What is it and how can I tell if my dog has Hip Dysplasia?

Some cases of canine hip dysplasia are so mild there are no symptoms, but if your dog seems stiff or sore in the hips when getting up, if he seems hesitant to exercise, stand on his hind legs or climb stairs, or if he’s limping or bunny-hopping, a visit to the vet is in order.

 

When do dogs develop Hip Dysplasia?

Several factors contribute to the development of this problem. Some breeds are more likely to genetically inherit hip dysplasia. German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers, St Bernards and Old English Sheepdogs are just a few. For a full list we recommend visiting the Listing of Inherited Disorders (LIDA) website managed by the University of Sydney.

Environmental factors also play a role in the development of dysplasia including diet, weight gain and exercise. However, dogs of all breeds and all sizes are susceptible to this inherited condition.

 

How Is Hip Dysplasia in dogs diagnosed?

Hip dysplasia develops in young growing dogs, and signs maybe noticed as early as four to six weeks of age. However, there is no link between age and severity of this condition which means a very young puppy can be debilitated very early. In other cases dogs may not show any abnormalities until one or two years of age and in some cases may not become painful and lame until they are geriatric (6-10 years of age depending on breed). Here are some signs you should look out for:

  • Hind leg lameness
  • Lack of coordination in the hind quarters (swaying and staggering)
  • Reluctance to run and jump
  • Difficulty when attempting to lie down or stand up
  • Abnormal gait
 

Prevention of Hip Dysplasia - 5 Minutes per Month of Age Rule

Because large breed dogs are prone to joint problems, make sure you do not over-exercise your growing puppy! No big runs or walks! As a rule of thumb: 5 minutes per month of age, so for a 2 month old puppy (when you bring him home) you would exercise him max 10 minutes, 4 months 20 minutes 6 months 30 minutes. Once puppy reaches 1 year of age you can increase the exercise. Also be careful and do not allow rough play with older dogs while the bones and joints are still growing.

 

Treatment of Hip Dysplasia

Because hip dysplasia in dogs is caused by an inherited defect, there are no products that can prevent its development. There are several surgical options, including a complete hip replacement. However, a combination of healthy diet, maintaining a normal weight, exercise, massage, warm and dry sleeping areas, joint supplements, anti-inflammatories and pain-relieving medication can help manage the condition. Your vet can help you with a daily pain-relieving program that is right for your dog.

 

Should dogs with Hip Dysplasia exercise?

Talk to your dog’s veterinarian about a good exercise program. Walking and moderate running can help strengthen the muscles around the joint. Your vet may recommend that you try for two 20- minute walks each day—just be sure to let your dog set the pace. As a general rule, it’s smart to avoid jumping or running for long distances. If you can, consider letting your dog swim for exercise - swimming is excellent for the muscles surrounding his joints. Our mobility harness is great for taking some of the weight of your dog allowing them to exercise for longer periods.

 

Can proper diet help alleviate symptoms of Hip Dysplasia?

Genetics is the main reason veterinarians point to as far as the cause of the disease is concerned. However, most experts agree that genetics is just a small part of the cause. There are other factors that contribute to the development of the disease, and one of them is nutrition. Obese dogs are more prone to this disease than those that are optimally fed. Therefore, pet owners should be very careful when feeding their pets as they are putting them at risk of obesity, which in itself has many other complications.

 
Weight plays an important role in the comfort of your dog’s hips. With overweight dogs, the extra weight can add stress to hip joints, so make sure your dog is on a healthy diet, especially if they are a large breed. You can work with your vet to find the right eating regimen for your dog.
 

What else can I do to ease my dog’s pain?

There are many ways in which hip dysplasia in dogs may be treated. Surgery and swimming is one of the leading treatment procedures. This disease may cause great discomfort to pets if not treated accordingly. If your vet has diagnosed this disease in your dog, you have to heed the health expert’s instructions and make sure that your pet receives proper care and medication, so that the disease will not progress. The Quincys mobility harness has proved to be very useful, by the walker taking some of the weight off the dog. This enables the dog to walk further and build up muscle mass which in turn helps to support the joints.

 

Here are a few tips which you can discuss with your vet:

  • Apply a warm water bottle for 15 minutes twice a day

  • Massage the muscles around his hip joints, gently rubbing in a circular motion with your fingertips for ten minutes at the most (pay attention to his response. If massage seems to irritate your dog’s hip, don’t continue)

  • Buffered aspirin may take the pain away, too, but speak with your vet first about proper dosage, administration and side effects. There are many newer prescription painkillers available as well to help keep your dog pain-free

  • Keep your dog out of damp, chilly weather

  • Provide traction on slippery floors: Dogs with hip dysplasia often have a hard time on slippery floors, so lay carpet down, and if he needs to climb stairs or jump up into the car, a carpeted ramp will make it a lot easier on him

  • Provide a firm, orthopaedic bed for your dog.
     

Download Elbow Dysplasia in dogs (482 kb), published by The British Veterinary Association and The Kennel Club for more detailed information and graphics.

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