Hip dysplasia is a progressive condition that can affect Maltese dogs at any age. When dysplasia occurs, the ball-and-socket mechanism of one or both hips dislocates, restricting normal hip and hind leg movements.
Hip joints consist of the ball or head of the femoral bone and a socket on the hip bone. Dysplasia occurs when the ball in one or both hips falls out of its socket.
Small dogs such as Maltese commonly develop hip dysplasia. Some dogs are born with the condition and start showing symptoms during puppyhood.
There appears to be a genetic link to hip dysplasia. Puppies who grow too quickly or get too much exercise can develop dysplasia. Overweight Maltese are also more likely to develop the condition.
Dysplasia causes severe pain and weakness, and prevents the dog from going about its normal activities. Your Maltese might have difficulty walking, walk oddly and find it impossible to jump.
After hearing about your dog's symptoms, your veterinarian will take X-rays before giving a diagnosis of hip dysplasia.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin, codeine or other painkillers, injected corticosteroids and lubricating supplements are standard treatments. Surgery might be required for advanced cases.