We just found out that Jesse, our two-year-old German Shepherd, has hip dysplasia. He is a wonderful pet. How long do you think he will live? Can you explain his problem?
Hip dysplasia is a degenerative disease of the hip joint in both dogs and cats. Cats can suffer with this problem, but rarely show signs of trouble because of their light weight.
Dysplasia literally means bad development. Hip joints may be normal at birth. Something, however, causes the development of a bad fit or function in one or more of the parts of this ball and socket type of joint.
Currently, hip dysplasia is considered an inherited problem. Other factors that have an influence include muscle mass, rate of bone growth and trauma at an early age. Nutrition also can be a contributor, if a puppy has a high caloric diet.
We see hip dysplasia in many of the 150 American Kennel Club breeds. It is most common in animals over 25 pounds. In German Shepherds, like Jesse, 37 percent of offspring show signs of hip dysplasia even if neither parent is affected. If one parent has bad hips, 45 percent of the puppies are affected. Females seem to influence the problem more than males.
You did not say whether Jesse has had a radiograph which is the accepted way to diagnose the problem. We usually administer sedation so we can radiograph the dog lying on his back, as this view is the best way to visualize the pelvis and hip joints.
There is actually an organization, the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, which was organized in 1966 to deal with hip dysplasia. You can send Jessie’s radiograph to the OFA to learn the extent of hip damage. The OFA also has a certification process, used by many breeders (of all breeds) to help ensure that their dogs are free of the problem. There is also a procedure called Penn Hip which can help predict if a dog will have hip dysplasia.
In a dog diagnosed with hip dysplasia at two years of age, the condition may stabilize and allow a relatively pain-free life or it may be severe enough to require surgery which will help tremendously. The story probably would be different in an older dog. It is sad to see them, hardly able to get around because their hips are so degenerated. There are many newer medications that can be used if surgery is not an option. These can provide excellent pain relief and allow the dog to have a long and healthy life.
I suggest you talk over the situation with your veterinarian to develop a treatment plan.