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German Shepherd Hip Dysplasia | Problems, Signs, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Hip dysplasia is far from uncommon in German Shepherd dogs, particularly large working dogs, whose size and regularity of activity may cause excess stress upon the pelvic area – up to half of large breed dogs exhibit some degree of hip dysplasia as they age, which may in turn lead to arthritic afflictions. Canines, like humans, have hips that are connected to legs via a “ball and socket” mechanism – the femoral head fits inside  the well-insulated pelvic acetabulum in such a way that rotation and movement are relatively easy. In dogs with hip dysplasia, however, this mechanism is somehow damaged. When the “ball” and “socket” are ill-aligned, pressure on the joint can lead to harmful wear and tear brought on by normal movement: the joint may loosen or become painful. Hip dysplasia is an inherited condition; however, it can be worsened by environmental factors as well.

Like elbow dysplasia, “hip dysplasia” is rather an umbrella term: it can refer to a variety of problems afflicting the hip joint, each with its own set of symptoms. Some German Shepherd dogs may have problems climbing stairs or ramps; others may exhibit inexplicable pain. Symptoms tend to become more obvious as a dog ages, often culminating with the development of arthritis in old age. If your German Shepherd dog refuses to climb stairs, to “rise” on his hind legs, or to exercise normally, or if he shows signs of pain when his hip area is touched, or when you discern a “popping” sound coming from your dog’s hip area when it is placed under pressure, have your veterinarian perform a diagnosis. A veterinarian should be able to provide an X-ray diagnosis.

Luckily, hip dysplasia in your German Shepherd can be treated – both surgically and non-surgically. Non-surgical approaches to more mild forms of dysplasia include pain medication and management, weight loss to reduce pressure on the pelvic, physical therapy, limited exercise, and a myriad of supplements, many which have proven to be somewhat effective in providing hip support. Given the connection between obesity and hip dysplasia, a lean diet throughout puppyhood is recommended; however, the genetic nature of the condition means that even healthy dogs can develop dysplasia in the hip. Dogs suffering from hip dysplasia should not be bred. In serious cases of the illness, corrective surgery is a possibility – triple pelvic osteotomies have been shown to be successful in dogs who have not yet developed arthritis (i.e., whose dysplasia has been diagnosed early). Various therapeutic procedures have also been designed to cope with already arthritic hips; however, these methods are more complex.

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