Is your furry friend limping around the house or having trouble climbing up the stairs?  Does your furry friend have trouble standing up?  If so, your furry friend may well be suffering from joint related problems like hip dysplasia or patellar luxation. 

Joint problems are very common in all ages of dogs and the associated diseases are different among large and small dog breeds.  The most common joint disease for large dog breeds is canine hip dysplasia, which is commonly found in Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, Rottweiler, German Shepherd, and other giant dog breeds.  It is a hereditary genetic disorder that can be passed on to the next generation. So most experts suggested the best prevention is breeding symptom-free dogs.

Hip dysplasia is characterized by an abnormal development of the hip joint where the primary muscle that supports the joint fails to mature at the same rate as the skeletal structures.  The result is a shallow acetabulum and a flattened femoral head that causes looseness of the hip joint, as well as the ball of the femur head not fitting snugly into the hip socket.  Such loose fit of the femur head usually causes friction within the joint during movement where the joint eventually becomes inflamed and dislocated, plus leading to acute arthritis.  Normally, both sides of the hip will be affected for dogs with hip dysplasia but there are cases where just one side showed symptoms.

Some of the most obvious symptoms for canine hip dysplasia are trouble standing or walking on hind legs, walking with a limp, swaying gait or bunny hopping.  Due to the pain, dogs suffering from hip dysplasia are usually quiet and need more rest than normal dogs.  They will need to sit down and rest usually after 15 minutes of walk or play.  They will growl, snap or bite if the owners accidentally touched or petted their hips or hind legs.  

It is very important to recognize the possible signs and seek immediate veterinary care. For a complete and accurate diagnosis of canine hip dysplasia, veterinary exam along with x-rays are required.  The most common examination uses the PennHIP Distraction Technique and Orthopedic Foundation of Animal (OFA) standard.  With a 90% accuracy, PennHIP Distraction Technique can screened dogs as early as 4 months of age and determine what degree of hip dysplasia the dog may develop.  For Orthopedic Foundation of Animal (OFA), it can be applied when dogs are over the age of 2. Both procedures require anesthesia in order to obtain accurate diagnostic radiographs. 

Apart from canine hip dysplasia, your furry friend may also develop other joint disease like patellar luxation, which has similar symptoms and is normally found in small dog breeds.  And if you are interested in learning more about patellar luxation, please read our next article for more details.