Hip dysplasia is the most common heritable orthopedic disease seen in dogs, leaving many pet owners wondering why it develops and how to help mitigate the symptoms.
Getting a hip dysplasia diagnosis can be daunting but many things can be done to keep your pup healthy and happy! In this blog, we will provide the basics of understanding canine hip dysplasia as well as tips for managing it.
What Causes Canine Hip Dysplasia?
Canine hip dysplasia is a deformity of the hip that occurs during growth. When the ball and socket of the hip joints haven’t grown in equal amounts, the joint wear prematurely and causes pain that can eventually make it difficult for them to move.
Unfortunately, many factors can cause canine hip dysplasia. These factors can range from environmental or genetic causes. This could mean nutrition, hormones, exercise, growth rate, muscle mass, or parental lineage. Typically, it is seen most often in large breed dogs but can be prevented early by ensuring that puppies are not being overfed.
Hip Dysplasia Symptoms
Hip dysplasia and its symptoms can be seen either when your dog is a puppy, between 1 and 2 years of age, or in their senior years.
Canine hip dysplasia manifests as weakness in the back legs and a reluctance or difficulty getting up from sitting or onto furniture. Owners often see less activity and less interest in being active. Another symptom to watch for can be increased shoulder strength/mass as compensation for the weaker bag legs.
Most of all, you know your pet best. You will be the first one to know when their behavior and posture change drastically. Keep an eye on them and take them to their vet if you feel like you notice any of them.
Regular, low-impact exercise will strengthen your pup’s muscles and avoid degeneration. Typically, walking or light jogging for less than 30 minutes is considered low-impact for your dog. Swimming, if you have access to a pool of water, is an optimal exercise practice for the least amount of impact.
You will want to keep several things in mind when exercising a dog with hip dysplasia. First, letting them set their own pace is paramount. Additionally, you will want to try to avoid concrete and other harder surfaces for exercise if you can as those surfaces will be tougher on your pup's body.
With all efforts to help treat and manage hip dysplasia, you want to keep extra weight and strain off of their joints. So another benefit to regular exercise is that it can help you manage your pet's weight. If your dog gains too much additional weight it can create unneeded tension.
Create an exercise plan with your vet to provide safe movement without overdoing it! Making a plan will make sure you are keeping consistent with your pet's workouts and will ensure that you do not end up overdoing it!
Vets typically recommend an anti-inflammatory agent to manage the pain and inflammation caused by hip dysplasia.
Anti-inflammatory agents like CBD are helpful to reduce swelling and strengthen your dog’s joints. They also will provide a reduction in pain to help your pup feel more comfortable.
NSAIDs are also an option for fighting pain and inflammation. However, these drugs can have side effects that if used often need to be monitored with regular testing to ensure no kidney or liver damage occurs.
Dogs with hip dysplasia can benefit from the addition of certain nutritional items. With your vet's approval, you should introduce glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and omega-3 fatty acid nutritional supplements. These nutritional items are all aimed at providing the best support to your dog's hips and joints.
The Right Tools
Ramps & Steps
Using ramps or simple steps to help your dog get into the bed, car or other favorite spots where they may usually have to jump can reduce the impact on their bodies. You can find padded ramps and steps made with pets in mind on most online pet retail sites.
Providing soft sleeping spots and heating pads (with careful monitoring) in the winter can help provide support to your dog’s joints! Investing in a dog bed with extra support can greatly help your pet with hip dysplasia.
Dogs with hip dysplasia often have difficulty getting up from and navigating slick or smooth surfaces. If you have a lot of tile or hardwood in your home providing traction through rubber mats, rugs or additional carpet will make their mobility much easier! Another option is providing your pup with traction by adding booties - if they will wear them!
Physical therapy is a great aid in managing hip dysplasia by stimulating blood flow in the legs and hip joints. Physical therapy can look like different plans of action, depending on your dog's needs and your comfortability!
Physical therapy can be done with specialists who offer massage, treadmills hydrotherapy, and more. These specialists can range in what they offer. Some may be more traditional and others more holistic with treatments like acupuncture.
You can also show your love for your dog through at-home physical therapy practices. You can introduce balance discs for a fun and interactive treatment option. Simple massage techniques like circular massages to their hip joints can be extremely helpful. Applying a warm water bottle or heating pad for 10 or 15 minutes a day can also offer great relief to your pup. Be sure to only provide at-home remedies that you are comfortable with and always check in with your dog to see that they seem comfortable and happy during all of them!
Surgery is something all pet parents try their best to avoid. However, if your dog's hip dysplasia is severe enough to warrant a vet's recommendation and you can financially accomplish it, surgery can be a viable option. When you speak to their vet they will recommend either a double or triple pelvic osteotomy (DPO/TPO), femoral head osteotomy (FHO), or total hip replacement (THR) surgery.
Dogs with hip dysplasia often lead long, full lives, especially with treatment. If you think that your dog may be affected, talk to your veterinarian. Treatment options and lifestyle changes you can make to keep your dog comfortable well into old age.