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Dog dysplasia: how to recognize it and how much does surgery for dysplasia cost?

Dog dysplasia

Imagine that the elements of your joint no longer fit together, and every movement is associated with excruciating pain.

This pain increases with each physical activity, but you don't want to give it up.

This is what a dog with hip dysplasia feels

And this disease most often affects puppies from 6 to 12 months of age who are curious about the world and willing to play.

Joint dysplasia in dogs is one of the most common orthopedic conditions that affect mainly large breed dogs.

In this article, I will try to bring you, in an accessible way, the essence of the disease and what to do if it is diagnosed.

I will also explain which animals are at increased risk and what you can do to minimize them.

  • How the hip joint is built in a dog?
  • What is dog dysplasia?
  • Causes of Dog Dysplasia
  • Which dogs have dysplasia?
  • Dog dysplasia symptoms
    • What should worry you about the behavior of a puppy or adult dog?
  • Hip dysplasia in a dog: causes
  • Diagnosis of dysplasia
  • Procedure after diagnosis of the disease
  • Treatment of dysplasia in dogs
    • The right dose of exercise, exercise and the dog's physical therapy
    • Irap Orthokine Vet
    • Alternative methods of treating hip dysplasia
    • How much does the operation cost?
  • Untreated hip dysplasia
  • Rehabilitation for hip dysplasia

How the hip joint is built in a dog?

The structure of the dog's hip joint

However, to talk about dysplasia, one should start with the anatomical structure of a healthy, properly shaped hip joint.

The hip joint (lat. articulatio coxae) is a spherical joint composed of femoral head and hip joint socket of the pelvic bone.

The articular surfaces are covered hyaline cartilage and the whole is surrounded a joint capsule.

The structures that stabilize the joint are acetabular transverse ligaments and ligament of the femoral head.

The head of the femur, similar in shape to a ball, fits into the acetabulum in a healthy joint. In turn, the synovial fluid ensures smooth movements in the joint without friction and resistance.

The entire joint is, of course, complemented by muscles that stabilize individual structures and put the joint in motion.

Now that we know what a healthy hip joint looks like, let's focus on the pathology of the dog's hip dysplasia.

What is dog dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is a hereditary disease, genetically passed on from parents to offspring, consisting in underdevelopment, mismatch, and loosening of the structures that build the hip joint (acetabulum, femoral head and ligaments).

What is dysplasia?

The consequence is an inaccurate fit in the joint, displacement of the femoral head in relation to the position of the acetabulum, and subluxation or dislocation in the joint.

Such a condition inevitably leads to the deformation of the anatomical structures of the joint and the progressive degeneration of the hip joint.

The shape of the femoral head may disappear or the acetabulum may flatten.

The term dysplasia comes from the Greek words dis - badly, improperly and plastos - shaped formed, plasis - to create, shape and means an improperly built, improperly shaped, malfunctioning hip joint.

Of course, we are dealing with dysplasia not only in the case of the hip joint. It can also affect other joints, such as the elbow.

What are the symptoms elbow dysplasia in a dog you can see the video below

Dog with Elbow Dysplasia
Watch this video on YouTube

Nevertheless, hip dysplasia is one of the best-known and more common orthopedic problems in dogs and we will focus on it later in this article.

Causes of Dog Dysplasia

The essence of the disease is the tendency inherited from parents to improperly shape the hip joint, as a consequence of which it relaxes.

The hereditary background shows that it is most often sick parents that pass on this trait to their offspring, similarly to potentially healthy carriers of the dysplasia genes.

Since we know the underlying causes of the disease, it would seem that the elimination of diseased animals from reproduction should solve the problem of dysplasia.

Meanwhile, not everything is so simple and despite the exclusion of patients from breeding, the problem persists and is one of the most common orthopedic diseases.

It turns out that dysplasia has a polyetiological, multifactorial and basis it does not depend solely on genes.

So far, no specific genes in the dog's genetic material responsible for the development of this disease have been established, but it is commonly believed that it is multigeneous (the genetic information responsible for the development of the disease is stored in not one gene, but many).

