Hip dysplasia in cats. Causes, symptoms and treatment

Hip dysplasia in cats is the name given to an abnormality that occurs in the development of the hip joints. If these joints are not formed properly, there can be increased laxity and abnormal joint movement, and over time this can lead to joint degeneration and painful osteoarthritis.

Millions of cats in the world probably suffer from hip pain due to dysplasia, but this cat health problem has rarely been studied, unlike in dogs.

What is hip dysplasia in cats?

It is a degenerative disease that causes a malformation of the hip joint , causing pain and stiffness.

A normal, functional hip joint consists of a rounded femoral head that sits in a socket-like structure called the acetabulum. The joint works thanks to cartilage, joint fluid and muscles.

When a cat has hip dysplasia, the femoral head develops an irregular shape and does not seat properly within the acetabulum. The joint becomes unstable, causing pain, swelling, and stiffness.

The poorly adjusted joint can eventually erode the cartilage, letting the bone rub. In some cases, the femoral head is dislocated from the acetabulum.

Over time, osteoarthritis can occur and the joint develops abnormal bone growths. This further restricts movement and makes pain and stiffness worse.

Causes of feline hip dysplasia

In some cats, hip dysplasia will not cause another obvious disease, but in others, they can develop significant and painful arthritis over time. Even in some felines, hip dysplasia is seen along with patellar luxation.

Hip dysplasia in cats is the result of a combination of genetics along with environmental, dietary, and lifestyle factors.

Regarding the genetic cause, hip dysplasia can be seen in any breed of cat, but it is more common in:

  • The Maine Coons.
  • The Persian cat.
  • The Himalayan cat.

Other breeds may also be predisposed, including Siamese, Bengali, Devon Rex, and Abyssinian cats .

Dietary, environmental, and lifestyle factors include:

  • Weight gain or presence of obesity.
  • Nutritional level.
  • Muscle mass in the pelvic area.


Symptoms of dysplasia in cats

Symptoms of hip dysplasia in your cat will vary depending on the amount of movement in the hip joint and the degree of inflammation in the joint. Depending on the duration and severity of the disease progression, you may notice:

  • Resistance to running, jumping or climbing.
  • Difficulty climbing heights.
  • Strengthening of the muscles of the front part of the cat, by exerting more force with the front legs, avoiding the weight on the hips.
  • Hind limb lameness which may be more noticeable after exercise.
  • Loss of muscle mass in the rear, around the hip joint.
  • Hind legs unusually close together, unnaturally.
  • Signs of pain when touched in the hip joint.


Diagnosis of feline dysplasia

The vet will perform a complete physical examination of the cat, which will include a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, an electrolyte panel, and a  urinalysis.

Inflammation due to joint disease can be seen on the complete blood count. The vet will also need a complete history of the cat’s health, the appearance of symptoms, and any possible incidents or injuries that may have contributed to your cat’s symptoms. Any information you have about your cat’s family will also be helpful, as there may be a genetic origin.

X-rays are crucial in visualizing the signs of hip dysplasia.

Treatment of dysplasia in cats

There is no one type of treatment for hip dysplasia in cats. Mild cases of hip dysplasia in which your cat shows no signs of pain may not require any treatment.

  • If your cat is overweight, he will be put on a calorie-restricted diet, as the more weight he is, the greater the pressure on his joints.
  • Pain relievers to relieve discomfort.
  • Anti-inflammatories to reduce inflammation.
  • Glucosamine supplement.
  • Avoid hard exercise, climbing, and jumping, which can further exacerbate the problem.

P ara cats that do not improve after this, surgery will be necessary:

Triple pelvic osteotomy

This surgery works best for young cats that have minimal or no degenerative changes in the hip joint. It involves making three incisions in the rump, groin and hip, then the pelvis is cut in three places and turned. A plate and screws secure the pelvis in its new position.

Head and neck femoral excision

This operation consists of removing the head and neck of the femur. The muscles that support the joint will continue to do their job, without the femoral head rubbing against the socket. This surgery is cheaper than a total hip replacement, and we will save the cat from painful bone-to-bone contact.

Although the cat may be left with a limp and a shorter leg after surgery, it will enjoy a near normal range of motion and excellent function. Even the cat can sit, run and jump.

Total hip replacement

For older cats with arthritis. A total hip replacement involves replacing the head and femoral socket with an implant.

Recovery after surgery will take several weeks, and the cat will need to be confined in a cage or small room.


How to prevent hip dysplasia in cats

You can’t necessarily prevent hip dysplasia in cats, but catching it early can slow its progression. See your vet when you first notice lameness, pain, or stiffness.

Cat breeders can prevent feline hip dysplasia. A cat with hip dysplasia must be spayed or neutered, they should not be used for breeding.




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