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Hip Dysplaysia

Hip Dysplasia with the Maltipoo

What This Is

The hip joint of a Maltipoo is the attachment of the hind leg to the body, and this area is made out of a ball and a socket joint that that ball sits in. The ball is the top of the femur and the socket is called the acetabulum. Surrounding all of that are ligaments which hold everything into place. In healthy dogs, the ball rotates around freely and allows for fluid movement while the dog walks and runs. When a Maltipoo has hip dysplasia, it means that the 2 bones lose contact with each other, they slip out of place.  

Why This Happens

This can be genetic (hybrid vigor does not eliminate this) and a dog can be prone to this condition. This is one reason why dogs must be tested prior to breeding and care must be taken to never breed dogs that have this condition. A puppy that has a parent with this is much more prone than a puppy whose parents do not have this. However, a Maltipoo can still develop this even if both parents are healthy. If a dog has a predisposition to this, the hip joint and socket is either abnormally formed and/or the ligaments surrounding it are weak.  Any sort of jarring injury can trigger this to develop. Most dogs with this will start to show signs by the 2 or 3 year mark, though some will have a gradual weakening for years before there are any symptoms. 

This can also be caused by injury….small dogs such as the Maltipoo can become injured if they jump from too high of a height, causing heavy impact on the joints.  For this reason, do not allow your Maltipoo to jump down from heights, especially when your Maltipoo is a puppy and their bones are not done growing. A good rule of thumb is no jumping from any area that is twice the height of the dog.

There are other factors that are still being studied:

Weight: Dogs that are overweight seem to be more prone to this; though this rarely applies to the Maltipoo.

Rapid Growth: Puppies who have a very rapid growth spurt seem to be more prone to this. Studies show that puppies who are allowed to eat whenever they wish (called free feeding) develop this more often than puppies who are fed on a schedule. This is 1 reason why we strongly recommend putting your Maltipoo on a feeding schedule after the age of 3 months.

Over-Exercise: Some studies show that puppies and dogs that are made to exercise too much develop hip dysplasia more often than others.

Calcium: It appears that a diet with too much or too little calcium can lead to a dog being more prone to hip dysplasia. A balanced diet is very important for the little Maltipoo dog. This is one reason why we highly recommend home cooking. 
Signs and Symptoms

While a dog may have a sudden slip that causes him to let you a loud yelp and then immediately start limping, most dogs will have a more gradual development. While the hip joint may very well slip out while running or jumping, a dog may not immediately show any signs that something is wrong. It is only afterward when internal swelling develops and pain starts to set in that owners will notice that something is wrong. The following are the most common signs:

A bunny-like hopping gait - This is the #1 symptom.  The dog will draw up his hind legs in one swoop, similar to how a bunny hops. This is due to the pain he is feeling and possible limpness and numbness in the area.

Trouble rising from a down position - A Maltipoo may have trouble getting up. This also is caused by a combination of discomfort and possible weakness or numbness in the leg.

Hesitation to exercise or walk up the stairs - The Maltipoo will try to avoid activity that causes pain or that he is simply not able to handle. 
How This is Diagnosed

The diagnosis of canine hip dysplasia is generally made by a combination of clinical signs of pain, a complete physical exam, and x-rays. In addition, the veterinarian may even be able to feel looseness in the hip with his hands.

When a dog is being tested for hip issues prior to breeding, there are 2 different testing methods that can be performed. The traditional is OFA testing. The other relatively newer technique is the PennHip method.


Mild cases to moderate cases may be treated with total bed rest. This may need to be for a while to allow proper healing. Four to six weeks is not unheard of. The puppy or dog will need to stay in a rather small confined space such as a small indoor canine playpen or a small gated off area.  No jumping, walking or other movement is allowed. Along with bed rest, the dog is given anti-inflammatory medication to reduce swelling and sometimes pain medication if needed. 

If owners can follow the guidelines for bed rest, many minor to moderate cases can resolve; though a dog may have a re-occurrence at some point in the future.  Once recovered, it is good for a dog to take moderate walks each day. Owners will need to access at what point the dog begins to have trouble. Whether that is the 10 minute mark or the 30 minute mark, daily exercise should then be 5 minutes shorter than what the Maltipoo can comfortably handle.

Moderate to severe or chronic cases may need to be treated with surgery. There are several surgical procedures available to treat hip dysplasia depending on the dog's age, body size, and the level of the hip joint's degeneration.

Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (TPO): TPO is a procedure used in young dogs usually less than 10 months of age that have x-rays that show severe hip laxity, but have not developed damage to the joints. The procedure involves surgically breaking the pelvic bones and realigning the femoral head and acetabulum restoring the weight-bearing surface area and correcting femoral head subluxation. This is a major surgery and is expensive, but the surgery has been very successful on dogs that meet the requirements.

Juvenile Pubic Symphysiodesis: This is a less invasive surgery for treating hip dysplasia…it fuses two pelvic bones together, permitting the other pelvic bones to develop normally. This changes the angle of the hips and improves the articulation of this joint, lessening the likelihood of osteoarthritis. Early diagnosis is important, since the procedure must be done before 20 weeks of age, preferably 16 weeks, and before any signs of arthritis are evident.

Total Hip Replacement: This may be the best surgical option for dogs that have degenerative joint disease as a result of chronic hip dysplasia. Total hip replacement is a procedure that can produce a functionally normal joint, eliminate degenerative changes, and alleviate pain.

The process involves removing the existing joint and replacing it with an artificial joint or prosthesis. In order to have this done, the Maltipoo must be old enough that all bones are done growing. 

Femoral Head and Neck Excision: Femoral head and neck excision is a procedure in which the head of the femur is surgically removed and a fibrous pseudo-joint replaces the hip. This procedure is considered a last resort.

The resulting pseudo-joint will, in most cases, be free from pain and allow the animal to increase his activity, however, full range of motion and joint stability are decreased. This does work best on little dogs like the Maltipoo as opposed to large breed dogs.
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