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What is Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia (hip abnormality or disease) is the medical term for "badly formed hip" and is a genetic issue that is extremely common in larger dog breeds. In a dog with healthy hips, the ball at the end of the leg bone fits smoothly into a pocket in the hip, just as pieces of a puzzle fit together. In dogs with hip dysplastic problems, the ball doesn't fit into the pocket as well as it should. The ball may roll around loosely in the socket, causing your pet to limp or seem pained during exercise or other activities.

Many large and giant breed dogs are genetically predisposed to hip dysplasia, especially German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, Great Danes, Golden Retrievers, Doberman Pinschers, Mastiffs, St. Bernards, Border Collies, Newfoundlands, English Mastiffs, Neopolitan Mastiffs, and Bullmastiffs. In some cases, about 50 percent of some larger breeds are affected.

While less common, the disease can also occur in medium-sized breeds and even in small breeds. Dysplasia can even develop in cats, although cats rarely have severe symptoms as a result of weighing less and putting less strain on their joints.

Dogs and cats of all ages are subject to the symptoms of hip dysplasia, but in most cases, symptoms don't begin to show up until the middle or later years. If you are able to nip the problem in the bud at an early stage, you will prevent your dog from experiencing even greater problems down the road.

Dogs that show physical symptoms may walk or run with an altered gait, often resisting movements that require full extension or flexion of their hind legs. Many times, they run with a "bunny hopping" gait because their legs are stiff and painful after exercise or first thing in the morning.

Hip dysplasia may also cause arthritis, which hinders movement in affected dogs. Some pets will warm up nicely after they've been moving for a while. Other dogs' gaits will worsen with exercise, and they may resist extended activity.

As dysplasia progresses, dogs may lose muscle tone and even need help getting up. Many owners attribute the changes to normal aging, but once their pets are treated for dysplasia, owners may be shocked to see more normal, pain-free movement.

Flint River Ranch has developed two glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate-fortified products to assist in the possible prevention and holistic treatment of hip dysplasia: our Flint River Ranch PLUS premium pet food and our Jubilee Wafer dog biscuit treats.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate are naturally occurring nutritional supplements widely recommended for their potential value in helping animals suffering from or genetically predisposed to suffering from hip dysplasia (as well as other forms of dysplasia). These organic supplements work by minimizing cartilage damage and swelling, increasing joint lubrication, helping to rebuild the cartilage that cushions and protects joints, and enhancing new cartilage production.

In addition to supplementing your pet's diet with glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate supplements, if your pup has the genes for hip dysplasia, it is also vital to prevent overly rapid growth during adolescence, especially in the larger and giant dog breeds. The extra weight will place additional strain on the hips, further loosening the ball-and-socket fit. Another key for all dog breeds is to ensure your canine companion maintains his or her ideal weight, as overweight / obese dogs are much more prone to hip dysplasia issues.

Dysplasia can also be aggravated by rough play, jumping, climbing stairs, sliding on slick floors, calcium supplementation (which can increase the rate of bone formation), or forced running for any distance, especially on hard surfaces. You can keep your canine buddy's joints healthy by avoiding these situations as much as possible.

Seek veterinary treatment if your dog's condition worsens. With extra care and proper nutrition, your dog can live a long, happy and virtually pain-free life with hip dysplasia.

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Some of the information on hip dysplasia courtesy of the Canine Inherited Disorders Database.

Related terms: OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals), OFA radiograph, osteoarthritis, osteochondrodysplasia, elbow dysplasia (frequently misspelled as dysplaysia, displasia and displaysia)

FAQs: Pet Health Risks and Remedies

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