If you have a large- or giant-breed dog, hip dysplasia has probably always been on your mind. Since hip dysplasia is so common in larger dog breeds, you can never really feel ‘in the clear’ from the disease. As a pet parent, here’s what you need to know about hip dysplasia:
What is Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?
Hip dysplasia is a disease of the coxofemoral joint, or hip joint. It occurs when the bones that make up the ball and socket of the joint are not aligned or well-formed. Hip dysplasia is also associated with laxity of the muscles, connective tissues, and ligaments. When they become lax, the bones separate and rub against each other causing varying levels of pain.
Hip dysplasia in dogs is very common in large and giant breeds, although it has affected small breeds as well. Very severe cases, typically from poor breeding practices, will be seen in puppyhood. However, most dogs who become affected with hip dysplasia will gradually increase in symptom severity over a few years. The amount of pain and noticeable symptoms are dependent upon the degree of misalignment.
What are the symptoms?
While mild cases of hip dysplasia will often show no symptoms, any abnormalities in gait should be investigated further by a veterinarian. Changes to be wary of include:
- Stiffness when getting up
- Hesitation to exercise or climb stairs
- Decreased range of motion in hips
- Loss of thigh muscle mass
- Narrow or awkward stance in the hind legs
What are the treatment options?
After a thorough veterinarian examination and x-rays, a treatment course will be determined. Some very early stages may be treated with non-surgical therapy; however, surgical options still may be the most effective. If hip dysplasia is caught early and muscle loss, reduced mobility, and osteoarthritis are not present, a few surgical options are available: Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (TPO), Femoral Head Osteotomy (FHO), and Juvenile Pubic Symphysiodesis (JPS).
TPO and FHO are generally good options for dogs who have not lost significant muscle in the joint area. TPO cuts the pelvis in three places to allow the ball of the femur to align with the hip joint socket. FHO involves removing the head of the femur to prevent painful rubbing of the joints. The surrounding muscles can then provide necessary support.
JPS is not a common procedure as it is used for early intervention, typically between 12 and 16 weeks of age. JPS aims to fuse the bones of the pubis before they close naturally during growth. By changing the alignment of the hip sockets, they can hook naturally with the ball part of the joint. Unfortunately, this method does not have an extremely high success rate so it is not a common procedure.
TPO, FHO, and JPS are all ‘non-hip replacement’ surgeries, which can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 per hip. However, this price range varies based on the quality, experience, and location of the performing veterinarian. Unfortunately, if your dog is suffering from muscle loss and poor mobility, only one good treatment option exists.
Total Hip Replacement
A dog in end-stage hip dysplasia does not have the muscle strength to successfully implement any of the above procedures, so a total hip replacement may be necessary. In a total hip replacement, the entire joint is replaced with artificial components making it the most expensive surgery at $3,500 to $7,000 per hip. However, at this stage of hip dysplasia, both joints are usually affected which puts the surgery closer to $7,000 to $14,000. Figo Pet Insurance has a calculator to help you compare the cost of a total hip replacement with and without pet insurance.
Paying for Surgery
Regardless if your dog needs a total hip replacement or other surgical intervention, you can expect a hefty vet bill. In order to prevent a diet of Ramen noodles to cover the cost, investing in pet insurance early is a great way to ensure your dog is covered. However, it’s important to thoroughly read the insurance policy details regarding hip dysplasia as some may not cover the cost.
Kelsie McKenzie is the owner and fur-covered girl behind the scenes of It's Dog or Nothing, a resource for ‘all things Pyrenees.’ She currently lives near Seattle with her Air Force husband and two Great Pyrenees, Mauja and Atka. Kelsie is also a content creator, social media manager, and an avid animal lover.
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