Labrador Retriever Dog Gifts : Articles : Lab Health : Hip Dysplasia
By Shannon K. Steffen
Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD)
BE AWARE - FOR YOU AND YOUR LAB
Finding out that your Labrador Retriever or large breed pup has Hip Dysplasia is one of the most devastating diagnoses that any dog owner hears. We are conditioned to think this is one of the worst large breed dog problems and that there is no hope for the pup after such a condition has been confirmed. Unfortunately, Canine Hip Dysplasia is not curable and can be quite painful if the Lab is not diagnosed early and necessary precautions made to increase the quality of life for the pup. That is why it is important to become knowledgeable in how to lessen the chance for such a diagnosis, how to know when your pup needs to be seen by a veterinarian, and what treatment options are available.
What is Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD)?
Hip Dysplasia? simply means an abnormal formation of the hip joint. The head of the femur is supposed to match the socket of the joint. Those Labs that lack a snug fit between the ball and socket of the hip joint are those diagnosed with varying degrees of Hip Dysplasia. Some pups may only have a slight change, while others can have complete dislocation. Hence, no two dogs will be affected by the disorder exactly the same.
The Origin of Hip Dysplasia
Most studies have shown that the number one contributing factor to CHD is genetics. If the parents are carrying the genetic material for CHD, so will the offspring. Even if both parents are OFA Excellent, the opportunity for CHD is still available but less likely to occur.
There is also evidence to conclude that a number of environmental conditions can affect the expression of CHD and include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Nutrition Proper nutrition is crucial during the growth phase of a pup. This does not mean that food or calories should be restricted. Ideally, a high-quality meat-based diet is essential for growing pups and by using a large or giant breed puppy food will assist you in ensuring your growing Lab pup receives all the nutrients its needs while maintaining a proper caloric intake. An overweight puppy or dog adds much unnecessary stress on the hips and joints.
- Physical Activity Large and giant breed pups are in the growth phase of development from birth to 1 year of age. The more strenuous exercise it receives during this period, the greater chance of it developing Hip Dysplasia or arthritis later in life. Climbing stairs, jumping into and out of pick-up trucks, running with other normal dogs, all subject the growing hip structures to unwarranted stress and trauma and increase the future discomfort for the Lab.
- Bedding Although there is no evidence that bedding can increase the level of CHD in a pup, there is still the possibility. Smooth concrete, wood, or newspaper surfaces can become very slippery for a Lab and not allow them to get their footing. The lack of stability of the surface they are walking on can cause their legs to slide from underneath them and put further stress on the hips and joints.
Signs of Hip Dysplasia
Possible signs of CHD in young pups and older dogs can include the following:
- Runs with both back legs nearly together (rabbit run)
- Reluctant to rise after exercising
- Sits back unsteady
- Difficulty climbing stairs or inclines
- Look slightly undeveloped in the rear quarters
- Legs not parallel when standing straight
- Boniness to the pelvic area from lack of good muscle development
- Inability to extend the leg backward very far
- Decreased range of motion or stiffness
- Rock forward to support more weight on the front legs
- Tip-toeing lightly on rear legs
- Reluctant to jump or stand up on hind legs
- Sits rather than stand
- Decrease in willingness to exercise
- Popping or snapping sounds when walking
- Soreness after lying down
- Sensitivity to touch of the hindquarters
- Hind leg lameness
- Swaying or staggering
- Abnormal gait
It is very important to note that a Labrador Retriever may appear normal and yet have Hip Dysplasia. Some dogs with this disorder will escape pain or simply accept it as a fact of life and don’t complain until degenerative joint disease sets in.
Detecting Hip Dysplasia
Labs with obvious signs of CHD (hip soreness, difficulty arising or climbing inclines, muscle atrophy over the rump, limping) are not a challenge to confirm as such. This does not mean that a veterinarian can just look at a dog and determine them to have Hip Dysplasia. At a minimum, the Lab needs to have a pelvic x-ray taken under anesthesia. You must have the x-ray to know if the dog is normal or suffering from a separate disorder.
The reason anesthesia is necessary is that the veterinarian can only then palpate and manipulate the hips to actually feel the degree of looseness. Also, the tension of the muscles in the rump is best assessed under the anesthesia.
Surgery is a viable option for dogs with severe CHD but it is not for every dog. Drug therapies are helpful to deal with pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, naproxen, Adequan, and Cosequin have been proven effective in many cases. These anti-inflammatory drugs, accompanied with such treatments as weight loss and moderate exercise, will help to alleviate the pain and inflammation around the jip joint. This increases the quality of life for the Labrador Retriever pup and allows them to love normal? with some small restrictions. Some owners will even review acupuncture as an additional alternative prior to investing, emotionally and financially, to surgery.
The types of surgery available for CHD include:
- Triple pelvic osteotomy a procedure to stabilize the joint and prevent degenerative changes that accompany weight-bearing stress on abnormal hips;
- Femoral head excision used to prevent bone-on-bone friction; or
- Total hip replacement.
The decision on the type of surgery preformed is based on the age of the Lab, the progress of the disease, and the general health of the dog.
Prevention of Hip Dysplasia
There are few things you can do in the way of prevention, but you should consider the following:
- When selecting a puppy, find out the OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) hip score for the sire and dam. You should be looking to purchase offspring from parents whose hips have been evaluated and scored good or excellent. The PennHIP program for evaluating canine hips can provide excellent objective information about hip joints in dogs as young as four months of age.
- Picking up the problem as early as possible affords your pup the best chance of finding the right option, whether medical or surgical, to minimize the arthritic changes that will develop secondary to the Hip Dysplasia.
It is very sad indeed for any Lab owner to see their special pup affected by the discomfort and mobility problems associated with CHD. Fortunately, armed with knowledge and forethought, highly selective breeding is your best defense against CHD.
Any health care links and information in this article should NOT replace a veterinarian visit or advice; please take your Lab to a vet immediately at any sign of odd behavior, such as aggression, or any symptoms of illness or injury.