides an easily to administer source of chondroitin and glucosamine to also help strengthen the health of the joints. By also avoiding chemical stresses on our pets’ bodies, including over vaccination, as well as incorporating some of the dietary and nutritional therapies mentioned here, animal guardians can go a long way towards managing and preventing future signs of discomfort in pets afflicted with these hip joint diseases.

If symptoms become more intense, then veterinarians can certainly prescribe nonsteroidal anti inflammatory drugs such as Rimadyl, Previcox and Deramaxx which can help reduce pain and inflammation. In the worse case scenario, various and newer hip joint surgeries are now available, including total hip replacement, TPO procedure, as well as salvage procedure called an  FHO (femoral head and neck excision). No matter which medical and/or surgical intervention is most appropriate, the vast majority of pets can indeed live relatively comfortable and normal lives, especially when the above adjunctive therapies are incorporated.

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