There are also many different and not yet fully understood diseases for the development of the disease environmental factors. They can change or modify the development of ailments. These are, for example, the very fast growth of puppies of molossian breeds, or unnecessary calcium supplementation in the feed.

Young, growing dogs of large breeds fed a balanced, ready-to-eat food appropriate for their age and size do not require additional calcium-containing supplements.

These supplements are rather recommended for dogs fed on a home diet where there is a risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

This is a common mistake made by ignorant dog owners who think that a fast-growing dog requires enormous amounts of calcium for proper skeletal development. Remember that excessive supplementation can do more harm than good to your developing body.

It is believed that it is the environmental factors that may intensify the appearance of clinical symptoms, which results from the slowly manifesting deformities during the growth period.

Proper nutrition of the dog during the growth period is extremely important because mistakes made, often even unconsciously, leading to obesity in the later period, may aggravate degenerative joint diseases, including dysplasia.

So let's not overfeed our pets so that we do not have to lose weight later on, which is not a simple process and not always successful.

We must also remember not to force a young, growing dog to excessive physical effort, which may cause injuries and, consequently, intensify degenerative changes.

The bones of large and giant dogs grow until the age of 18-24 months, although we do not see this process externally.

Among the possible causes of the development of lesions, we must mention:

  • delay in ossification of the femoral head,
  • reduced amount of hyaluronic acid, which is a component of the synovial fluid,
  • increased share of type 3 collagen in the elements stabilizing the joint,
  • incorrect angle of inclination of the femoral head and neck, that is, the angle of inclination.

Which dogs have dysplasia?

What dogs suffer from dysplasia?

The common view in the owners' mind is that dysplasia affects dogs of large, heavy breeds, from the moloss group. Is that absolutely true?

Well, not really.

It is true that the disease is much more common in dogs larger than smaller ones, but small breeds can also get sick (spaniels, Pekingese, pugs), as well as some special large cats, for example Maine Coons.

Individual breeds of dogs are particularly exposed to dysplasia:

  • labrador retriever,
  • giant schnauzer,
  • dog,
  • boxer,
  • rottweiler,
  • Caucasian Shepherd,
  • German Shepherd,
  • mastino napoletano,
  • amstaff,
  • pittbull.

The International Cynological Federation recommends testing for dysplasia up to u 25 breeds of dogs and in the case of other large dogs, including hybrids, the attending physician should recommend such an examination in the case of suspected disease.

Many years of observations have shown a more frequent occurrence of this problem in obese dogs with a higher percentage of body fat (5-10%).

Dog dysplasia symptoms

Dog dysplasia symptoms

It will be a truism to say that clinical symptoms of hip dysplasia can manifest itself at any age of the animal.

They will not always be characteristic and specific and, especially at the beginning, may take a delicate form and thus be overlooked by the owner.

However, they most often manifest themselves in age 6-12 months so in the period of very intensive growth.

In a situation where we are dealing with a mild form of dysplasia, they may not appear until the dog 4-5 years old which additionally may mislead the breeder or the doctor who does not always suspect the disease in such a dog.

Sometimes symptoms of hip dysplasia may also appear in very young puppies even in age 3-4 months.

What should worry you about the behavior of a puppy or adult dog?

So what we should pay close attention to? Hip dysplasia produces varying degrees lameness of the pelvic limbs one or both sides.

The affected animal shows symptoms:

  • stiff gait,
  • she gets up from the bed very carefully,
  • carefully makes all movements,
  • sits down or lies down very carefully,
  • has problems climbing stairs,
  • has problems with jumping even into the car,
  • can be less mobile,
  • could be more sleepy,
  • reluctantly moves while refreshed.

Owners sometimes describe the way a sick dog moves as "rabbit hopping ".

You can see what a dog diagnosed with hip dysplasia looks like in the video below

Siberian Husky with hip dysplasia diagnosis (2 years old)
Watch this video on YouTube

Lameness can also worsen after exercise, and a young, growing puppy becomes reluctant to play and prank.

Generally, the symptoms of hip dysplasia begin to worsen as the dog becomes more active, which is a hallmark of healthy growing puppies.

