What is Canine Hip Dysplasia?

Dr. Robert Brady

What Is Canine Hip Dysplasia?

Canine hip dysplasia is a painful disease that affects millions of dogs each year. It is an inherited developmental disorder of the hip joint and can lead to debilitating arthritis. Its progression can be influenced by environmental factors, such as weight gain, nutrition, and exercise. Certain breeds, especially larger ones, are particularly prone to hip dysplasia, but the disease can affect dogs of any size, breed or age.

Just as in humans, the hip joint in dogs is a “ball and socket” joint. In healthy dogs, the ball and socket fit together tightly. With dogs suffering from hip dysplasia, the joint is “loose,” and the ball part of the joint may even rotate partially out of its socket. In time, this looseness causes wear and tear on the joint cartilage, leading to osteoarthritis.

Canine hip dysplasia is an inherited problem, meaning that certain breeds or families of dogs may be prone to it. For this reason, when purchasing or adopting a puppy, especially if it is a breed that is known to be predisposed to hip dysplasia, make sure the parents (if known) do not have hip problems and that the puppy has been screened by a veterinarian for any early signs of the disease.

  • Canine hip dysplasia is a painful disease that can lead to debilitating arthritis.
  • It affects the “ball and socket” joint of the hip.
  • Canine hip dysplasia is a hereditary problem that can be influenced by lifestyle factors. Certain breeds are predisposed.
  • Hip dysplasia can sometimes be treated medically, but surgery is often required.
  • Early recognition and a program of weight management and regular exercise can sometimes slow disease progression.

What Are the Signs?

The disease is painful and progressive and can affect one or both hips. It can affect very young dogs (many are less than 1 year old), but dogs of any age can be affected.

  • Decreased activity level
  • Difficulty rising
  • Stiffness or lameness upon waking or after exercise
  • Running with a “bunny hopping” gait
  • Difficulty climbing stairs or getting in and out of vehicles
  • Discomfort in a sitting or lying position
  • Lameness
  • Muscle atrophy (wasting) in the hip area

Breeds that are most commonly affected include:

  • German shepherd
  • Labrador retriever
  • Rottweiler
  • Great Dane
  • Golden retriever
  • Saint Bernard

Diagnosis

A diagnosis of hip dysplasia is made based on clinical signs, physical examination, and radiographs (x-rays). Two systems have also been developed for screening and/or diagnosing dogs with hip dysplasia. Responsible breeders use at least one of these systems before including a dog in their breeding program:

  • The OFA System: The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) oversees a multibreed hip registry database. The OFA’s system, which has been in use since 1966, has developed a standardized evaluation system and radiographic test to help breeders and owners assess the hip health of prospective parents as well as any puppies they may produce. Dogs must be 24 months of age or older to be included in the registry.
  • The PennHIP System: The PennHIP system, which was developed at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, has been in use since 1993. It uses a series of three radiographs to assess a “distraction index”—or DI—for each dog. The greater the DI, the higher the chances that the dog has or will develop hip dysplasia. The PennHIP analysis can be performed in puppies as young as 4 months of age.

Treatment

Canine hip dysplasia is a serious, progressive disease, and better outcomes are typically achieved when it is diagnosed as early as possible and management and treatment measures are initiated promptly. Risk factors for the development of hip dysplasia in dogs that are genetically prone to the disease include obesity and overfeeding large-breed puppies during growth phases.

A proper diet that helps maintain an ideal weight, combined with a regular exercise plan, can help slow the progression of hip dysplasia for some dogs. In less severe cases, medical management can also include providing pain medications as needed under veterinary supervision as well as administering oral or injectable joint supplements or medications. “Comfort care,” such as keeping dogs out of cold weather and performing massage, therapeutic laser or physical therapy, can also help keep affected dogs comfortable and slow progression of the disease for as long as possible.

In severe cases, surgery may be indicated. Surgical options include total hip replacement surgery, reconstructing the hip joint, or removing the abnormal part of the joint and allowing the surrounding structures to form a “false joint” over time.

