If you own a dog, you have probably heard the phrase “hip dysplasia” before.
However, you may not know what it is, if your dog’s at risk, or how to treat it. And if you want to be the best pet owner possible, you’ll need to educate yourself about a health problem that could affect the four-legged member of your family.
So what exactly is hip dysplasia in dogs, and what should you do if your pet has it? We’ve put together a step by step guide. Read on to learn more.
- 1 What Is Hip Dysplasia?
- 2 What Causes Hip Dysplasia In Dogs?
- 3 How Can I Identify Hip Dysplasia In My Dog?
- 4 How To Treat Hip Dysplasia In Dogs
What Is Hip Dysplasia?
An easy way to explain hip dysplasia in dogs is to think of it like arthritis. Hip dysplasia is a problem with the dog’s joints.
In this case, the dog’s hip joint doesn’t work properly and the bones grind together instead of smoothly gliding. This obviously causes a lot of pain, which will probably be your first indication that something is wrong.
Hip dysplasia usually affects larger breeds, like German shepherds or Labrador retrievers, but the syndrome can occur in any size dog. If you have a little dog, you should still be on the lookout for symptoms.
You should especially be vigilant about hip dysplasia if your dog is overweight. Excessive weight can accelerate the symptoms and decrease your pet’s quality of life.
However, that’s not the root cause of the problem.
What Causes Hip Dysplasia In Dogs?
The biggest cause of hip dysplasia in dogs isn’t something you can control — it’s just genetics.
Hip dysplasia is a hereditary skeletal problem, so even if you do everything right, your dog might just be at high risk of developing the condition.
For example, in large breeds, hip dysplasia is usually exacerbated by puppies growing too quickly. Their joints can’t keep up with how fast the rest of their body is growing, and the bones no longer fit together the way they’re supposed to.
If this is the case, you may see symptoms in puppies as young as four months old.
However, it can also be brought on later in life by both too much or too little exercise.
If your dog is overactive, it could be experiencing excessive wear and tear on its joints. On the other hand, if it’s not getting enough exercise, it could become overweight. The extra weight puts more pressure on the joints, which leads us back to the same problem.
So what can you do, as a responsible pet owner?
How Can I Identify Hip Dysplasia In My Dog?
First, let’s tackle how you can identify the symptoms of hip dysplasia in your pet. It’s important to know what it could look like before going any further.
1. Decreased Activity
Behavioral changes are one of the first indicators of hip dysplasia in dogs.
If you notice that a dog that is usually playful is more sedentary than usual, that may be the first sign that something is wrong.
Hip dysplasia affects dogs’ ability to move. If your dog suddenly seems reluctant to jump, go up and down stairs, or run, hip dysplasia is a possibility.
The increased friction in your dog’s joints is obviously painful. Any dog exhibiting signs of pain should be monitored to see what is causing it.
Your dog may whine or whimper when getting up or yelp if you touch its hip with too much pressure. Watching its pain levels closely is one of the easiest ways to tell if there’s an issue, as well as one of the earliest.
If you miss the pain and/or reduced movement in your dog, or if you adopted a dog after these symptoms already formed, you may see some of these later stage symptoms as well.
3. “Bunny Hop”
As the hip dysplasia worsens, your dog will try to compensate or move differently to avoid the pain.
In some cases, this could look like the “bunny hop,” or an odd style of running that dogs adopt to lessen the strain on their back legs and hips.
This makes dogs look like they’re hopping when they run since they’re trying to move their hips as little as possible.
If the hip dysplasia isn’t treated at this point, it may lead to a more serious reduction in mobility.
The severity of lameness can vary. In the early stages, it might just show up as the slight pain or tenderness that we mentioned above.
However, if it’s allowed to get worse, your dog might be unable to put any weight on one or both of its back legs.
You will usually notice a severe loss in muscle tone surrounding your dog’s hips. At the same time, its shoulder muscles will become stronger to compensate.
If you notice signs of lameness in your dog, take it to the vet immediately.
If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above, don’t hesitate to take your pet to a medical professional. The symptoms are great indicators, but nothing can be proven until a vet checks out your pet.
An x-ray will show just how the joints are fitting together and is the best way to determine if your dog has hip dysplasia. If it does, the x-ray will also reveal how far along it is and help to determine a plan of action.
Although there is no cure for hip dysplasia in dogs, there are ways to treat the condition and help give your pet a better quality of life.
How To Treat Hip Dysplasia In Dogs
There is no one right way to treat hip dysplasia, so listen to your vet to determine which one is right for your dog. Each dog is different, and so it will respond to each method differently.
You may have to try a variety of treatments to find one that works, but since there’s no shortage of treatments, you don’t need to worry.
If the hip dysplasia was caused by your dog becoming too overweight, increasing its daily exercise can help to relieve the symptoms.
This will help improve its overall health as well as helping it to lose weight, so a win in more ways than one!
Try to make sure that your dog gets at least thirty minutes of activity per day. Even three ten minute periods of running around in your yard, spread throughout the day, can do a lot of good.
If your dog’s mobility is limited enough to where things like running are impossible, try swimming instead. There is less pressure on the joints, but it still helps to get dogs moving and increase muscle tone.
2. Pain Meds
If your dog is in a really significant amount of pain, your vet might prescribe some medication to try to lessen the symptoms. This is especially important if exercise is part of the recommended treatment.
You can give your dog NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to reduce swelling and give them some peace. However, don’t just pull the meds from your cabinet — there are drugs manufactured specifically for dogs.
Always be sure to consult your vet before giving your dog any drugs. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
3. Physical Therapy
If regular exercise and pain meds won’t cut it, your vet may also recommend regular physical therapy. This could take the form of controlled exercise, hydrotherapy, or other recommendations to get your dog back to normal.
Physical therapy can help to rehabilitate both the joints and the muscles to improve your dog’s range of motion and decrease pain.
4. Alternative Medicine
If the three treatments above don’t sound right to you, there are also alternative approaches to take to hip dysplasia in dogs.
One example is simply giving your dogs Vitamin C or Vitamin E. These vitamins help to reduce inflammation and help protect the joints.
Other natural options are Omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants.
If you’re searching for an alternative treatment that can be administered by a professional, there are some vets that specialize in acupuncture for pets. Acupuncture can also help to relieve some of the pressure on your dog’s joints, making it easier and less painful to walk around.
As a last resort, your dog may qualify for surgical treatment. Not all dogs are good candidates for surgery, so be sure to try the treatments above before looking into this option.
If surgery seems to be the best decision, research the different methods and talk with your vet about what would be best for your dog. Some methods work best on puppies under ten months, while others are better for dogs experiencing this problem later on in their lives.
It is also a good idea to try to keep your dog warm in addition to the treatments mentioned above. Think of how humans with arthritis are in more pain when it’s cold and wet outside. Dogs with hip dysplasia have similar symptoms.
With this information, you’re well-prepared to understand and take on hip dysplasia in dogs.