So we can see that even an inexperienced and inexperienced guardian of such an animal at some point in its development begins to notice that something is wrong with its pet and rightly concludes that a healthy normal puppy does not behave like this.

This is the most appropriate moment to go to a trusted veterinarian who will dispel doubts or make a reliable and accurate diagnosis, and when the situation requires it, he will suggest treatment of dysplasia.

What the symptoms of a dog's hip dysplasia may look like?

The dog is sitting down frequently, reluctance to climb stairs Unnatural walking and the characteristic sitting down Characteristic gait - rocking While running, move "on the hare "

Hip dysplasia in a dog: causes

In hip dysplasia, the main cause of the disease is incorrect position of the acetabulum or pelvic acetabulum and thus incorrect distribution of biomechanical forces affecting the articular surface of the femoral head and acetabulum.

In general, the more forward or backward they are in relation to the normal site, the greater the likelihood of lesions.

It may sound complicated, but it generally boils down to the statement that it is the wrong, incorrect arrangement of the elements that build the hip joint that causes its malfunction and further serious consequences.

An instability of the joint arises leading to subluxation, femoral head dislocations and serious degenerative changes.

Joint degeneration and not only are they a process progressing over time, they are inherently related to inflammatory process and soreness.

In fact, a sick animal is in pain and is therefore less active, limping and reluctant to move.

The degenerative processes are characterized by the fact that without treatment, they increase with age and the older the animal, the more damaged the hip joint is.

Being the caretakers of dogs, it is inhumane to let them suffer unnecessary pain, thus feeling great discomfort in life.

Diagnosis of dysplasia

The diagnosis can be made by collecting data from a clinical history and conducting research clinical trial confirmed radiological examination.

It is very important thorough interview with the owner, which describes your puppy's abnormal behavior and lists in detail the symptoms that might indicate hip problems.

Diagnostics should reveal the possible risk of developing hip dysplasia as early as possible and this route seems to be the most appropriate.

You can also wait for the first symptoms to appear and then start determining the cause, which is closely dependent on the owner of the dog.

Before you order specific diagnostics for orthopedic diseases, take a look at:

  • dog behavior,
  • his appearance,
  • occurring lameness,
  • let's evaluate the way we move.

By performing detailed clinical trials to assess abnormalities in the hip joint (Ortolani's test, Barlow if Bardens), we can say at a very early age, only in u Puppies 6-8 weeks old - the onset of dysplasia.

Of course, I would be very far from confining myself to a certain diagnosis at this stage of the study, as it is easy to make a mistake here.

Some of these tests require putting the patient under general anesthesia to relax the muscles and eliminate muscle tension reflexes during the examination.

These tests generally assess the fit of the femoral head to the acetabulum and evaluate massive changes indicative of a subluxation of the femoral head relative to the acetabulum.

Clinical examination that may indicate a developing hip dysplasia should be completed X-ray examination.

Currently, the most recommended method for conducting this research seems to be the method PennHip, consisting in taking pictures in three different projections.

We use it in puppies aged over 4 months.

By looking at the films made, we can designate DI factor, which determines the condition of the hip joints.

Other evaluation methods, such as a method, can also be used GIFT (Dorsal Acetabular Rim) enabling the determination of a special angle of inclination of the upper acetabular arch and its precise analysis.

X-ray examination that will allow for certain exclusion of hip dysplasia should be performed in animals at least two years old.

As with any disease, it is extremely important to identify as early as possible because the possibilities of helping a suffering dog decrease with age and the development of changes in the hips.

Different organizations use slightly different systems to assess hip joints and possible hip dysplasia.

In Poland, following the guidelines of the International Cynological Federation, the following rating scale was introduced:

  • A1- hips healthy, normally shaped,
  • A2- hip joints almost normal
  • B- hip joints suspicious,
  • C1- slight dysplasia,
  • C2- moderate dysplasia,
  • C3- severe dysplasia.

Diagram showing the steps in the management of hip dysplasia in a dog

Hip dysplasia stages in dogs

If you receive an assessment B, in young, growing dogs, retesting is required around the age of 2 years, on the other hand, assessments indicating dysplasia eliminate sick individuals from further reproduction and qualify them for treatment.

