Hip dysplasia in dogs is a condition in which the hip joint doesn’t develop sufficiently to support the leg bone. This results in gradual joint deterioration over time as the leg bone bumps and grinds against it.
It can occur in dogs of any breed or age, though symptoms may only become evident later in life as wear and tear on the joint takes its toll. However, there are a variety of treatments that can reduce the discomfort and pain associated with the condition.
Identifying hip dysplasia in dogs
Sometimes hip dysplasia in dogs is difficult to pick up because the symptoms are so mild. However, you should look out for the following signs:
- Stiffness and pain in the dog’s rear legs
- Discomfort during and after exercise
- Walking with a limp or a gait
- Reluctance to participate in physical activity
- Reluctance to fully extend the leg
You may notice, for instance, that your dog doesn’t go upstairs as much as she used to, or that she’s slower when she does go up. Your dog might also be reluctant to jump in and out of the car.
Some of these symptoms might be dismissed as normal signs of aging, or they could be symptoms of another condition, such as arthritis. However, if you notice your dog displaying any of these signs, it’s best to take him to the vet, where they can physically examine the joints and take some x-rays.
Dogs in their middle or later years are more likely to show signs of hip dysplasia, although it can occur in puppies as young as 5 months. Certain breeds are also more prone to develop the condition. According to PetEducation.com, larger breeds are most at risk, including golden retrievers, German Shepherds, Rottweilers and Great Danes. It’s also more likely to occur in pure breeds than cross breeds.
Other factors that increase the risk of hip dysplasia in dogs include:
- Genetics: If the condition has occurred in other members of a dog’s bloodline, it is more likely to occur in their offspring.
- Physical wear and tear: Moderate amounts of exercise may help to strengthen the leg muscles and stave off the disease, but too much physical exertion at a young age, especially in dogs that are already genetically predisposed, may increase the risk of developing the condition later on in life.
- Diet: Obesity and a lack of calcium in the dog’s diet may increase the risk of contracting the illness.
Treating hip dysplasia in dogs
Because it is a genetically inherited condition, hip dysplasia can’t be prevented. However, it can be managed or treated with a combination of surgical procedures, physical therapies, medication, diet and exercise. Most dogs diagnosed with hip dysplasia are able to maintain quality of life without resorting to surgery, which is usually only recommended for very severe cases.
Other treatment options include:
It’s very important that you help your dog maintain the recommended weight level for his size. You may need to modify his diet, especially if he is a little (or a lot) on the chubby side. Low impact exercises such as walking on lead, off-lead walks of about 30 minutes and swimming are suitable options, but you should also consult your vet to recommend an exercise regime based on your dog’s size, breed, and the severity of the condition.
Believe it or not but trick training can help develop the muscles in his hind quarters and teach him to be more aware of them so he can use them more. Things like walking backwards, targeting a platform with his back feet, pivoting into position (both sides) and even walking backwards upstairs can make a big difference to your dog’s movement.
Diet is also key to managing weight. Furthermore, a healthy, nutritious diet is one of the most effective natural treatments for almost any illness. Several dog food manufacturers have prescription diets for joint and arthritis problems. Some foods are also high in nutrients like glucosamine and chondroitin, including chicken necks.
Joint pain is exacerbated by cold weather. So maintain a warm temperature in your home, especially around your dog’s comfortable sleeping area. Pets.webmd.com recommends applying a warm water bottle to the joint for around 15 minutes twice a day to help alleviate pain and discomfort.
Make it easier for your dog to move around the housee by covering slippery floors with carpets and non-slip mats and putting ramps over stairs. You can also keep his nails clipped and trim the hair between the paw pads so that the pads can grip surfaces properly.
Anti-inflammatory drugs such as Carprofen, buffered Aspirin and Corticosteroids are used to treat pain and inflammation associated with the condition. However, be sure to consult with your vet regarding the potential side-effects. Disease-modifying osteoarthritis agents are another drug-related hip dysplasia treatment which can be administered orally or by injection. They help reduce joint degeneration by supplementing materials which the afflicted joint is unable to produce in the necessary quantity.
You can also try natural remedies, like MSM supplements and even some homeopathic remedies like Traumeel.
Massage therapy can help strengthen and relax the joint. It can also relax spinal muscles, which take strain because dogs compensate for lack of movement in their hind quarters. Your veterinarian can show you how to relieve the strain on your dog’s muscles without contributing to his pain or discomfort. You can also try acupuncture to relieve tension in the muscles; chiropractic treatment is also helpful as is physiotherapy.
In some cases, your dog may need a partial or complete hip replacement. Surgeons remove the dysplastic joint and replace it with an artificial joint or prosthesis. The dog can be any size, but their bones must be finished growing. It is an expensive procedure but produces positive results. Most dogs return to normal activity levels.
Surgery is usually the last resort because it’s very invasive and takes a lot out of your dog.