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Hip Dysplasia in Dogs – Warning Signs and Coping Strategies

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Canine hip dysplasia is a significant concern for all dog owners, whether you have a mixed breed dog or a pedigree.

This progressive condition often affects larger breeds of dogs such as German Shepherds, Bulldogs, American Staffordshire Terriers, St.Bernards, and Retrievers.

However, it can develop in any breed, size, or type of pup including mixed breed dogs

Hip dysplasia can cause pain and inflammation in the joints, especially in the hips and hind legs (both have ball and socket joints).

In some cases, weakness and left untreated can lead to hip laxity and osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease.

With restricted movement in the hip joints, dogs can suffer, and their quality of life can quickly take a turn for the worst.

However, there are ways to make sure your pup leads a full, comfortable, and happy life, even with this progressive disease. 

Note - If your dog (or dogs) struggles with pain and mobility orthopedic dog beds can really help.

Saint Bernard breed dogs

What is Canine Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia in dogs is not something a pet dog is born with but a condition caused by rapid growth.

This is why it’s more common in larger breeds.

As your pup develops, their hips and joints cannot catch up, and the additional weight and pressure of the dog’s body weight causes damage to the muscles and hips.

Several factors can contribute to developing this painful condition, such as exercise, nutrition, excessive growth, breed, and hereditary factors.

Sadly, there is no cure for hip dysplasia; however, there are ways to reduce pain and joint inflammation and help your puppy live a happy and high-quality life.

From diet and supplements to exercise programs and surgical procedures, depending on how the condition has impacted your puppy will help you decide, with your vet’s help and advice, the best course of action going forward. 

Early signs of hip dysplasia in dogs can be seen in puppies as young as two months old, but you’ll likely spot common symptoms when your pup reaches two years old.

An x-ray from the vet can often confirm the condition, but there are quite a few tell-tale signs to look out for if you think that your dog is suffering from hip dysplasia. 

Warning Signs of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

A dog with hip dysplasia may not show signs or symptoms if the condition is only mild, but if you think your puppy has hip dysplasia, you might notice some of the following red flags.

Clinical Signs and Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

  • Decreased range of motion, especially in the hips and hind legs
  • Bunny hopping or swaying
  • Loss of muscle mass in the hind legs and especially towards the thighs 
  • Signs that they’re in pain such as a lack of appetite and loss of interest in their pet food
  • Fatigue and less interest in walking or playing 
  • No longer willing to climb stairs or jump. 
  • Stiffness, especially in the morning 
  • Problems are rising, sitting down, or lying in their basket. 
  • Refusing to get in or out of a car or jump of the sofa 
  • Limping, especially in the hind legs 
  • Protective over the hind legs and hips while petting, grooming, or bathing 

Severe cases of hip dysplasia in dogs can cause significant pain and restrict your pup’s ability to move.

As the damage to their hip socket and joints continues, they may require medical attention, pain killers, or even a total hip replacement procedure.

Hip laxity is a significant risk factor to consider when dealing with a dog with hip dysplasia.

A looser hip is often a clear indication that the dog will develop osteoarthritis. If you notice any of the above clinical signs of hip dysplasia, it’s worth consulting your vet.

Often if you spot the warning signs early, you can work out a dietary plan with your veterinarian to limit your pup’s growth and prevent further damage and avoid the need for hip replacement surgery.

hip dysplasia


Coping Strategies for a Dog with Hip Dysplasia

As dog owners, seeing your best friend in pain or discomfort is heartbreaking, but there are several ways that you can help your pup feel better and enjoy life to the full.

For more information on this condition and additional help and resources (for pedigree and mixed breed dogs), you can visit the Orthopedic Foundation For Animals.  

Medical Help For Your Pup

A total hip replacement procedure is one of the most effective surgical treatments for a dog with hip dysplasia.

This surgical procedure aims to replace the entire hip joint with a metal or, in some cases, plastic implant. If successful, this operation will give your pup back a wide range of motion in their hips and eliminate pain, inflammation, and discomfort.

Although it is an expensive option that some dog owners are unable to afford. The surgical procedure can cost approx $3,500 per hip joint. 

If a total hip replacement operation is not within your price range, you can still help your pup!

Your vet can regularly give medical injections of glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and omega-3 fatty acid nutritional supplements to reduce pain.

Some veterinarians also recommend laser treatments for hip dysplasia, which targets the nerve cells and reduce pain and inflammation.

This treatment needs to be repeated several times for your pup to enjoy the benefits but is considered very safe and effective.

Medical marijuana is another treatment being researched for dogs in considerable pain with hip dysplasia and could improve their range of motion and quality of life.

Doggie Aspirin, also known as NSAIDs, is an anti-inflammatory drug that can treat dogs with hip dysplasia. 

NSAIDs will reduce swelling in the ball and socket joints and ease hip pain too.

For pain-free walks and a comfortable night’s sleep, your vet may recommend NSAIDs over a surgical procedure, especially if your pup is older.

Lifestyle Changes For Your Dog

A non-surgical approach to treating canine hip dysplasia involves weight management, diet, and a good exercise program.

As your dog may be experiencing weakness in the hind legs and pain in the hips, they won’t be as enthusiastic about going for long walks or running around the garden, and their weight can quickly creep up.

Since bodyweight can cause additional pressure and strain on your dog’s hips, it’s essential to watch what you feed them and get them on a good exercise program.

Please consult your vet about the best exercise routine for your dog and how to help them lose a couple of pounds.

A diet rich in vitamin C, iron, and leafy greens are an excellent combination for your dog and will help with hip joint cartilage repair and rebuild connective tissue broken down due to this progressive condition. 

If your pup is used to running up and down stairs or jumping up and off furniture, it’s time to limit this as much as possible.

Avoiding stairs is a must, and you can use child gates to stop your dog from exerting themselves by following you up and down the stairs during the day and at night. 

Focus on comfort and support to reduce stiffness and pain for your dog from their hip dysplasia.

Investing in an orthopedic memory foam dog bed is a must for a pup with canine hip dysplasia.

Lying down and resting for a long time or throughout the night can make it even more challenging to get up in the morning for dogs with hip dysplasia.

But memory foam technology will help comfort them, support their hips and hind legs and improve their sleep quality.

You can also massage your pup's hip joints to promote blood circulation and reduce stiffness. YouTube is an excellent source for help and guides on gently massage a dog with hip dysplasia.

Check out Massage for Hip Dysplasia and Acupressure for Cruciate Injury, a fantastic YouTube video from Veterinary Surgeon Secrets.


Orthopedic Dog Beds & Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Dogs with hip dysplasia can often benefit from memory foam and orthopedic dog beds, as they will provide additional support while your puppy sleeps.

Cushioning the head, spine, and hips, your dog will be supported and comfortable on an orthopedic dog bed.

Feel free to browse our collection of high-quality scratch and bite proof orthopedic dog beds, specially designed for dogs who need additional comfort.

You might also like to read this post about the best bed for a disabled dog or this one asking what is an orthopedic dog bed?

NOTE - If ever in doubt about the health of your pet dog, please always consult your primary care veterinarian.

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