Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
13 May, 2014

Some dogs, especially as they get older, have trouble with their hips (just as we humans do).  Hip dysplasia is one of the most common skeletal diseases in dogs. Gender does not seem to be a factor, but some breeds are more likely to have the genetic predisposition for hip dysplasia than other breeds. Large breeds, such as the Great Dane, Golden Retriever, Saint Bernard, and German Shepherds are most commonly affected.  It is rare for smaller breed dogs to have the condition.

Hip dysplasia is one of the most common illnesses in older dogs, and can be devastating to both dogs and their owners. Otherwise healthy dogs suddenly have trouble participating in their favorite activities, dramatically interfering with their quality of life. If your dog is suffering from hip dysplasia, here’s what you can do to help.

What is hip dysplasia in dogs?

Hip dysplasia is caused by a malformation of the hip joint that interferes with the top bone of the hind legs fitting perfectly into the hip socket. The illness is thought to be at least partially genetic, but typically only hits in middle aged or older dogs, so environmental factors have a clear impact.

As our dogs age, the bone becomes progressively more worn and the inability of the hips to properly support the weight of the body causes more and more problems. In the beginning, hip dysplasia may manifest in the form of minor issues controlling the hips, an inability to jump high, or occasional slipping when running, but in the later stages hip dysplasia can severely limit a dog’s mobility. Thus the key with hip dysplasia is to catch it early and to prevent it from getting worse.

Factors That Can Make Hip Dysplasia Worse

  1. Obese dogs are at a higher risk for hip dysplasia and also have more pain when they get hip dysplasia because the hips are being forced to support more weight than they should. If your dog is overweight, avoid putting her on a restrictive diet, but provide her with light exercise and consider a diet pet food.

  2. Over-exercise, especially when a dog is still young, can contribute to hip dysplasia. In old age, however, it can make hip dysplasia worse. Limit exercise that puts a strain on your dogs’ hips, including jumping, fast running, and walking over uneven surfaces.

  3. Poor nutrition, especially diets lacking in calcium, or extremely high calorie diets, can also cause problems in your dog’s hips. Ask your vet about the food you are feeding your dog, and read up on canine nutrition since vets are often not well-educated about nutritional issues in dogs.

Tips to help your dogs that have hip dysplasia

There are numerous factors that can help a dog with hip dysplasia still continue to live a relatively normal life. Veterinary medicine has come a long way, and some surgical treatments have had amazing success, so be sure to talk to your vet about your dog’s prognosis and consult with a specialist if you’re interested in pursuing surgical treatment. In conjunction with working with your vet, there are several things you can do at home to help your dog:

  1. Supplementing with glucosamine and chondroitin is one of the most effective ways to slow the effects of hip dysplasia.  These important nutrients can help with bone health. Make sure to buy a high quality supplement and feed to your dog daily.  Take a look at why glucosamine is important: Click here to learn more.

  2. Try to make life more comfortable for your dog and help him avoid overly exerting his hips. Provide a ramp to get into your car, bed, sofa, or other places your dog regularly climbs, and encourage your dog to limit his jumping.

  3. Make sure your dog gets plenty of regular exercise. While over-exercising a dog can be damaging, providing moderate exercise daily helps your dog to maintain good range of movement. Take your dog for at least one thirty minute walk daily

  4. Provide your dog with an excellent sleeping area. Cold weather can make the pain worse, and an uncomfortable bed is equally bad. Giving your dog a foam bed in a warm spot in your house can help ease the stiffness.

  5. Massage can work wonders. Dogs aren’t that different from people, and massage can help to loosen tension and relieve pain. Ask your vet to show you where to massage your dog. Start slowly and follow your dog’s lead. If she’s resistant to being massaged, don’t force it.

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