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Hip Dysplasia - Common Maltese Dog Hip Problem
What is this?

This affects the hip joints of the hind legs of the Maltese dog. It can run as a genetic fault, however it can also brought on by injury.

The hip is made out of 2 basic elements: the ball and the socket.

These are normally held together by ligaments.

Hip Dysplasia in the health condition in which the the ball of the hip moves out of place from the socket.

Unfortunately, this is common with the Maltese dog breed.
When the hip is functioning normally, all parts play a role in allowing the dog to have free motion.  The ball and socket match up perfectly, ligaments hold them firmly in place, connective tissue helps to hold this all together and a smooth and cushion type layer of cartilage is present where the bones connect.

Hip Dysplaia causes the disruption of normal hip movement in the Maltese dog, as the bone slips partially or fully out of place.  This can occur in one hip or both.

What Causes This?

This is in inherited canine disease.  If a Maltese puppy has just one parent with this, that pups odds are increased up to 25%. Other factors may be:
  • Weight - overweight dogs are more prone to this
  • Rapid Growth - if a Maltese puppy grows very rapidly, usually during the 4 to 6 month period, this can cause abnormal bone growth in the hips
  • Too much exercise - while exercise is very important to keep your Maltese healthy, if a puppy is over-exercising on a regular basis, this may put too much strain on the developing hip bones.

What are the Symptoms?

If your Maltese dog has hip problems, this will be very clear to you.  A Maltese may show symptoms at any age. There will be one or all of the following:

•    Weakness in the rear legs. This is usually  more noticeable after exercising.  The dog's hind legs will become shaky, unstable and the dog will have a hard time balancing while trying to maintain a standing position
•    Difficulty getting up from a laying position
•    Hopping – walking is difficult and the dog may compensate by bringing both rear legs up at the same time
•    Rising using front legs only and dragging rear end, basically the dog will not be able to use their hind legs
•    An unsteady or unbalanced walk with the rear legs
•    A very short stride with the rear legs (taking very tiny steps)
•    Unwillingness to jump, run,  climb stairs or walk uphill

What is the Treatment for a Maltese Dog with Hip Dysplasia?

Treatment with medication is usually the first step

•    Corticosteroids are used. It is safe medicine when given to dogs and it reduces swelling. It is injected directly into the Maltese dog’s hip joint.
•    Acetaminophen can be given to dogs, under the veterinarian’s care. Vigilant dosing must be done, as too much can cause liver problems
•    NSAID (Aspirin or new buffered types of Rimadly, Carprofen, Metacam or Meloxiam) medications may be given to a Maltese. These assist to reduce swelling, tenderness and inflexibility.  It is imperative to note that a dog owner should in no way give medication to their Maltese dog without the vet’s guidance.  Many human pain medications are toxic to the Maltese breed.
•    Special dog supplements, called Visco-supplementation can be helpful.  This gel type material is injected straight into the dog’s hip joint.  It lubricates the socket and joint; therefore helping with pain. This supplement can help to increase ability to move better. However, this only works temporarily.

If a Maltese dog’s hip or hips continues to degenerates, surgery is the next step.

If detected early on, when the Maltese dog is still a puppy and the joint and sockets are still mostly intact:

•    A surgical procedure can be carried out in which the dog’s pelvis is cut into 3 separate parts.  These are then repositioned to fit correctly.   The Maltese dog will need to rest for about 8 weeks once this operation is done.

For dogs with serious deterioration of the joint or if the joint is fully out of place:

•   The dog’s pelvic joint may need to be removed.  This sounds serious; however many dogs actually do so much better once this is done.  They compensate very well for the missing joint and have a much higher quality of life than with an abnormal hip that causes pain and does not allow for proper movement.  A dog will need to rest for up to 8 weeks and will improve each week in their ability to walk.

•    Total hip replacement surgery is an option. This is considered to be major surgery. An implant made of the material cobalt chrome stainless steel is placed inside the dog as the “ball” portion of the hip and a socket made of high tech plastic is used in place of the dog’s hip socket.  In many cases, this will allow a Maltese dog to resume an entirely active life. Up to 8 weeks of rest will be needed afterward.  Progress to a previously active exercise routine will be steady and will increase each week.


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