Hip Dysplasia (Hip Deformity, HD) is a progressive inherited defect describing the condition that there is a mutation existing in the genetic code that over time leads to an abnormal formation of the hip in every dog that has this mutation.
The abnormal formation of the hip causes looseness in the joints and cartilage damage, which then further leads to a disorder, Arthritis. It can make movements for your dog much tougher and painful too.
Of all the hereditary defects of German Shepherds, the most common probably still is Hip Dysplasia. However, on a global basis, meanwhile less than 1 in 5 dogs is affected.
Hip Dysplasia is painful for your dog, and it's frustrating for yourself too. It can become apparent in adult dogs of any age, even as young as two years.
This progressive defect is orthopaedic in nature and the end stage is even painful to see. Having a dog suffering Hip Dysplasia is not pleasant at all!
Who Suffers Hip Dysplasia
As Hip Dysplasia is inherited it primarily runs in certain breeds, including the German Shepherd Dog.
This recessive genetic defect passes down through a specific lineage of dogs. If you have two loose hip dogs mate with each other, the result is a Hip Dysplasia stricken puppy.
Of course, not all dogs with this genetic defect immediately suffer from it and show symptoms. So even if a puppy's parents have been X-rayed and determined healthy, it can be hard to determine if your new puppy has Hip Dysplasia.
Although an X-ray can determine the degree of Hip Dysplasia, it is not wise to subject a puppy to an X-ray, and worse, just for this purpose: To determine Hip Dysplasia the X-ray requires general anesthesia because the test is extremely painful. Therefore, if at all then this X-ray should be done while the puppy is anesthetized for neutering or spaying.
We did exactly this with my new puppy Miguel, and we only did it because the hospital head vet suspected Hip Dysplasia, and in such case surgery is only successful if done before age 7 months.
There are various lifestyle, environmental, and dietary triggers for Hip Dysplasia, foremost excessive proteins, vitamins and minerals in "fortified food", as is common with industrial dog "food".
Items and substances that are designed to make puppies grow faster or larger also have been shown to trigger Hip Dysplasia.
Further, jumping - during play and excitement, or worse, at the wish of an owner who doesn't know of the danger of jumping for this breed.
Finally, insufficient support of the skeletal development - again triggered by the hypocritically "complete" but in fact toxic industrial dog "food", and then annihilation of the bodily repair mechanism through administration of steroids, as is so often done.
The early indicators of Hip Dysplasia are:
- the puppy or adult dog sits with an indicative angle of the back legs (which quality vets can identify, and indeed our hospital head vet demonstrated with my new puppy)
- later, difficulty in standing or moving
- drop in energy levels
- lameness in the dog's back legs
- not wanting to use stairs, especially when going up
- rarely wanting to stand up on the back legs, nor jumping up on anything
- hopping with the back legs when walking
- signs of soreness when lying down, especially after exercise.
Preventing Hip Dysplasia
Foremost, act responsibly, never pay a breeder for a dog with Hip Dysplasia, whether professional breeder or backyard breeder! By paying them, effectively you reward the breeder for not taking interest in eliminating Hip Dysplasia altogether!
With a rescue dog it's different, and only with a rescue dog, because the adoption fee that you pay to a rescue center is not rewarding the breeder of the dog, but sharing the cost of running the rescue center, such that the innocent dogs can find a real home.
Thus if you really want to get a dog from a breeder, have the dog HD certified before you even consider to pay! At the very least, agree in a written contract that the breeder will have to pay you 10 times the amount if the dog is later found to have HD.
Now most breeders will walk away, and that's great! It sorts out the junk among dog breeders: the breeders who aren't sure that their dogs are HD-free, because the breeders didn't bother to check both parents before their breeding venture!
Thus again, act responsibly and the dog world will improve.
Treating Hip Dysplasia
If you notice any of the early warning signs listed above, regardless of age, make it easy for the dog from now on: In particular no jumping at all for a dog with suspected HD.
Frequent light exercise, eg plain terrain hikes and swimming. Exercise to strengthen the muscles and tendons, without overstrain.
Give your dog only REAL food, natural foods. No industrial dog "food", which actually are toxic waste products from rendering plants. Because food naturally has such dramatic impact on health that you can easily delay and reduce the impact of hereditary defects like Hip Dysplasia!
Next, make sure your dog is always well hydrated. This too delays and reduces the impact of HD. Hence why "dry food" really is the worst, even if you were to make homemade dry food. Conversely, natural foods have a naturally high water content.
Other than the above, the attempts to treat Hip Dysplasia vary depending on the severity of the ailment. The more conservative non-invasive treatments include:
- weight loss
- top joint supplements like Nutramax Dasuquin with MSM or Yumove
- pain medication
- back and hip support brace
- physical therapy
- basic exercise routines to work the hips.
Nutramax Dasuquin with MSM is a clinically researched, freely available joint health supplement with a well over a decade long track record. Vets frequently prescribe it to improve the dog's mobility in cases of Hip Dysplasia, Elbow Dysplasia, and Arthritis. It may also help with Panosteitis, Hind Leg Weakness, and Lumbosacral Stenosis.
Nutramax Dasuquin with MSM has only positive reviews from virtually every dog owner who tried it - which alone makes it an impressive remedy. Miguel was on it too, until Amazon stopped shipping it to Portugal where we were at the time.
Since then Miguel has been on Yumove, and still is until this runs out. Originally I had planned to stop it once he would stop growing, but now with his hip injury (from a jump!) I am glad he's still getting his daily two Yumove.
Now he visibly has no pain and walks normal again (often, not always!), but I do see from how he sits that he still avoids putting weight on his left hip. Obviously no jumping at all now! Despite that he still begs me to play his favorite game with him (Tail teaser), I won't!
If the defect has grown to become severe, many ordinary vets will recommend surgery although HD surgery of an adult dog cannot be successful as it would have been before age 7 months (see before). And surgery at a late stage of Hip Dysplasia will at best relieve some pain through a better alignment of the joint, but it cannot undo all the damage that has been done by the defect over the years.
The best way to approach HD treatment is to visit a canine chiropractor or other mobility-specialist to assess the degree of impairment through HD, and then to identify the right supportive measures.
In the final stages of Hip Dysplasia (other than putting the dog to sleep) there may be no other option than to provide the dog with the best dog wheelchair. If the front legs and elbows are still strong, the fully adjustable and therefore resalable standard Walkin' Wheels will allow the dog to run around with the hind legs in the wheelchair, like thousands of dogs around the world are comfortably doing.
However, if the dog's front legs are weak too, then the only chance (other than putting the dog to sleep) is to make the investment in a customized quad cart that can support all four legs. You will need to consider this carefully though! Not only because of the cost, but because having to use a quad cart puts a lot of stress on the dog.