Hip dysplasia is a disease that affects the shape of the hip joints. It results in a mismatch of the ball and socket part of the joint which leads to laxity and looseness of the joint. This triggers degenerative changes to the joint which, over time, inflicts pain on the dog.
Hip dysplasia is a multifactorial condition which develops as a result of environmental and genetic factors. For this reason, adult dogs are screened prior to breeding in order to ensure that they have healthy hips. This lessens the chance that they will pass on the genes to their puppies.
This screening test is typically a radiograph (X-ray) taken when the dog is an adult. This screening X-ray should not be confused with X-rays taken to diagnose a suspicion of hip dysplasia, which can be taken at a very young age.
Hip dysplasia that is not treated can lead to very painful arthritic changes in the hip joints of an affected dog. There are different treatments that can help your dog at different stages of the disease.
A puppy with hip dysplasia will often have loose or painful hip joints at a very early age. This can be detected by your vet when they examine the puppy at their second or third vaccination appointment. This suspicion is confirmed by taking an X-ray of your puppy with the hips distracted so that the looseness can be seen. If the legs are not distracted then the X-ray will look normal and the diagnosis can easily be missed.
If the diagnosis is made at an early age then your vet may recommend a surgery known as JPS surgery (Juvenile Pubic Symphysiodesis). If the diagnosis is made at a later stage then your vet might advise TPO surgery (Triple Pelvic Osteotomy) or even total hip replacement surgery. Sometimes lifelong treatment with pain killing medication is the only option.
JPS surgery is a procedure where the growth of the pelvis is altered in order to achieve better congruency (fit) of the ball and socket parts of the hip joints. It is achieved by limiting the growth of the pubic bone, which forces the socket parts of the pelvis to cover the ball parts of the femur better. Since the vet is using the growth potential of the puppy to alter the hip growth, the window of opportunity is fairly short and therefore it is imperative that the condition is diagnosed and treated very early in life (16 weeks of age is ideal).
It is very successful, with 95% of dogs treated going on to avoid the development of painful arthritic hip degeneration.
Your vet will insist that your puppy is neutered at the same time as JPS surgery is performed. The reason for this is that if the JPS operation is successful, then your puppy may have normal hip x-rays when they are an adult, and so will pass the x-ray screening test designed to eliminate hip dysplasia. This may then lead to breeding of dogs that carry the genes for hip dysplasia and the disease being passed on to their puppies.
Where can you look for further information?