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The story behind Chibi’s hip dysplasia

Today we’re sharing our journey of navigating hip dysplasia with Chibi in the hopes that our experiences can help those who have dogs who have been diagnosed, and prevent mistakes that could put you in a situation where you get a puppy prone to hip dysplasia.

There’s quite a bit to share, so I guess I’ll just start from the beginning.

Puppyhood

Chibi always seemed like a low energy dog to us from the day we brought her home. As she grew older and neared 1 year old, she never became more energetic and we just assumed she was an old soul (we called her an old dog trapped in a puppy’s body). Compared to Kokoro, who was (and still is) a sprightly and rather hyper pup, Cheebs never could go on long walks with us, jogs, or even easy but long hikes. From the start, this should have been a sign to us that she was in pain.

The Diagnosis

In the fall of 2016, right around when Chibi was 1.5 years old, we collaborated with West Elm on some holiday ornaments and were scheduled to do a meet and greet in Chicago at one of their stores. During that trip, we explored the entire city of Chicago and took the dogs on plenty of adventures all over the city. I started to notice that Chibi seemed to have a small limp while she was walking – something about her gait seemed off to me.

After we returned from the trip and completed our move, I took Chibi to her first visit at her new vet in Los Angeles. She went in for her regular checkup, but I mentioned the limp that I’d been seeing and asked them to do some x-rays. That day, I received a call from the vet saying that they saw an extreme case of hip dysplasia. They referred us to a specialist, Paws & Claws Mobile Vet in Woodland Hills, CA, who we visited for a consultation and second opinion.

What is hip dysplasia?

Hip Dysplasia is a disease in dogs where the ball and socket of the hip joints are not properly formed. In Chibi’s case, only about 10% of the ball of her joint fit inside the socket, causing friction and immense pain whenever she moved the joint by walking. The left joint had it a little worse, and that’s why she started limping on that leg first, which in turn caused her arthritis in the joint due to her overcompensating for the leg, really impairing her ability to move freely without pain.

The importance of a reputable breeder

When Chibi was diagnosed, the first question that popped into my mind was, “Wait, isn’t hip dysplasia common on old dogs, large breeds, or overweight dogs? Chibi is none of those things.” Our orthopedic surgeon told us that this was 100% a case of bad breeding.

I was shocked and disappointed. I thought I did my duty as a responsible dog owner by researching lots of breeders and asking what I thought were the right questions to ensure that I both got a healthy dog and supported good breeding. I even got an enthusiastic recommendation for my breeder from someone else who got a healthy dog a year before (and who to this day, is healthy with no issues). There was a warning sign that, in hindsight, I should have caught. When I asked my breeder about genetic testing, I was told that Chibi’s grandparents were tested and clear of any health issues, so Chibi’s parents were not tested. I was reassured that I would get a healthy puppy.

Typically, a reputable breeder will test for things like DM and get OFA ratings, specifically regarding the hips. They will also not have a problem with showing you the results of the tests. A lot of breeders skip these tests because they are expensive, and unfortunately many of them are in the business for making easy cash, especially since each puppy can rake in an average of $1000 or more.

The second sign was that my breeder was having multiple litters per year. Reputable breeders who have the health of their dogs and lineage top of mind will not breed the same mom every year or have tons of litters rolling out to a long waiting list of people ready to write checks. Many reputable breeders will interview you, ask you questions about your plans, income, experience with dogs, and pair you with the right puppy after the litter is born based on the puppy’s personalities and your lifestyle.

Our options

So, here we were, with a young Corgi barely out of puppyhood diagnosed with a disease that was impairing her ability to live life fully and do everything a dog would want to do to be happy. Our orthopedic surgeon gave us two options out of what normally would have been three.

  1. Conduct what is called a Femoral Head Osectomy (FHO) on both hips. First on her left hip, the one she started limping on. Then, on her right hip, when the left had fully recovered and when symptoms showed that the right hip was bothering her. The procedure removes the ball from the joint and the remaining scar tissue that forms acts as a false joint in the socket. Each of these surgeries would run at about $3000.
  2. Conduct a complete hip replacement on both hips, first on her left. Each surgery would cost about $9000.

