The canine body is a uniquely powerful vehicle of effervescent joy and strength. However, at some point or another, aging will begin to show on your precious pup. The aging process affects all dogs in different ways. However, hip problems in older dogs are especially common.
When father time starts ticking away at your dog's hips, it is important to notice the symptoms and how to treat them. In this article, you are going to learn everything you need to know about hip pain in older dogs. Let's go!
Common Causes of Canine Hip Problems
Universally speaking, there are two primary causes of hip problems in older dogs: hip dysplasia and arthritis.
1. Hip Dysplasia
Among our canine companions, hip dysplasia is an incredibly common skeletal issue. While large breeds are more susceptible to hip dysplasia, dogs of all breeds and sizes can be affected.
On a skeletal level, a dog's hip is a lot like that of a human hip or shoulder. The canine hip is composed of a ball and socket joint. In a healthy hip, the ball (femoral head) will fit and move comfortably in the socket (acetabulum).
However, when the joint no longer functions properly the bones will grind together and begin to deteriorate over time. This results in the condition of hip dysplasia.
Causes of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
As previously mentioned, larger dogs are naturally more likely to develop hip dysplasia. In fact, bigger breeds like Saint Bernards, Labrador Retrievers, Great Dane's, and German Shepherds have been found to be genetically predisposed to hip issues.
Additional contributors to the development of dogs with hip dysplasia may include:
- Improper nutrition
- Excessive growth rate
- Too much (or too little) exercise
Equally as villainous to your doggies hips is a dreaded case of arthritis. Scientifically referred to as Osteoarthritis or Degenerative Joint Disease, arthritis manifests when cartilage in the joints begins to deteriorate.
Cartilage is a firm tissue that acts as a pillow between bones. Healthy cartilage helps promote a comfortable range of motion in the joints. Several factors can contribute to the breaking down of cartilage. Such as:
- Size/Genetics (common in larger dogs)
- Repetitive and excessive joint stress
Arthritis can develop anywhere in the body. However, in dogs, arthritis is very often found in the hips.
Signs of Hip Pain in Older Dogs
Dogs are notoriously proud creatures. That is to say, when they are in pain it can sometimes be tricky to know. However, there are a few telltale signs of hip pain in our furry friends.
1. Sudden Changes in Behavior
Dogs are creatures of habit and sudden changes in their behavior may be an indication that they are in pain. Therefore, it is always a good idea to know what your dog's baseline temperament is like.
Some questions to ask yourself:
- Is my dog more tired than usual?
- Does my dog act uncharacteristically aggressive towards me or other people?
- Is my dog uninterested in playing his favorite game of fetch or tug of war?
- Does my dog seem to be avoiding jumping or climbing?
If your answer is "yes" to one or more of these questions, your dog may be experiencing pain.
2. Difficulty Moving
Dogs experiencing bodily pain will usually display visual signs of physical struggle. For example, your usually snuggly dog may opt to sleep on the floor instead of jumping up on the couch with you. Additionally, you may notice your dog having difficulty rising from a lying down position.
3. Increased Potty Accidents
When dogs are experiencing hip pain, the act of going on a walk outside may suddenly become a real struggle for them. Therefore, you may begin to notice your potty trained dog begin to have an increased number of accidents in the house to avoid going outside.
4. Bunny Hopping
Especially in dogs suffering from hip dysplasia, you may notice your dog begin to "bunny hop". To demonstrate, this means your dog would simultaneously hop with both hind feet to get around.
This action is intended to evenly disperse the bodyweight. Thereby attempting to relieve the pain of putting all of their weight on one hip at a time.
5. Lameness or Limping
Another way to spot hip discomfort is limping. Also referred to as lameness, limping is an exaggerated walk in favor of one side. Similar to the bunny hop, this is the bodies way of protecting the part that is in pain by putting less pressure on it.
Sometimes if a limb is lame, a dog will raise or bow their head when walking on that particular leg. You will also likely notice their stride to be shorter on the affected side.
