Hip Dysplasia

Xray of a hip affected by Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a relatively common problem in medium to large sized dogs which can cause a lot of pain and arthritis in affected dogs.

What is Hip Dysplasia?

The hip joint is what we call a “ball and socket” joint. The ball at the top of the femur (the bone in the upper leg) should fit firmly and securely in the socket of the pelvis. Hip dysplasia occurs when the ball and socket don’t fit together properly. This leads to looseness in the joint which causes the wrong parts of the joint to rub together. This cases pain in the short term, and leads to arthritis in time.

What causes hip dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is quite a complex condition. It has a very strong genetic component, but it is also influenced by other factors such as rate of growth, type of feeding, exercise levels, and other co-existing skeletal disorders such as spinal disease, trauma, bone or joint disorders of forelimbs.

What are the signs of hip dysplasia?

The most common signs of hip dysplasia include stiffness affecting the back legs, a “swaying” of the back end when the dog walks, and difficulty rising. In older dogs, we tend to see more pain due to the arthritis which develops.

How can hip dysplasia be treated?

Unfortunately, the hips of affected dogs will never be returned to “normal”. Treatment is generally about managing the disease rather than curing it.

For mild to moderate cases, we tend to use a combination of treatment options:

  • Disease Modifying Osteoarthritis Drugs. These drugs are given as injections under the skin once each week for four weeks. We then repeat the course every six months. These drugs help reduce damage within the joint, as well as having some anti-inflammatory effect.
  • Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs. These are a group of drugs with good pain relief and anti-inflammatory effects. Think of it as Neurofen for dogs (please note: ibuprofen can be very toxic to dogs so please only use medications prescribed by a vet)
  • Other pain killers: for severe cases, we may use other pain killers such as tramadol and gabapentin
  • Weight management. This is critical for any dog with joint problems. The more weight a dog carries the more pressure on joints. Weight management in some cases can even give better results than medication.
  • For severely affected animals, surgery may be needed. This may be a hip replacement, removing the hip joint, or cutting the nerves to the hip. Each surgery type as risks and benefits, so your vet will advise which options may be best for your pet

How do you prevent hip dysplasia?

As with so many conditions, prevention is better than cure. The first thing to remember is that hip dysplasia has a strong genetic component, so breeding from dogs with healthy hips is critical. For dog breeds which are prone to hip dysplasia (such as German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers and Labradors), it is vitally important to ensure the parents have been hip scored and have good hips. Before purchasing a dog, you need to check if the breed is prone to hip dysplasia, and if so ensure the parents have been tested and have good scores.

Keeping your growing pup at an ideal weight is also very important. Excessive weight puts more strain on developing joints, which can contribute to the damage.

Controlling the growth rate of puppies can affect the risk of developing problems. For large breed dogs, there are foods specifically designed to control their growth rate. They still end up the same size when fully grown, but they reach full height slower. We recommend feeding a good quality “large breed” dog food to growing dogs.

Exercise is another factor which can influence hip development. Moderate amounts of low-impact exercise are recommended for growing puppies. High impact exercise such as jumping and chasing balls can cause microfractures in developing bones and joints, leading to arthritis and contributing to hip dysplasia development.

For more information on raising a puppy, head to //www.bunburyvets.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/2017_bc_ePDF_new_dog_guide.pdf and download a copy of our free New Dog Guide.

Sarcoma Treatment: Curing Cancer with Surgery

Sarcoma Removal in a Dog.

This video is of a dog with a type of tumour called sarcoma. Sacromas are a cancer of the “connective tissue” in the body, such as bones, fibrous tissue and fat. In this case, it is a liposarcoma, which is a tumour of the fat cells.

This is quite a young dog, only 18 months old. It is unusual to find such a nasty tumour in such a young dog, but I have seen them in dogs as young as 10 weeks old.

Planning the surgery

Before planning a surgery like this, we have taken a sample with a needle to confirm that it is a cancerous lump. As you can see from the video, you want to be sure you know what you are dealing with as it’s a big surgery.

We tend to find Sarcomas are locally invasive tumours. that means that the cancerous cells spread out beyond the apparent tumour margins. For sarcomas, you need to remove 3-5 cm of normal tissue around the tumour to be sure that you have removed it all. They are quite slow to spread, so if we can surgically remove the whole tumour we can normally cure the dog.

You will see in the video that the tumour looks quite small compared to the final surgical wound, but it is critically important that we ensure the cancer is completely removed at the first surgery. If we left some cancerous cells behind, the tumour would regrow and we would need an even bigger surgery to treat the dog.

What next?

We will send the sample to the laboratory to confirm the cancer type and ensure we have removed the whole tumour. We expect this dog to be completely cured and live a normal, happy life from here.

The New Parvo Strain: What Every Dog Owner Needs to Know


As many people have now heard, a new strain of Parvovirus has been found in Australia. This has produced a large amount of stress and anxiety amongst dog owners.

So what does this new strain really mean to you if you own a dog?

The story in the media:

The media has portrayed this virus as being dangerous to vaccinated dogs and not easily tested for. Media reports talk about two vaccinated dogs contracting the disease, and one out of three affected dogs tested producing a negative test. This all sounds pretty grim.

The Facts:

This virus has actually been around since 2000. That’s 17 years. In this time, it has become the prevalent strain in parts of Europe and South America, replacing the “older” strains. The fact that it has eventually arrived in Australia is not a surprise, and shows just how contagious this virus can be.

Multiple studies have tested the current vaccines available in Australia against this strain, and they have been shown to be effective. The vaccines are just as effective against this strain as older strains.

So why did two vaccinated dogs become infected with Parvovirus?

The clues to that question are in the dogs’ ages. The two affected dogs were less than 12 months old, so hadn’t received any adult booster vaccines. They had received puppy vaccinations, but the final vaccine was given at around 10 weeks of age in both cases.

It has been shown that a small percentage of dogs won’t respond to a vaccine at 10 weeks of age because they still have unusually high levels of maternal antibodies (the antibodies given to them by their mother). These antibodies “attack” the vaccine before the puppy can mount an immune response, which stops the puppy producing its own antibodies. This is why we recommend a final vaccine at 14-16 weeks of age – it captures those small numbers which don’t respond sufficiently to the 10-12 week vaccine.

Why did a dog not test positive to the virus when it was infected?

When we test for Parvovirus, we get a small faecal sample and test for virus particles. The limitation to the test is that infected dogs don’t continuously shed the virus. That means that at the time of testing, the dog may not be passing the virus in the faeces, so the test is negative. Even with the older strains of parvovirus, we only expected 80% of affected dogs to test positive. This means we already understand that the test has some limitations and we respond accordingly. This is nothing new.

So what does this all mean?

The most important thing to understand is that if your dog is fully vaccinated, they are safe. This is not some mutant virus which is going to destroy the dogs of Australia. The vaccines currently used in Australia will protect your dog against this new strain.

The clinical disease caused by this new strain is no better or worse than older strains. They will all make your pet very sick and can kill, so vaccination is still critical.

If your dog is not up to date with vaccinations, or has never been vaccinated, now is the time to act. There is no direct treatment for Parvovirus, so vaccination is the only tool we have. Vaccines are very safe and effective.

If your dog received its last vaccination at 10-12 weeks of age, have a chat to your vet. They may recommend another vaccination to ensure your pet is protected.

If your dog is fully up to date with its vaccinations, there is no need to do anything. Additional vaccinations are unnecessary as your dog will be protected.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your vet for further information.