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Hip Dysplasia in Dogs: How To Recognize the Signs and What To Do

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Hip dysplasia is a skeletal condition that strikes fear in most dog owners. Symptoms include debilitating pain that can affect a dog’s quality of life. While commonly thought to affect large dog breeds, hip dysplasia can occur in dogs of all sizes. 

On the positive side, there are many things pet owners can do to improve the quality of life for dogs with hip dysplasia. Read on to learn more about this ailment, including signs and symptoms to watch out for. Plus, we’ll show you the different treatment options and give you tips on how to help your pup live his or her best life.

What Is Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?

Hip Dysplasia in Dogs: Saint Bernard on a snowy bridge

Hip dysplasia is a condition where the hip bones aren’t properly aligned in the ball and socket joint. It can occur when the ball — also known as the acetabulum — and the joint don’t develop properly or when they are misaligned. Over time, the bone causes wear and tear on the socket, leading to significant discomfort and pain.

Canine hip dysplasia is a genetic disorder that can be exacerbated by environmental factors. It’s most common in large breed dogs like Great Danes, Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers, Saint Bernards, German Shepherds, and Labrador Retrievers. 

It’s a degenerative joint disease, meaning it causes the cartilage and bones in the joint to break down over time. When left untreated, hip dysplasia can cause lameness, arthritic joints, and complete loss of movement in the affected joint.

While the main cause of hip dysplasia is genetic, it can be magnified by poor nutrition, certain types of exercise, and growth rates. Large breed puppies may benefit from specially formulated nutrition that helps control growth to prevent adding too much strain on joints too quickly.

Being overweight may increase the pain associated with hip dysplasia. Excessive exercise can also exacerbate this condition, as can running dogs on hard, unforgiving surfaces.

Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia

Hip Dysplasia in Dogs: Large dog resting on bed

Hip dysplasia becomes apparent in dogs as young as five months of age, but dogs may also develop symptoms later in life. Symptoms can vary depending on the severity of the condition and may increase after strenuous activity, which creates inflammation.

In general, signs of hip dysplasia include:

  • Limited range of motion
  • Laxity or looseness in hip joints
  • A disjointed gait — typically similar to bunnyhopping
  • Grinding in the joint area
  • Pain and stiffness
  • Lameness in the hindquarters
  • Difficulty changing position, particularly when standing up
  • Trouble running or climbing stairs
  • Decreased muscle mass in the legs

How Is Hip Dysplasia Diagnosed in Dogs

Hip Dysplasia in Dogs: Jack Russell terrier at vet

If you suspect your dog has hip dysplasia, make an appointment with your veterinarian. They will conduct a physical examination where he or she will move your dog’s hind legs and monitor the joints for grinding or rubbing. The vet will also ask whether any injuries have contributed to the problem and ask you to explain the symptoms and when they first appeared.

The veterinarian may also conduct a blood test to identify inflammation signals and will take X-rays of your dog’s hip area for final diagnosing. The X-ray will help the veterinarian determine the severity of the hip dysplasia, which will guide the treatment plan.

Treatment Options for Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Adorable pub being diagnosed by a vet

Treatment options for hip dysplasia range from small lifestyle changes to total hip replacement, depending on the severity of the condition. In general, lifestyle adjustments can help provide comfort for your pet regardless of whether your pet needs surgery. Your veterinarian will help you determine if your pet needs surgery and identify which type — more on that in a second. Here are the main ways you can support your dog’s condition without surgery.

Pain Medications

If your pup is displaying symptoms of pain, including having trouble changing positions or whimpering during certain activities, try giving him or her non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Medications like Rimadyl, Previcox, and Deramaxx are good options. Don’t give your pup human pain medications. And make sure you talk to your veterinarian about proper dosing before using the NSAIDs listed above. 

Weight Control

Weight control is another key tool in helping limit the effects of hip dysplasia. Limiting the amount of excess weight your dog has to carry around can help reduce stress on the hip joints. Work with your vet to formulate a healthy diet that can help manage weight. 

Exercise and Physical Therapy

Exercise your dog in ways that don’t add stress to the joints. Limit excessive or hard running activities and try to go on several short walks rather than one really long one. Restrict exercises on hard surfaces, and walk your dog on surfaces that absorb impact, like grass. 

Physical therapy can also help your dog build muscle mass to protect their joints. Work closely with your veterinarian to find a doggy physical therapist who can treat your dog’s specific needs.

Joint Supplements

Joint supplements like those from PetHonesty can also help to strengthen the joint and prevent damage caused by hip dysplasia. You can find joint mobility chews for different ages, including some formulated specifically for senior dogs. These chews contain ingredients that include glucosamine, hemp oil, and omega-3 fatty acids that may help soothe hip pain and decrease inflammation.

Surgical Procedures for Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Hip displaysia in dogs sometimes leads to needing a wheelchair

There are many different surgical options to address severe hip dysplasia in dogs. The three most common surgeries are known as a double or triple pelvic osteotomy (DPO or TPO), femoral head ostectomy (FHO), and total hip replacement (THR).

DPO and TPO are typically used to treat hip dysplasia in dogs that are under 10 months old. During the procedure, a veterinarian will cut and rotate the pelvic bone to provide a better fit in the joint socket. The total recovery time from this procedure takes about 12 weeks and your pup will only be allowed on short, leashed walks for potty time for the first eight weeks.

A femoral head ostectomy is used on both young dogs and older dogs. During an FHO procedure, the veterinarian will remove the head of the femur to create a false joint. Over time, the dog’s body will create scar tissue at the joint, helping to regain normal hip function. This procedure also helps to reduce pain associated with hip dysplasia. After the surgery, you’ll need to monitor your dog’s activity, though he or she can start off-leash walks after about 30 days

Total hip replacement is the most effective and also the most invasive treatment option for hip dysplasia in dogs. This surgery involves removing the deformed hip joint and replacing it with an artificial hip joint made of plastic and metal. This procedure can only be performed on dogs after they are done growing — typically when they are nine months to one year old. 

With a total hip replacement, your dog will generally need to stay at the surgical center for three to five days. After the procedure, your dog will not be allowed to run, jump, or play for two months. If you’re not going to be home during the entire duration of the recovery period, you may want to keep your pet in a kennel whenever you’re out of the house. This can help ensure your pup won’t get hurt trying to move around when you’re gone. 

Surgery is a big decision, so make sure to consult a veterinarian. The vet can help you decide which type of surgery is best for your pet and will give you instructions on how best to care for your pup during recovery.

Support Your Dog With PetHonesty

Happy Bernese mountain dog in a field

If your pup shows clinical signs of hip dysplasia, making lifestyle changes can help make your pup more comfortable. Try adjusting the intensity and duration of your pup’s activities to reduce stress on the joints.

PetHonesty is here to help if you’re looking for ways to support your dog’s joint health. We offer a wide range of joint chews with ingredients including glucosamine and fatty acids. Try our Omega Salmon Chews, which contain wild Alaskan salmon, kelp, and other ingredients that may help protect the joints.

Our hemp mobility chews contain ingredients like glucosamine, hemp oil, and turmeric. Research shows these ingredients can help support joint mobility and may decrease inflammation to soothe the pain. Best of all, these chews taste great. Your dog will love the flavor, and you can rest easy knowing your pup is comfortable and happy.