Hip Dysplasia in Golden Retrievers
"We think our dog has Hip Dysplasia. What do we
What is Hip Dysplasia?
Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD) is a condition in
which the hip ball and socket don't fit together
properly, causing wear, pain and disability.
As the dog ages, the affected hip joint
gradually becomes arthritic and degenerates, potentially
leading to the total crippling of the hind limbs.
exact cause of hip dysplasia is unknown, but it is
believed to develop because the skeleton grows faster
than the supporting muscles. The imbalanced growth rate
is influenced by heredity and diet. Other unknown
factors may influence the development and severity of
Since hip dysplasia has an hereditary component, dogs
with this condition should not be bred.
all dogs with hip dysplasia are affected to the same
degree. The disease can be very mild and cause no signs
at all, or it can be severe and cause crippling of the
hind limbs. Whereas the disease usually affects both
hips, occasionally it only affects one side. Although
this disease is most common in large-breed dogs, it can
occur in any breed.
Golden Retrievers are commonly affected, and while
the diagnosis can be of serious concern to owners, the
severity of the condition -- and treatment options --
Lizzy -- A Severe
Case Requiring Surgery
Lizzy most likely began her life at a puppy mill, the
typical source of pet store puppies like her. She
was 4 months old when she was surrendered to GRRI-NJ. GRRI volunteer Karen
Thompson was Lizzy's foster Mom, and in very short
order, her adoptive Mom as well.
But over the next few months, Karen
noticed that Lizzy was becoming
exceptionally clumsy and seemed to be dragging her back
end. X-rays then confirmed that Lizzy had severe
CHD in both hips.
Karen's regular vet referred her to Dr. Gregory Zoltan, of
Lebanon, NJ who specializes in hip surgeries.
The procedure Dr. Zolton recommended was
Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO),
in which the tops of both femur bones (the ball of the
hip ball and socket joint) would be removed.
Dr. Zolton explained that when
the ball is removed, the dog's body forms scar tissue that
supports the femur. He also noted that young dogs
are particularly good candidates for this type of
Though it can be effective, and has been for Lizzy, the
surgery doesn't come cheap: $2500.
Tyler -- A Moderate
Case Responsive to Lifestyle Changes
Tyler was somewhere
between 9 and 10 years old when he was surrendered by his
former owners. He was severely overweight and in
such pain from CHD that he could barely walk and had to be lifted
(not an easy task!) into the car transporting him to his
foster home. Over the next few months, he lost
approximately 20 lbs, was given glucosomine and
chondroitin supplements every day, and started a
gradually increasing daily regiment of gentle exercise
(such as walking on soft ground) -- all to reduce the
stress on his joints and build compensating muscle.
And it worked! Evenutually, Tyler could even run
... especially if food was involved!
CHD symptoms can show up after a puppy's first growth spurt,
as with Lizzy, or as with Tyler, it can develop slowly
over a lifetime. Things to look for:
1. Weakness or lameness to the rear legs after exercise
or when first getting up after resting.
2. A bunny hop
3. Clumsiness, awkwardness or limping when walking.
4. Inability to jump
Decreased activity, less energy.
Difficulty going up and down stairs.
Sitting or lying instead of standing.
9. Worsening symptoms in bad weather.
Whimpering when touched on joints.
Loss of muscle mass in the thigh area.
If symptoms occur and persist, a dog should be x-rayed
for a definitive diagnosis.
In addition to the
FHO that Lizzy had, other surgical
interventions also exist:
Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (TPO) - In a TPO, the pelvis is cut in three places
and then rotated to allow normal function with less
arthritis. If this is done at the proper development
phase it can be a lifelong solution to CHD.
Total Hip Replacement (THR) - THR is recommended for
adult dogs that are severely dysplastic. The hips are
replaced with prosthetic hips. They are composed of
three parts-the femoral stem, the femoral head, and the
acetabular cup. Over 95% of dogs who undergo this
procedure are able to function normally after surgery.
Other Therapeutic &
For dogs who either
don't need or aren't good candidates for surgery, other
therapeutics, such as acupuncture, homeopathy, massage,
and chiropracty, can also be effective.
Glucosomine and Chondroitin supplements (available in
human grade or under the veterinary trade name Cosequin)
are often especially helpful for the dysplastic dog.
Some Lifestyle Tips:
1. Elevate your dog's food and water bowls.
2. Keep your
dog lean; excess weight exacerbatest the problem.
3. Massage your dog as often as possible.
4. Keep your dog warm.
5. Provide your dog with a soft, warm place to sleep.
6. Apply warm compresses to painful areas (no electric
heating pads-they can cause burns).
7. Provide your dog with regular moderate play and exercise,
such as swimming and walking on soft ground.
If your dog has difficulty getting in and out of the car
on other high places, provide your dog with a dog ramp
(available at pet supply centers.).
Thanks to Sylvia Mogerman and Eileen McFadden for
contributing to this article.