In other hip joint assessment systems, all elements of the hip joints visible in the photo are assessed, and any pathological changes are then assigned points.

The sum of the scores obtained in this way is the basis for assessing the presence of dysplasia and its degree.

Interestingly, there are different evaluation systems in the world, others approved by the American organization dealing with evaluation (OFA - Ortopedic Foundation for Animals) and still others by the European FCI or the British BVA (British Veterinary Association).

In our country, designated veterinarians specializing in radiology deal with the assessment of X-rays for hip dysplasia from the part of the Kennel Club.

You can find a list of veterinarians who can take and annotate x-rays that are considered for breeding purposes here.

Procedure after diagnosis of the disease

Although hip dysplasia is a genetically determined disease, it allows, through appropriate management of the puppy, to limit its progress and thus the symptoms.

It seems crucial for the development of the disease and the severity of clinical symptoms way of feeding puppies and maintaining optimal body weight.

Numerous studies have shown that dysplasia is more common in animals with excess body weight. So let's make sure that our dogs are not fat and therefore heavy.

The second extremely important factor is the right amount of exercise.

"Movement is health," the old saying goes, but too much, too much effort causes more harm than good.

It causes minor injuries to the articular cartilage and inevitably leads to the development of the disease.

So let's not allow the puppy to jump over obstacles and control his excessive activity by walking on a leash.

Diagram showing hip dysplasia compared to a healthy joint and x-rays with dysplasia is shown below.

Hip dysplasia compared to a healthy joint

Hip dysplasia in a dog - x-ray image

Treatment of dysplasia in dogs

The management of dysplasia can be of two types and always depends on the individual patient.

We can use pharmacological treatment or choose surgical methods.

It is worth emphasizing that we do not have a simple link between a slight degree of changes in the hip joints that may indicate a slight degree of this disease and the possible future development of osteoarthritis.

In other words, we have many examples where an X-ray image reveals a pathology that may indicate dysplasia, which does not result in any movement disorders and no pain or inflammation.

Conversely, sometimes a properly looking x-ray image, or a radiographic image that is only slightly different from the normal one, goes hand in hand with very strongly marked symptoms of a movement disorder.

Always apply the principle that "we treat the patient, not a photo ".

The right dose of exercise, exercise and the dog's physical therapy

The right dose of exercise, exercise and the dog's physical therapy

Therefore, first of all, in our charges without visible serious deformities, subluxations, symptoms of joint degeneration or clear lameness, a procedure aimed at modifying the dog's nutrition and movement should be implemented, and in the case of visible overweight or obesity, a diet aimed at reducing them.

Give your dog a systematic amount of movement, preferably by trotting on a leash next to the leg and on the ground to prevent slippage.

Swimming is also a good activity for your dog.

In such cases, we can recommend exercises to correct the posture of the pelvic limbs or even physical therapy under the supervision of a competent specialist in this field.

It's also important to use dog supplements with articular cartilage or synovial precursors such as chondroitin sulfate, glycosaminoglycans if hyaluronic acid.

Only then can be applied non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which symptomatically inhibit inflammation and thus eliminate clinical symptoms.

Irap Orthokine Vet

Among the numerous options for inoperable management, we can also use new methods of treating joint degeneration and the resulting pain. I mean Irap Orthokine Vet therapy.

These therapies develop in our western neighbors, it consists in administration of a mixture of serum proteins produced in the patient's blood into the sick joint.

As a result of such injection, the inflammatory process and tissue destruction are inhibited or slowed down, and thus we obtain a long-lasting analgesic effect.

We collect blood from the patient's vein, then extract protective proteins from it, which we then apply to the sick joint 7-10 days, several times (3-4 times).

Thanks to this, we obtain a clinical effect after approx 2-3 weeks, which lasts for several years.

Alternative methods of treating hip dysplasia

You may also be tempted to use methods acupuncture or use electric currents to the right places.

Only when all these methods turn out to be insufficient, should we proceed to surgical procedure, which should be used in cases of advanced changes in the joints.

How much does the operation cost?