NOTE: Canine hip dysplasia can be an expensive disease to manage and/or treat. Before purchasing or adopting a puppy, be sure to find out the hip “status” of the parents. If that is not possible, be sure to have your puppy’s hips evaluated by your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Dog Flu H3N2: What Every Dog Owner Needs to Know About Canine Influenza

Dr. Kerri Blackburn

What is the H3N2 Canine Influenza Virus?

H3N2 is a very contagious influenza virus that infects dogs. It emerged in the United States in 2015 and has recently been reported in the Carolinas, having spread here from Florida and Georgia through the dog show circuit. Several dogs in multiple counties have become ill and we are beginning to see the illness spread from show dogs to pet dogs. All total this virus has effected thousands of dogs in more than 30 states. It has also effected a small amount of cats but there is NO evidence that it can infect people.

What does H3N2 cause?

H3N2 causes a respiratory infection which we refer to as dog flu. Common signs include sneezing, nasal discharge and coughing that can last for 2 weeks or more. Many dogs will also have a decreased appetite and fever. A small number of dogs will have a more severe form of the illness that leads to pneumonia and requires in hospital care.

How do dogs get dog flu?

The illness is spread by direct contact with infected dogs or contact with objects and surfaces that have also been contacted by infected dogs. Infected dogs can cough or sneeze and spread the virus up to 20 feet. The virus can survive in the environment for 24-48 hours, but can be easily killed with simple hand washing and laundering/washing objects.

What dogs are at risk?

Most dogs do NOT have a natural immunity to the virus. This means ANY dog can be infected if they are exposed. Dogs at most risk are those that participate in social activities with other dogs. Trips to pet stores, dog parks, grooming facilities, dog shows, boarding kennels and day care centers pose an increased risk.

What should I do if my dog is showing signs of dog flu?

Your dog may have a respiratory infection caused by other respiratory viruses and not the Canine flu virus. This can only be determined by a diagnostic test performed by a veterinarian. If you think your dog is showing signs of dog flu, here are the important steps to follow:

Call our office right away. Do NOT come to the clinic without calling first. If your dog does have dog flu coming into the clinic may put other pets at risk. Be sure to have the following information when you call:

  • Your dog’s symptoms and when they started
  • If your dog has been involved in any social behaviors
  • Whether there were any coughing dogs at said social activity

When you call, our veterinarians will assess your situation and provide specific instructions on when and how they will see your dog to minimize potential exposure to other pets. Based on your pet’s unique situation we may perform the test to confirm dog flu which involves swabbing the throat and nose and submitting these samples to an outside lab. For analysis.

What if my dog is diagnosed with dog flu?

Most dogs recover at home without any complications. Most dogs will recover within 2 weeks but they may remain infectious to other dogs for up to 1 month. It is very important that during that month they remain isolated from other pets.

A small number of dogs with a more severe form of the illness may develop pneumonia and will have labored breathing. Please call our clinic right away if you see these signs as your dog may need special hospitalized care to recover. Fortunately, death from dog flu is rare.

What can be done to PROTECT my dog from dog flu?Nobivac Canine Influenza Vaccine

The most important step is to vaccinate your dog against the canine influenza virus. We are strongly recommending that any dogs who participate in doggy social events, boarding, day care or grooming are vaccinated against this virus. The vaccine must be boostered 2-4 weeks after the first dose to ensure adequate response. Just like the human flu vaccine, getting vaccinated does NOT guarantee against infection, but it will make it less likely. Additionally, if your pet has been vaccinated and contracts the virus, the disease is likely to be milder and of shorter duration.

Knowledge and common sense are your best protection against dog flu. Please be aware of any outbreaks in your immediate community and take necessary precautions in avoiding doggy social events in the event of an outbreak.

*Adapted from “Pet Owners H3N2 Canine Influenza Virus Fact Sheet” (June 2017) retrieved from www.vetmed.ufl.edu

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