Canine Hip Dysplasia – Lessons learned from a Pet Insurer

The three big questions

  • What is Canine Hip Dysplasia?
  • Is my dog likely to develop it?
  • How much is it going to cost me?

In this short article, we hope to address these three important questions to help you make decisions about what breed of dog to adopt and how to be prepared for the financial implications of your beloved pet developing this fairly common condition.

Most pet owners have heard of hip dysplasia, usually in reference to large breed dogs like German Shepherds. It’s actually found in all breeds of dog but is more common in medium to large-sized dogs like Newfoundlands, retrievers, German Shepherds, Great Danes, Rottweilers, and Mastiffs.

What is Canine Hip Dysplasia?

In short, dysplasia occurs when the ball and socket joint in your pet’s hips don’t fit perfectly, rubbing and grinding instead of moving smoothly. This results in the loss of function in the joint as it deteriorates over time.

Hip dysplasia usually presents itself by the time the dog is 18 months old, but can also develop later in life, in conjunction with osteoarthritis.

How do I know if my dog has Hip Dysplasia?

  • Your dog isn’t as active as it should be.
  • Your dog is reluctant to get up, run, jump, or climb stairs.
  • Your dog shows signs of lameness in their hind legs or looseness in the hip joints.
  • Your dog displays a swaying gate or “bunny-hops”, with both back legs at the same time.
  • Your dog’s rear legs may lose muscle mass while its front shoulder muscles get bigger to compensate.
  • Your dog shows general signs of pain and stiffness.

The best way to be sure is to take your dog to the vet, who will check for signs of reduced range of motion and impaired movement of the hip joint, and may do blood work to verify inflammation that alters your dog’s complete blood count. An X-ray will confirm the diagnosis.

How can I help my dog?

Depending on the severity of the condition, your vet may recommend either lifestyle changes or more serious interventions like surgery.

Lifestyle changes could include:

  • Reducing your dog’s weight to take strain off the hips
  • Physical therapy
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Restricting exercise, especially on hard surfaces
  • Joint fluid modifiers

Making sure your dog maintains a healthy weight and activity level is still the most important “cure-all” for pretty much anything, which makes them the same as humans. We deal with appropriate feeding for your pets in this article.

When lifestyle adjustments don’t work, though, common surgical procedures include:

Double or triple pelvic osteotomy

Usually performed on dogs 10 months or younger. Essentially the surgeon cuts and trims the ball and socket to improve their function.

Femoral Head Ostectomy

The surgeon cuts off the femoral head, or “ball” of the hip joint. Your dog’s body will create a replacement joint that will not unfortunately recreate normal hip function, but will ease the associated pain.

Total Hip Replacement

The surgeon replaces the entire joint with plastic and metal implants. This is the most effective surgery, removing most discomfort and returning most function to the dog.

How much is Hip Dysplasia going to cost me?

In the last few paragraphs you’ve read the words:

  • Bloodwork
  • X-ray
  • Physical therapy
  • Medication
  • Surgical procedures that would be considered major in a human, including total hip replacement.

Some of the above items are relatively affordable, but surgery is costly. As a pet insurer, DogSure has paid for a large number of total Hip Replacement Procedures. In South Africa in 2019, you’re looking at about R18/20 000 per side or approximately R35 000 for both hip joints.

As technology improves and new treatments become available, options may become even more expensive. For example, one of DogSure’s clients has a Siberian Husky who is 5 and the vet has recommended physiotherapy with an option of stem cell treatment (Rich plasma treatment) if no improvement is seen.

Most humans will never be able to afford stem cell treatment.

Should I be freaking out?

No.

The risk of Hip Dsyplasia and other conditions is just something you take on when you decide to adopt your very special companion. With proper treatment, most dogs can lead perfectly happy lives with mild dysplasia. Severe dysplasia is not very common, but the possibility is worth preparing for.

Of course

DogSure is a pet insurer, so of course we’re always going to recommend getting comprehensive insurance for your dog. We think it’s important that owners don’t have to make traumatic emotional decisions based on financial restrictions. With pet insurance, you can make sure your dog gets the best treatment, without the heavy financial burden of surgery.

We think it’s worth mentioning that DogSure has no breed loading fees, and doesn’t discriminate against any dogs with genetic predispositions for treatment-requiring conditions.

As long as your pet hasn’t been diagnosed with the condition, or isn’t showing symptoms of the condition before sign-on or within the 30 day illness waiting period, they’re covered.

Our best recommendation?

Work your budget to make sure you can insure your dog early in life, just like any other member of the family.

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