Operation for dog dysplasia

Many different techniques are used in the surgical procedure and it is an experienced orthopedic doctor who decides which one will be most appropriate in a given case.

The most commonly used surgical techniques include:

  • juvenile anastomosis of the pubic symphysis,
  • triple osteotomy of the pelvic bones,
  • double osteotomy of the pelvic bones,
  • subtrochanteric osteotomy,
  • extension of the femoral neck,
  • dorsal plastic surgery of the acetabular edge,
  • hip joint denervation,
  • amputation of the femoral head and neck,
  • prosthetic hip joints.

Juvenile anastomosis of the pubic symphysis

Juvenile dog symphysis is a relatively new method of preventing the development of degenerative changes in very young puppies, aged 12-20 (24) weeks.

The procedure changes the position of the pelvic acetabulum in relation to the femoral head and involves the mechanical destruction of the pubic symphysis cartilage.

In postoperative management, we must use an antibiotic, painkillers or restriction of movement (stairs, slippery floor).

Triple osteotomy of the pelvic bones

A dog's triple pelvic osteotomy is a complicated surgical procedure consisting in cutting the pelvis in three different places, thanks to which the acetabular vault is lowered and the acetabulum is placed over the femoral head.

It can be carried out in animals as they grow older 5-10 months, in animals without inflammatory or degenerative changes in the joint.

Unfortunately, it is associated with high trauma and a long recovery period of approx 2 months, including monthly drastic restriction in traffic.

Subtrochanteric osteotomy

Subtrochanteric osteotomy can be used in dogs with clinical signs of dysplasia, with a deep acetabulum, with radiographic changes in the form of subluxation of the femoral head and no or slightly marked degenerative changes.

The principle of surgical treatment here is to change the position of the femoral head and neck as well as the trochanteric area in relation to the femoral shaft.

Hip denervation

A simple surgical procedure is denervation of the dog's hip joint.

The procedure involves the mechanical removal of the nerve fibers of the joint capsule, thanks to which the patient does not feel the pain associated with the degeneration of the joint, which, however, continues to progress.

This treatment is especially recommended in cases of very advanced degenerative changes which usually applies to older dogs, and its effect is achieved within a few days and manifests itself in a significant improvement in the clinical condition of the dog.


In the recent past, a frequently performed procedure in the treatment of hip dysplasia was the so-called. pectinectomy involving the removal or cutting of the comb muscle responsible for the adduction of the thigh.

It can be used only in cases where there is no degenerative changes in the hip joint yet.

It is a quite controversial method because, according to many specialists, it can relieve pain symptoms only for a certain period of time, so it does not bring permanent improvement.

Femoral head and neck amputation

More radical treatments related to high trauma and a long period of rehabilitation and high operating costs are the amputation of the head and neck of the femur and prosthesis of the hip joint.

Amputation of the head and neck of the femur in a dog (resection, decapitation) is the last resort for patients with significant degenerative disease.

As a result of the operation to remove these bone elements, the pain is eliminated and a ligament is formed.

The condition for successful treatment is, in addition to a properly performed procedure, also no muscle atrophy and overweight.

The patient usually shows no pain symptoms a few days after the operation, and after approx 2 months uses the operated limb.

Hip joints prosthesis

Perhaps the most complicated surgical treatment in the case of hip dysplasia is its prosthesis.

It is a treatment characterized by significant trauma, demanding long rehabilitation of the patient and very expensive.

The prosthesis of the hip joint in a dog consists in insertion artificial hip joint in place of the one with dysplasia.

It should be considered in dogs that have already completed growth (v over 9 months of age and weighing more than 25 kg) as well as when other methods of treatment have proved to be ineffective.

Importantly, any orthopedic and neurological movement disorders and coexisting infections should be excluded.

The patient must therefore be completely healthy to be able to consider this procedure and at the same time not to show muscle atrophy.

They are also considerable costs of the prostheses themselves and the cost of the operation and subsequent rehabilitation (even several thousand zlotys) hence it is not a commonly used method so far.

Untreated hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a serious orthopedic disease and in no case should it be neglected and the treatment underestimated.

First, as already mentioned, it causes progressive degeneration of the hip joints and associated pain.

