Hip Dysplasia refers to a deformity of the hip joint, which leads to arthritis if left untreated. This condition is very painful. Up until recently it was only large breeds of dogs that were diagnosed with hip dysplasia. Veterinarians are now realizing that all breeds of cats can have the disease as well. The Devon Rex has been reported to have a 40% likelihood of contracting the disease. The prevalence in the Main Coon Cat, Persian, and Himalayan drops down to about 20 percent and domestic housecats less than 5 percent.
It is believed that larger breeds of cats will more often suffer from dysplasia than smaller cats. The reason for this is that the larger the bones the less protective cushioning of muscle and sinuous tissue surrounding them. Less protective cushioning leads to greater risk for hip displacement.
Hip dysplasia is an inherited disease but cats are not born with it, instead they develop it over time. The condition occurs because the femoral head, a ball like structure does not fit properly into the socket called the acetabulum. Hip joint laxity, which is the medical name for the instability caused by the improper fit of ball and socket alignment, results in an imbalance of weight on the hip joint. The cartilage disintegrates from constant friction causing bone on bone contact between the acetabulum and femoral head. The cat is in pain with every step that it takes. Eventually the condition can lead to osteoarthritis a common form of arthritis resulting from the breakdown of cartilage.
Most owners do not detect the gradual deterioration of their pet's normal activity. The reason is that felines tend to hide their vulnerability and do not show pain. This is a throw back from nature. When they were in the wild to show that they were injured would render them an easy prey and almost always meant certain death.
At first your cat will not jump as high or run as fast, or it may move more slowly than normal. A while later you may notice that the cat has begun to limp and is unable to jump or climb stairs. The disease has gotten worse and now the signs become more obvious.
Other symptoms include:
Tenderness in the hindquarters
Refusal to be picked up or carried around
Howling or crying when being picked up
A popping sound experienced when the cat is walking around
In female cats, the hips are much narrower than the shoulders and they gain weight.
X-rays of the hip joint can be taken by your personal veterinarian but he/she will send them onto a certified radiologist for evaluation.
There is no treatment that will totally repair the damage. The treatments currently practiced include:
Calorie reduced diets for overweight cats
Eliminating unnecessary exercises
Natural glucosamine to repair joint degeneration
Just like humans, overweight animals have more of a chance to suffer from hip dysplasia or arthritis in general. Make sure your cat has a proper diet and sufficient exercise. Keeping your cat's weight down will help keep the extra pounds from bearing down on the joints and bones. As the old adage states, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure".
Taking your cat to the veterinarian as soon as you notice the signs of lameness, limpness or pain will mean that you can help its quality of life. Cats do very well post surgically, and can live normal pain free lives.