 

The third option that wasn’t really on the table for us was foregoing surgery and managing pain with medicine and supplements every day. I didn’t want my dog to be taking medication every day for the rest of her life. She had only gone through about 1.5 years of it! Because Chibi was so young and had great prospects for recovering from surgery, we chose to do the Femoral Head Osectomy so that she could hopefully be an active dog with no pain for the many remaining years of her life.

We ended up having to do the FHO procedure three times instead of two because some spurs regrew on her left hip, which was essentially bone regrowth that still caused friction on the joint. If you have a young dog, make sure your surgeon accounts for the bone regrowth during the surgery!

Pet insurance

Thousands of dollars for the procedures…! What about pet insurance, you ask? Does insurance cover any of this?

The answer is yes, some insurance companies do cover hip dysplasia. It’s classified as a genetic disorder (again, 100% a result of breeding in our case). The pet insurance we had for Chibi at the time of her diagnosis, VPI Pet Insurance, excluded genetic conditions. We have since switched over to Pet Plan, which does cover genetic conditions (but excludes hip dysplasia for Cheebs because it counted for them as a preexisting condition). It also covers ACL tears which I’m very worried may happen to Cheebs due to the bad build of her bone structure.

I highly recommend getting a pet insurance for your dog that doesn’t exclude genetic conditions, especially if you haven’t seen DNA tests on your puppy and your puppy’s parents. Embrace and Figo are two others that I’ve heard great things about.

Recovery & Therapy

For dogs with very mild hip dysplasia and who do not need surgery, providing supplements to support healthy joints could be enough to manage the disease. We started giving  Chibi Nutramax’s Dasuquin which was highly recommended by our surgeon and will continue doing so even after her surgeries.

We also took Chibi once a week to swim therapy for about a year. Swimming really helps muscle regrowth and causes less stress on the joints than walking and running. There are a few rehabilitation clinics around LA that charge a ton to do this and require visits with their licensed veterinarians, but we just needed a pool and someone to watch Chibi kick her legs. We went with Doggie Central in Playa Vista and visited frequently between each surgery.

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Today, Chibi is still pretty calm for a young dog but much more energetic than she ever was as a puppy. She is able to come with us on extended, hour-long walks, chase Kokoro all the way down the side of the beach, jump onto the dog bed, all without pain!

What you can do

  1. Get informed! I can’t stress how important it is to do your research – SCOUR the internet – before you decide to get a puppy or dog.
  2. Go to a reputable breeder when you’re looking for a purebred pup, especially if the breed is prone to diseases like hip dysplasia.
  3. Ask to see test results and ensure that you’re setting yourself up for success with as much information as you can get from the breeder
  4. Get your puppy x-rayed early on. Hip Dysplasia can be detected even in puppyhood by looking at these films.
  5. Avoid letting your puppy jump, use stairs, go on too long of walks, runs, hikes, when they’re young to let their bones and joints properly develop. Save the fun for when they’re full grown!

Hopefully my experience provides good background for those of you looking for answers for your own dog’s hip dysplasia or helps those of you looking for a new puppy avoid an expensive and stressful journey like mine.

Have your own story to share? Leave a note if you have any questions or comments!

 

Emily is a Los Angeles based content creator with a passion for photography, videography, and storytelling. Through @emwng, you'll find photos and videos of people, places, delicious food, and of course, her two fluffy sidekicks Kokoro and Chibi.

Comments

  • April 4, 2017
    reply
    Kylee Shrum

    All of this information was extremely helpful for me. I have a four year old purebred pembroke corgi who we are currently about to complete her second knee repair. Her first cruciate ligament repair surgery happened 12/9/16. This past weekend the same injury happened to her other leg. She has her second surgery this upcoming Monday. I am going to look into the same supplements you are giving your corgi and also the same insurance you have.

  • April 4, 2017
    reply
    Yen

    Thank you for sharing this, my corgi puppy also has moderate to severe hip dysplasia. Luckily we found out when he was about 8 months. We also manage with swim but femoral head surgery is in the future. Did you increase the amount of swim therapy after the various surgeries as part of a rehab plan? Thanks again, your post was exactly what I’ve been going through. I hope we didn’t get our dogs from the same breeder!

  • August 21, 2018
    reply

    Great article about hip dysplasia, it effects both puppies and older dogs.