A sick animal, suffering chronically, starts to spare its joints and moves less, which results in muscle atrophy.

Sick individuals allowed for reproduction pass this feature on to their offspring, which we cannot allow, being responsible owners.

Unfortunately, despite the use of screening tests, radiological diagnostics and elimination of parents from further breeding, dysplasia has not been significantly reduced and is still present.

There may be several reasons for this.

First of all, dysplasia, being a congenital disease, is modified by numerous factors that we have no influence on and, what is worse, we do not even know all of them until the end, so we are not able to limit them.

Second, animals found free of dysplasia should be retested at age 2-3 years, which not all breeders agree to, let alone carry out these tests.

Thus, dysplasia still persists in the canine population and has not yet become a "historical disease" that can be read about in orthopedic textbooks.

A lot in terms of disease control and prevention depends on the owner of the dog himself, his awareness and knowledge, at least basic, in the field of prevention.

Remember that an obese or overweight animal is a sick individual and is significantly exposed to numerous diseases, not only orthopedic. So let's not overfeed our pets so that we do not have to treat them for a long time later.

Let's buy purebred dogs only from certain sources, with the relevant documents and from parents free from dysplasia.

Do not force the puppy to too strenuous and intense effort, let's limit all play where there is a jerky movement, e.g. retrieving during the period of intensive growth of joints and muscles, especially in breeds predisposed to this disease.

Movement is health and is necessary for the proper development of our pet, but as the old saying says "too much is unhealthy".

Rehabilitation for hip dysplasia

Rehabilitation for hip dysplasia

In the treatment of dysplasia, rehabilitation of the affected animals may turn out to be extremely important, which should be used both in conservative treatment and after surgery.

For dogs that do not show clinical signs or advanced radiographic changes, or whose symptoms are mild, I would recommend conservative treatment. It consists in maintaining a correct figure and appropriate body weight as well as using rational physical exertion.

I know how extremely difficult it is to "explain " to a dog that he should avoid fast running, retrieving or jumping, but it is this activity that causes joint overload and intensifies the symptoms of dysplasia.

Rehabilitation should therefore focus on swimming or walking on a water treadmill (hydrotherapy).

Such forms of activity not only promote the development of muscle mass, and it is the muscles that keep the femoral head in the socket, but also do not put too much strain on the working joints, so they are especially recommended for sick dogs.

Rehabilitation, due to the fact that dysplasia is a chronic, long-lasting disease, is also a long-term process, in some cases even for life.

In order for it to bring the expected results, certain treatments must be repeated constantly.

Treatments turn out to be very useful in the rehabilitation of patients with dysplasia magnetotherapy and laser therapy, which have an analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect, thus slowing down degenerative changes in the joints.

In some cases, NSAIDs may be used in place of NSAIDs TENS electrostimulation treatments, thus enhancing the effects of both therapies.

Any muscle strengthening treatments, so kinesotherapy, electrogymnastics, influencing muscle strength and mobility significantly improve the animal's comfort.

I think that the worst solution is to limit yourself to the use of pharmacological agents, thus resigning from sensible, moderate movement of the animal.

No drugs, even the best ones, can replace properly functioning, efficient muscles, which is why all rehabilitation procedures are used.


My dog ​​has dysplasia - what to do?

To sum up, hip dysplasia is a serious orthopedic disease, sometimes requiring lifetime treatment or major, expensive orthopedic surgery with resection of the elements that build the joint.

Nevertheless, you can live with it in good comfort, although it sometimes requires a lot of commitment on the part of the owner and compliance with the recommendations of the attending physician.

Being a disease not fully understood, however, it raises hopes that one day it will be completely eliminated from the dog population, which is supported by intensive scientific research in this direction.

A dog with dysplasia can really live quite comfortably without suffering at the same time, but the condition is proper, quick diagnosis and well-conducted treatment.

I hope that I was able to present the problem of dysplasia in dogs in an accessible way and you already know what to do when you observe its symptoms in your dog.

If you want to know more about alternative treatments or stem cell treatment of your dog's dysplasia, please add a comment under the article now - I will write back as soon as possible.

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