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Hip Dysplasia and Arthritis in Pets

Daisy the Labrador Retriever

Hip Dysplasia is a painful genetic problem in dogs and cats. Hip Dysplasia causes the hip to not sit in the socket properly, and over time this instability causes arthritis. The instability puts abnormal amounts of weight on the other joints of the body and can cause cruciate ligament ruptures in the knee (ACL tears). It can also cause secondary arthritis in the elbows, shoulders and wrists.

Large breed dogs like St. Bernards, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers and Rottweilers are prone to hip dysplasia. Mixed breed dogs, small breed dogs and cats can also be affected.

Signs of hip dysplasia and hip arthritis include decreased activity, difficulty rising, hindleg lameness, reluctance to run, jump or climb stairs. Affected animals may walk with a swaying gait or hop like a bunny. They frequently have hindleg muscle wasting in advanced cases.

Xray of a dog with hip dysplasia

To diagnose hip dysplasia we need to do a thorough physical exam. We check for joint looseness and bone grinding on palpation. Sometimes a decreased range of motion in the hip is also noticed. Xrays are helpful in diagnosing hip dysplasia. The Xray (on left side of page) is of a dog with severe hip dysplasia and secondary arthritis. The head of the femur is thickened with no "ball" of the femur left. Everytime this joint is moved bone grinds on bone. (OUCH!)

Treatment of hip dyplasia can be medical or surgical. Surgical treatment includes Total hip replacement or a Femoral Head Ostectomy. Medical treatment includes Glucosamine supplements, Duralactin, Adequan, and Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDS) drugs like Previcox, Metacam or Carprofen. Severe pain may also need Tramadol, Gabapentin or Amantadine. We need to check the animals blood work to be sure there are no pre-existing problems prior to beginning the medications, and monitor the blood values while taking them.

Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs are excellent for arthritis pain. They offer the benefit of having very few side effects. Electro Acupuncture or dry needle acupuncture are perfect for controlling arthritis pain, especially in cats. Cats do not tolerate many of our traditional NSAID drugs. NSAIDS can cause kidney disease in cats, or make kidney diease worse.

Questions? Feel free to call Dr Judy at (630) 859-0471 or Email her at

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