Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia in Huskies

Canine hip dysplasia is a form of arthritis. The word “dysplasia” means abnormal growth or structure. If your husky has canine hip dysplasia, the leg bone and pelvic (hip) bone don’t fit like a ball into a catcher’s mitt because the cup formed by the pelvic bone is too shallow. The leg bone slides out of the pelvic socket and may dislocate. Painful arthritis can develop in your dog. Dysplasia can occur in one or both of your dog’s hips.

Large breed dogs are prone to hip dysplasia, including St. Bernards, German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and Rottweilers. Luckily the sled dog breeds do not have a severe problem with dsyplasia but screening for problems before breeding can eliminate the possibility of passing on dsyplasia to offspring.

The hip, or coxofemoral joint (from coax for hip and femoral for the femur thigh bone), is where the spine and upper body meet the leg. Three bones fuse together to make the hip bone: the sacrum, which embraces the lower spine; the ilium which forms the portion we sit on; and the acetabulum, which forms the sides. The acetabulum has a deep groove like a catcher’s mitt into which the top of the large thigh bone, the femur, sits. This is a ball and socket joint, and the head of the femur rotates like a ball within the hip (acetabular) socket. The femur is held in the socket by hip muscles and by the round ligament that directly attaches the femur to the acetabulum. The bones are covered with cartilage, bathed with synovial fluid, and sealed inside a synovial membrane. The cartilage and synovial fluid work to cushion movement so that the bones don’t jar together when your dog runs or jumps.

Canine hip dysplasia is a problem for dogs and their owners because it causes severe pain and immobility. If your dog has hip dysplasia, he or she will struggle to get up, to climb stairs, to get into a car, and to squat to urinate and defecate. Many dogs lose their good natures because of immobility and pain. The relationship you have with your dog deteriorates because your dog won’t feel like playing, and it becomes an effort to do anything with your dog since he or she needs to be lifted and carried.

There are over 400 dog genetic diseases, and canine hip dysplasia is one of the most significant. It is a polygenetic disease, meaning more than one gene is involved. Some breeders certify their dogs have good genetics by submitting X-rays to the BVA (British Veterinary Association). Dogs certified as scoring above average are less likely to produce puppies carrying genes for hip dysplasia.

Stop breeding dogs that have hip dysplasia
Efforts to stop breeding dogs with hip dysplasia have benefited several breeds. In German Shepherds, for example, after five years of selection the incidence of hip dysplasia decreased from 55% to 24%. In Labrador Retrievers, the incidence decreased from 30% to 10%. These efforts have meant that fewer families will have the painful chore of caring for their beloved dog that aches so much he or she can hardly walk.

Avoid overfeeding your dog
Diet has a profound effect on hip dysplasia. In fact, diet is so important that major dog food manufacturers now market diets specifically for large-breed puppies most prone to develop dysplasia. These diets have fewer calories because research has proven that the less these puppies weigh, the less likely they are to develop dysplasia. Puppies fed 25% less than their littermates had markedly less hip dysplasia as adults; and those pups that eventually developed dysplasia did so at a later age. Thinner pups had more pain-free years than the chubby pups. Keeping your pet’s weight on the light side so that the ribs can be felt helps prevent your dog from developing dysplasia, and helps him or her move more easily if it does develop.

Exercise young dogs with moderation
Puppies can be predisposed to develop joint disease if they are asked to do more than they should, such as jumping high or running long distances. Don’t have your puppy jump higher than his or her elbow until he or she is at least one year of age. If your puppy jumps on his or her own, do not panic, but do not encourage it either. Design training and agility equipment so that bars are at the level of the elbow until your puppy has adult bone and muscle structure. Because hip dysplasia develops in puppies, protecting them while they’re young makes sense. Swimming is one of the best exercises for dogs because it builds muscles without stressing joints.

Abnormal hips cause an abnormal gait so that dogs with hip dysplasia often “bunny hop” or use both back legs simultaneously to hop when they run. Canine hip dysplasia symptoms can include difficulty getting up from a sitting position, climbing stairs, and squatting to urinate or defecate. Dogs with hip dysplasia tend to have a narrow stance, that is, stand with their back legs close together.

Some dogs actually have mildly dysplastic hips when they’re young (noted on X-ray), but won’t have canine hip dysplasia symptoms until they’re older. Older dogs tend to have less muscle mass to hold their bones correctly, so that’s when dysplasia is obvious, even though it existed for several years. Dogs with severe hip dysplasia have obvious problems when they’re young.

Hip dysplasia in dogs is extremely painful, and it is heartbreaking for any dog owner to have to witness his or her dog suffering. The condition is so serious that your dog will struggle to do normal activities, and the pain so severe that it can even change your dog’s temperament. Most likely, your dog will not want to play or do any kind of exercise. Fortunately, there are several treatment options available to help alleviate your dog’s pain. Homeopathic remedies are always recommended before giving pain medication, since pain medication has potentially dangerous side effects. Below are some treatment options for canine hip dysplasia including natural remedies, everyday tips, and surgery.

You can help ease your dog’s pain if he or she suffers from hip dysplasia. Since canine hip dysplasia is a form of degenerative arthritis, joint supplements, which help dogs with arthritis, can also help your dog with hip dysplasia. Other options include homeopathic remedies, Omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants, NSAIDs, and as a last resort, pain medications

If your dog has a predisposition to canine hip dysplasia, we recommend supplementing your dog’s diet with joint supplements, antioxidants, and Omega 3 fatty acids to help decrease the tendency to develop hip dysplasia, and to help control pain if it develops. Research shows that 75% of dogs with hip dysplasia will lead normal quality lives with the appropriate supplements and wise management.

Feed your dog pet food formulated for weight control.
Consider gentle exercises like swimming.
Decrease your dog’s jumping by using pet steps and ramps.
Allow your dog to warm up slowly before exercising.
Include frequent exercises for short periods each day. Ten minute increments three times a day is better than 30 minutes a day.
Provide a soft supportive orthpedic dog bed.
Elevate your dog’s food and water bowls.
Use a supportive harness when walking your dog.

Richard Bailey

Richard Bailey, along with his wife, Faye started the Northernwolf website way back in 2003 with a view to helping other husky owners who had questions about this amazing breed of dog. The website now caters for all other sled dog breeds.

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