Ask the Vet
Q: Our family is getting a German Shepherd puppy next month. My brother has warned me about hip dysplasia, since he had a dog that had it 20 years ago. What should I look out for and should I be concerned?
A: Hip dysplasia in a common orthopedic disease that runs in large breed dogs, including German Shepherds. Hip dysplasia occurs when there is an abnormal ‘ball and socket joint’ of the hip(s). The head of the femur (“ball”) and/or the acetabulum (“socket”) of the pelvis bone is misshapened or flattened.
Since the joint is unstable and does not move smoothly as it should, cartilage erosion, bone spurs and arthritis eventually develop.
When considering purchasing a puppy, one should research family lines with adult dogs who have been certified to have good hips.
The disease is only partially hereditary, so having parents with good hips is certainly not a guarantee. Other factors include nutrition, (excess protein and/or calcium for example), being overweight as a puppy, excessive exercise too early and potentially other factors yet to be identified.
Owners of large breed puppies or adult dogs should be aware and watch for pain in the hip region, difficulty rising or an abnormal gait, which is typically a sway in the backend.
Sometimes these clinical signs will be evident in dogs as young as a few months old, but some dogs do not show abnormalities until they are older.
X-rays are the best way to diagnose hip dysplasia. This also allows your veterinarian to see the extent of the disease. Please note that dogs may feel so much pain that they require sedation to obtain x-rays.
There are multiple types of surgeries that can be performed on dogs with hip dysplasia, depending on the severity of hip dysplasia, whether arthritis is already present or not, and the age of the dog. Non-surgical treatment typically involves joint and cartilage supplements and anti-inflammatories.
Hopefully all goes well with your puppy. If you have concerns or notice abnormalities, please discuss that with your veterinarian.
If you have questions about your pet, you may e-mail Dr. Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org