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Understanding Hip Dysplasia In Big Dogs

We love our big dogs, but we also know that many of the big breeds — Mastiffs, Great Danes, German Shepherds, Saint Bernards, Labrador Retrievers, Newfoundlands and others, suffer joint issues and are prone to canine hip dysplasia. This is a condition in which the ball and the socket in the hip are malformed and that means they don’t properly align and this leads to rubbing, grinding and pain for your big dog.

Canine hip dysplasia is considered one of the most common skeletal diseases seen in big dogs. Small dogs may suffer canine hip dysplasia, but rarely display the same clinical signs that big dogs do. This disease is one that starts in a dog when he is young; early onset dysplasia can begin at four months of age. Later onset canine hip dysplasia can develop as a result of your dog being stricken with osteoarthritis.

What are the symptoms of canine hip dysplasia?

Understanding Hip Dysplasia In Big Dogs

Here are a few:

  • Decreased activity
  • Limping
  • Lack of interest in running, jumping or playing
  • Pain in hip joints
  • Joint looseness
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Pain at the site
  • Loss of muscle mass

Many of these could be subtle and your dog will try to hide his pain. It may take a trip to the veterinarian’s office to determine whether she is suffering hip dysplasia.

What are some of the causes of canine hip dysplasia?

Here are a few:

  • Weight gain
  • Obesity
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Genetic predisposition

How will your veterinarian diagnose canine hip dysplasia?

Your pet will undergo a thorough physical examination that may involve a blood draw, urinalysis and x-rays. Inflammation because of a joint issue could be found in the blood count testing. Your vet will also ask for a thorough history of your pet — whether he’s as active as he once was, any changes in activity, etc. This information will help your veterinarian determine whether it is a chronic condition or caused by a physical injury.

If you notice your dog is having a hard time moving around or appears to limp or favor one leg or have trouble going up and down the stairs, offer him an orthopedic big dog bed, call your veterinarian and uncover the cause of his pain. You may be interested in this book on Canine Arthritis.

Robbi Hess

Journalist, humor columnist and author of "Your Field Guide to Becoming a Pet Blogger".

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