6. Resistance to Touch
In the event a dog is in pain, they will likely be incredibly adverse to touch. Even the most loving dog may growl, cower, snap, or cry when you try to pet them.
7. Excessive Licking
Have you heard the term "lick your wounds?" Well, dogs are the inspiration behind that phrase. Dogs are highly instinctual creatures and they lick their wounds to comfort and heal their pain. Therefore, if your dog is excessively licking a certain area that doesn't appear injured on the outside, it may be a sign that they are hurting on the inside.
How to Treat Hip Problems in Older Dogs
As previously discussed, hip ailments in dogs are quite common. As a result, there are a variety of methods for treating and managing canine hip pain.
1. Natural Supplements
A holistic approach to wellness is becoming rapidly commonplace in today's society. This exciting development not only benefits us humans but our beloved dogs as well.
When it comes to bones and joints, the three big wigs of homeopathic healing are Glucosamine, Turmeric, and Vitamin C.
It is important to only provide your dog with joint supplements formulated specifically for dogs. In that regard, we suggest PetHonesty's Advanced Hip and Joint Chews. These tasty chews are chock-full of joint healing ingredients (including the big 3!), vet formulated, and all-natural.
2. Diet and Exercise
Another approach to joint care is a healthy balance of diet and exercise. Excess weight puts an immense amount of strain on your dog's joints. If your dog is obese, talk to your vet about their personal recommendations for a healthy diet and exercise plan.
3. Physical Therapy
In addition to supplements and a healthy diet, there are several complementary therapeutic treatments available to dogs dealing with hip pain. Such as:
- Chiropractic care
- Hot and Cold Compresses
That's right, Fido can get acupuncture.
4. Prescription Medications or Surgery
Particularly far along cases of hip dysplasia or arthritis may call for more drastic measures. Your vet may recommend canine pain medications. Veterinarians often prescribe steroids and prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for joint problems. However, keep in mind that these drugs can only alleviate the pain associated with joint pain - they do not actually cure the cause of the pain.
In incredibly severe cases, your vet may suggest surgery to replace the damaged tissue or even a total hip replacement.
Hip Problem Prevention
No matter how old your dog is, proactive joint health is a vital component to their well-being. That being said, it is a good idea to take preventative measures when it comes to precious canine joints.
Green Lipped Mussels
Working joint supplements into your dog's health plan is a great place to start. In addition to the aforementioned "big 3", there is a new kid on the block making waves in the joint health game.
Green lipped mussels hail from crisp waters of New Zealand. This magical ingredient works on a genetic level to prevent joint degeneration. Green lipped mussels actively cease the growth of an enzyme called cyclooxygenase that is responsible for causing painful joint inflammation.
PetHonesty has developed an amazing (and tasty!) supplement using the power of green lipped mussels, Turmeric, and glucosamine. Pure Mobility is all-natural and safe for dogs of all breeds and ages.
Protein is King
A nutrient-rich, protein-packed diet is essential to maintaining a healthy canine weight. Interestingly enough, dogs do not need carbohydrates in their diets. While humans need carbs to convert to energy, dogs use protein to make energy.
Many conventional dog foods are full of unnecessary fillers and lacking in vital protein. Not only do these foods pack on the pounds, but they leave your dog devoid of necessary nutrients. Consult your vet about your dog's diet and personal nutritional needs to find their perfect meal plan.
Fitness is Fun
Playing with your dog is one of the most fun parts of being a dog owner. Better yet, running and playing with your dog is an essential component of a healthy skeletal system. Healthy movement helps lubricate your dog's joints and prevent stiffening.
Hip Problems in Older Dogs: In Conclusion
Aging is completely natural, and hip problems in dogs are a fact of life. Fortunately, there are several natural ways to treat and prevent joint issues in your dear dog.
Talk to your vet today about your pup's ideal hip treatment plan.