  • August 24, 2018
    reply

    Arthritis and hip dysplasias should be thought about at an early age with supplementaiton and controlled exercie, my dog was recently diagnosed with hip dysplasia :(

  • July 9, 2019
    reply
    Alice

    This was sooooo helpful! I just noticed that my dog sits funny and has a weird sway on his walks which led me to researching more about hip dysplasia. Thank you so much for posting

  • July 14, 2019
    reply
    Kay Knowles

    Howdy,
    I came upon your story while searching for answers to my less-than 2yr Pembroke’s stiffness when getting up after a rest.

    He has already had patella luxation surgery and xrays also revealed mild hip dysplasia. I assumed there might be a little stiffness as a result but it seems so pronounced for just a pup.

    He has been the lowest energy dog I’ve ever had, too, and this was even before his knee injury.

    Could you please share some thoughts on his situation?

    Thanks very much for your incredibly helpful posts.

  • July 19, 2019
    reply
    Kay

    Thank you for your help. I don’t know much about Rehab Vets to be honest,but he is on joint supplements. Does anyone out there have their Pem in dog agility?

  • July 25, 2019
    reply
    Mary Sulzer

    Thank you for a most informative article. I have to admit I read of Chibi’s ordeal through a vale of tears – hoping so much she would be ok. Our male Pembroke Welsh Arby is 12 and starting to show signs of hip dysplasia..,he takes 20 mg of Galliprant daily for pain and half a Cosequin daily for bone and joint health. He is doing ok but has trouble getting up at times. We adopted him from a MA kennel, he was born in Missouri to Blue Ribbon lineage. We never showed him and he is neutered, so cannot be bred. Swimming was not recommended to us, but Chibi seems to have sure benefited by it.
    Wishing your fur baby continued good health! ❤️🐾🐾

  • June 17, 2020
    reply
    Kelsey

    I realize I’m 3 years late but thanks for sharing this story! Our Pembroke Bilbo just turned 3 in May and has been limping on and off for 2 weeks. We’re hoping he just hyper extended a muscle but hip dysplasia was discussed with the vet since it’s so common. Like I mentioned we’re hoping for the best but your post really educated me on the topic and what may come after just in case he does get diagnosed. And the breeding part!! Make so much sense, we had a backyard breeder who I thought (at the time) was legit and produced healthy pups.

    Thank you so much!!

  • November 14, 2020
    reply
    Holly Moore

    We adopTed a 2.5 year Old corgi from a Breeder named GYPSY. She had aLready had two litters but they had her fixed before we adopy her. She came from a Grand champioN line from a breeder in MissOuRi. The new breeder livEd in AL and they drove all the way To get her for breeding pUrposes. That was 2017.
    Ff to 8/2019…we saw her on FB and had put One of our other dogs down 6 months earlier. Gypsy had papers And didnt get along with another Corgi that just had pUppIes so they had O rehome her.
    We have had her for a year and With constant Attention, love and playing we won her Over.
    Right after we got her we Noticed she would growl when we touched her back. So we just gave her time. Then she was playing with my husband and son in the backyaRd one day and had a bad liMp.
    10/2020 vIsit the vet had xrays that confIrmed bOth hips were out. The bad one was only 10% in the Join, the good One 25%. 1st surgeRy, 10/23, ten days later we left hwr cone off one night and she op up her entire wound. So back She went to get stitched back up with better stitches and has to wear the cone at night and wHen We arent hOme. Sorry so long!
    Your experieNce was really helpful and reassuring! I have been a folLowr on your instagram for a while but somehow missed this about Chibi! So glad i found this thRough google! NeXt surgery will be approx in 3 months.

  • November 14, 2020
    reply
    Holly Moore

    I also meant to say that i am so glad we adopted her and are able to afford to have the surgeries. A lot of people Cant afford tO do this and i feel so blessed that we can! She is in her forever hOme and wE will do whatever it takes to help her get back to Her loud annoying bark! ThaNkfully in alabama the surgery was about $1500. I know that has a lot to dO with living in la and nOt al. Although we Are called la sometimes (lower alabama) 😆! Thanks again emily! Best wishes on ending out 2020, i am so ready!!!

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