You start to notice your dog isn’t as active and outgoing as he or she once was.
At first, you think he or she is having an off day or is a little under the weather. As the days progress, you begin to notice that your beloved pet can’t climb stairs (potential signs of hip dysplasia), is having difficulty simply walking around the house or is displaying signs of lameness and you begin to worry that it may be something worse than just an “off day”.
You want your furry four-legged friend to be happy, healthy, and feel their best. Seeing your best furry friend in pain breaks your heart. When you’re unsure of what’s going on, an sick dog can be a scary experience.
Hip dysplasia is a phrase every dog owner hopes to never hear. It’s a condition most common in larger dog breeds, but it can also affect smaller breeds too. Hip dysplasia in dogs can cause significant pain, and reduce a dog’s quality of life.
Fortunately, advances in veterinary medicine and available knowledge can help you recognize the early warning signs of dysplasia and help prevent it. New technology and medicine help improve your dog’s quality of life.
Here’s what to know about hip dysplasia, the symptoms, and how to prevent it in your furry friend.
About Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
Dog hip dysplasia is a skeletal disease that causes hip joints to lose cartilage and become damaged and is common in large breed dogs. It’s often due to a dog’s hip joints not developing properly at a young age. This causes the hips to dislocate and worsen as the dog grows up.
The hip works by a ball moving inside a socket. Hip dysplasia causes the ball inside the socket to wear down the cartilage. As the disease progresses, the bones will start to rub on each other causing tiny fractures and pain.
The deterioration of the cartilage in the joint can lead to a total loss of use of the hips. This degeneration disease is a form of osteoarthritis.
If left untreated, the dysplasia worsens and your dog will show more symptoms as he or she compensates for the pain. Dogs, particularly larger breeds, can develop it as young as 4 months.
The good news is canine hip dysplasia is treatable and, in some cases, preventable.
Causes of Hip Dysplasia
Many factors can cause hip dysplasia in dogs. The dog’s size is a major determining factor. Larger dogs have an increased risk of experiencing more joint and cardiovascular health issues in their lifetime.
German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Great Danes, and Saint Bernards are some of the dog breeds that are most likely to develop hip dysplasia.
Larger dogs experience a rapid rate of growth as puppies, which can lead to skeletal issues. These issues are most common in the hips and other joints.
Nutrition is very important as larger dogs need to maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts extra stress on a dog’s joints and heart. It causes hip dysplasia as well as several other joint and health issues.
Another cause of hip dysplasia in dogs is exercise. Improper exercise, such as too much or too little, can wear down and injure a dog’s joints.
In other cases, hip dysplasia is genetic and very difficult (sometimes impossible) to prevent.
If you have a smaller breed of dog, don’t think you’re off the hook. A dog of any size experiencing too much exercise or unhealthy weight gain will be at increased risk of hip dysplasia and other joint problems.
Hip Dysplasia Symptoms
Hip dysplasia is easy to spot if you know the symptoms. Unfortunately, the more noticeable the symptoms are, the more likely your furry four-legged friend is in a lot of pain.
If you notice anything unusual, always have your dog checked and diagnosed by a veterinarian.
Since canine hip dysplasia is incredibly painful, they’re less likely to move around and play. They’ll stick to sleeping and resting throughout the day. Your dog will become less excited about walks, playing outside, or other activities they once loved.
Oftentimes, a dog’s inactivity can be due to age or other issues. Talk with your dog’s veterinary to check all possibilities.
Limping is a sign that something is wrong with your dog’s legs, paws or hip joint. A dog with hip dysplasia may avoid putting pressure on one or both of his/her back legs by holding one up or hopping around.
If you notice your dog limping, always check it out. Limping, on any leg, can be a sign of a serious ailment, inflammation, joint disease or injury.
Has your dog not been hopping up on the bed or the couch, or avoiding the stairs?
Climbing stairs and jumping requires a lot of use of the hind legs. Hip dysplasia in dogs limits their range of motion, making jumping difficult.
