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Prevent a Lifetime of Suffering: Screening and Treatment of Puppies for Hip Laxity and Hip Dysplasia


What is Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is the abnormal development of the hip joint characterized by excessive hip laxity that leads to osteoarthritis. It is the most commonly inherited orthopedic disease in dogs. Hip dysplasia is one of the most common diseases of large breed dogs, but can occur in smaller breeds too.

Hip dysplasia is painful in young dogs because abnormal wear of joint cartilage exposes pain fibers in underlying bone and laxity causes stretching of surrounding soft tissues. In older dogs, hip dysplasia causes pain through osteoarthritis. In severe cases, arthritic changes and crippling pain can be seen in dogs as young as one year of age.

The hip joint is a ball-and-socket joint, with the ball of the femur (femoral head) fitting into the hip socket (acetabulum). Hip laxity refers to the degree of “looseness” of the ball in the hip socket. Studies have shown that dogs with looser hips (excessive hip laxity) are at higher risk to develop hip dysplasia than dogs with tighter hips (minimal hip laxity).

How can my dog be screened for Hip Dysplasia?

The research-based hip-screening x-ray procedure known as PennHIP (University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program) has proven to be the most accurate and precise method to measure hip laxity. It can identify—as early as 16 weeks—dogs that are susceptible to developing hip dysplasia. We recommend screening all dogs within specific breeds (see the list below) for hip laxity at 16 weeks of age.

The PennHIP procedure requires specialized training and certification. Dr. Welborn is the only veterinarian in Hillsborough County to have received PennHIP certification. He is available to perform the procedure at both of our locations that have state-of-the-art digital x-ray systems, North Bay Animal & Bird Hospital and Pebble Creek Animal & Bird Hospital. The total cost of the PennHIP procedure including sedation, x-rays and certification is less than $300.

What are the options for treating Hip Dysplasia?

Traditional surgical techniques used to treat hip dysplasia such as triple pelvic osteotomy (TPO), femoral head ostectomy (FHO), and total hip replacement (THR) surgeries are invasive, can be associated with significant pain, have a long recovery time, and are expensive, as some of these procedures can exceed $3,000.

Juvenile Pelvic Symphysiodesis (JPS) is a relatively new minimally invasive procedure for the treatment of canine hip dysplasia. This procedure is done in young dogs that screen positive for hip laxity. The JPS procedure has proved to be, in both experimental and clinical studies, a surgical procedure that can correct or limit the development of initial forms of canine hip dysplasia and therefore reduce secondary osteoarthritis.

During JPS surgery, electocautery is applied to the growth plate of the pubis (part of the pelvic bone) inducing bony fusion. During the dog’s normal growth after surgery, pubic fusion results in angular changes to the pelvis. These changes allow for a better fit of the ball and socket joint, resulting in significant improvements in hip conformation.
JPS surgery is short in duration and requires no orthopedic implants.

Typically dogs spend only one night in the hospital and experience minimum discomfort. The cost for this surgery is considerably less expensive compared to traditional procedures for hip dysplasia. Typically, it is performed at 17-22 weeks of age and can be combined with a spay or neuter procedure.

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