Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Can Hip Dysplasia be Prevented?

Posted: 28 Oct 2009 05:20 AM PDT

Good-dog-Miles-with-DrLarry There is no short answer to this question. The longer answer is maybe and depends on a number of factors.

Hip dysplasia is an inherited polygenic condition that is complicated by environmental factors. That's vet speak meaning this is a hereditary condition involving multiple genes and that external factors like how the puppy is raised can influence the development and severity of the condition.
We've discussed before how feeding large breed puppies can have an impact on hip dysplasia. Improper feeding can increase the likelihood that your pup will develop hip dysplasia and obesity really complicates the situation in a dog that has hip dysplasia. Conversely, proper feeding, especially during growth, can result in a normal dog with healthy joints even in a genetically predisposed dog.
In some dogs though, even the best laid plans can't trump genetics. Certain breeds are much more likely to be prone to hip dysplasia. Their genetic make up leads to conformational defects in the hip joint that create joint laxity and sub luxation. That means that their hip joints are loose and semi dislocated and that leads to trauma to the hip joint and eventual degenerative joint disease and arthritis. 
Some veterinarians recommend early screening for certain breeds. There are certain diagnostic tests that are highly predictive of future hip dysplasia. Screening can help identify young dogs that can be helped surgically.
Probably the best and most reliable test is called Penn Hip. Penn Hip testing involves three hip x rays and measurements of the hip joint that provide a numerical score called a distraction index that is highly predictive of future disease when performed on dogs that are at least four months old. Depending on that score some young dogs can be helped by a procedure called juvenile pubic symphysiodesis.
Repeat that three times fast. I'm still not sure I can even spell it correctly and I'll guarantee it's not in spell check. 
This surgery is done on young dogs and involves the growth center of the pubic symphysis. In young dogs these growth centers are where bones grow. As they mature and their bones reach adult proportions these growth centers close down. In pubic symphysiodesis this growth center is surgically ablated, stopping any further growth in this part of the pelvis.
The rest of the pelvis continues to grow at normal rates. As a result of stopping growth in one place and allowing it to continue in other parts of the pelvis the structure and function of the hip joint is changed for the better. In effect, the socket part of the hip joint is forced to rotate so that it better conforms to the ball part of the hip joint resulting in a much tighter fit, less joint laxity and less potential for future damage. Less laxity, less subluxation, less ongoing trauma, less degenerative joint disease, lessAnimal.-surgery-at-the-vet arthritis.
Most dogs suitable for surgery benefit from this procedure. In fact, according to what I've seen, almost 95% of surgical candidates benefit. Obviously timing is key as the dogs that really benefit are between four and five months of age.
If you have a large breed puppy you should discuss this with your veterinarian before the pup reaches four months of age. She might advise you to have the hips evaluated. The Penn Hip procedure can be done by trained veterinarians in most metro areas. Your own vet may be certified. I searched in my area and found a couple of nearby clinics offering Penn Hip testing. 
The surgery itself is not that invasive in a young puppy and can be done on an outpatient basis in most cases. It is certainly less invasive than the surgical procedures performed to treat existing cases of hip dysplasia on older dogs. We did a podcast over at the Purinacare site on a total hip replacement surgery you might want to check out.  


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