At first your dog may hesitate or take their time jumping or climbing the stairs. Many dogs will outright refuse to jump or climb if they’re in too much pain.
Hopping (or “bunny hopping”) refers to a dog lifting both of their hind legs at the same time, similar to a rabbit hopping. This symptom is noticeable when your dog is walking, running, or climbing down the stairs.
The hopping prevents the legs from moving too much and is common in almost all dogs suffering from hip dysplasia.
Getting Up is Difficult
Is your furry friend having trouble standing up after they’ve been laying down?
The time it takes a dog to rise depends on the amount of time they were laying down. Hip dysplasia in dogs makes the mornings difficult. The longer they’re sedentary, the stiffer their legs and hips will become.
Carpet and rugs will give your four-legged friends more traction to make standing up easier.
Pain in the Hips
A telltale sign of hip dysplasia in dogs is pain and sensitivity around the hip area. The dysplasia can cause a dog to yelp, jerk, or nip at anyone, human or pet, who touches their hip area.
If your furry friend is experiencing pain or sensitivity in their hips, have your veterinarian check it out.
Identifying the symptoms early can get the process started for treatment and recovery sooner rather than later. Your four-legged friend will thank you!
Treatments for Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
Unfortunately, hip dysplasia is not curable that is life-long. But some treatments can help reduce the pain and slow down the deterioration of the hips.
Medicines & Supplements
Medicines, such as anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are an effective treatment for managing pain. There are different strengths of NSAIDs, and your veterinarian may have you try a few different ones to find what works best for your dog.
Your veterinarian may recommend dog supplements along with pain medication. Together, they will reduce the rate of degeneration in the hips. Glucosamine for dogs is a supplement that strengthens cartilage and reduces added damage.
Other supplements include Omega-3 fatty acids, chondroitin sulfate, and polysulfated glycosaminoglycan injections. These supplements help protect and strengthen cartilage in the joints and reduce the risk of arthritis.
A few dog parents and their veterinarians are exploring the benefits of CBD for dogs. CBD helps with pain management along with appetite and mood. Researchers are still studying the medicinal benefits of CBD oils.
Always talk with your dog’s veterinarian before starting your furry friend on any supplement or medication.
Physical therapy and moderate exercise help strengthen the surrounding muscles and joints. The exercises are low impact to prevent further damage to any of your dog’s joints. Physical therapy is an effective treatment for improving your dog’s mobility and quality of life.
Surgery is an invasive option for dogs with advanced stages of hip dysplasia. Most veterinarians will resort to surgery only if a dog doesn’t respond to medicine or physical therapy.
The most effective surgery is a total hip replacement. The surgeon replaces the joint with plastic and metal artificial implants. They allow for a much greater range of motion and help your dog feel like his or her old self.
Preventing Hip Dysplasia
In most cases, hip dysplasia in dogs is genetic and is not preventable. However, adding supplements and moderate exercise will help strengthen your dog’s skeletal system.
If your furry friend is a puppy, make sure they are eating nutritious puppy food. The proper puppy food will get your dog the vitamins and minerals necessary for proper bone and joint growth.
As your puppy grows, a healthy diet and exercise will help keep their weight in check. If you have a large breed of dog, feed him or her large breed dog food. This type of dog food has nutrients, such as glucosamine, to reduce the risk of arthritis.
Research the breed or breeds of dogs you’re looking to adopt. If you’re looking for a particular breed or pure breed dog, find a reliable breeder. Breeders can prevent hip dysplasia by screening their dogs for the disease.
A Positive Outlook for Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
While hip dysplasia in dogs causes pain and can reduce their quality of life, you still have options to help your pooch. Recognizing the symptoms early is key to helping your pooch get back on their paws. The advances in veterinary medicine and technology can help your dog live his or her best life for years to come.
Have more questions about large dog breeds or common medical issues they may face? Let us know! We’ll help point you in the right direction to get the most reliable information for your furry friend.