Hip Dysplasia In Dogs: Caring For Pets With Joint Pain



Joint pain can be extremely painful, even crippling. Sadly, pets can suffer the effects of pain and mobility associated with joint problems too. With veterinary care, however, suffering can be reduced.

Here’s what you need to know to help your pet:

What is hip dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is a form of degenerative arthritis of the hip, a painful and often crippling disease, due to malformation of the ball and socket/hip joint—the ball and socket do not come together properly, causing rubbing and grinding of the hip rather than smooth movement—resulting in limited mobility and soreness, sometimes in the extreme.

What are the symptoms?

  • Pain in hip joins
  • Pain upon touching the area
  • Abnormal gait
  • Decreased mobility
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Difficulty standing
  • Difficulty climbing stairs
  • Difficulty jumping
  • Reluctant to engage in physical activity
  • Crying or whimpering with movement
  • Muscle loss/muscle atrophy
  • Joint looseness in early stages
  • Arthritis in later stages of the disease
  • Increased muscle mass in the front shoulders as front legs work harder to compensate

What causes hip dysplasia in dogs?

  • Genetic predisposition/susceptibility
  • Overweight/obesity causing stress on the joints
  • Condition of pelvic muscles
  • Malnutrition
  • Environmental factors causing stress on the hip joint(s)

Who is at risk?

Certain dog breeds are more susceptible, such as:

  • German shepherds
  • Great Danes
  • Rottweilers
  • Saint Bernards
  • Newfoundlands
  • Golden retrievers
  • Chesapeake Bay Retrievers
  • Bloodhounds
  • Basset hounds
  • Old English Sheepdogs
  • English bull dogs
  • French bull dogs
  • Neopolitan mastiffs
  • Pugs

How is hip dysplasia diagnosed?

Your veterinarian will perform an exam, observing your pet’s range and ease of motion, abnormalities in gait and stance, as well as noting the degree of pain with movement. The veterinarian may manipulate the legs to test the looseness of joints and to check for any grinding. Severity of pain upon touch will also be noted.

X-rays, or radiographs, will help to determine the extent of hip dysplasia.

What you can do

  • Restrict the amount of exercise your dog has per day
  • Go on short, 10 minute walks more often as opposed to one or two lengthy walks of 30 minutes or more
  • Do not let your dog jump from high heights
  • Take your dog swimming as a form of exercise to put less stress on the hip joints
  • Do not walk your dog on icy surfaces, and keep him/her off slippery floors
  • Raise your pet’s food and water bowls so they are not flat on the floor, to reduce the amount of bending required to eat and drink
  • Give your pet an orthopaedic bed or cushions to sleep/rest on
  • Provide a ramp for your pet to get onto high places, such as the sofa
  • Take your pet to a veterinarian IMMEDIATELY if your pet is in pain
  • Be sure to let your veterinarian know what you have observed at home

How a veterinarian can help

  • Dietary supplements such as Omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants can help to keep your pet’s joints healthy
  • If needed, a diet aimed at weight reduction for obese pets can help to reduce pressure on the joints
  • Anti-inflammatory medications/corticosteroids may be prescribed to treat inflammation of the joints
  • In some cases, medication can be prescribed for pain
  • Physiotherapy can help to build muscle surrounding the affected hip(s).
  • In some cases, surgery may be recommended

What is the prognosis?

With medical treatment and proper-at-home care, many pets with hip dysplasia live long and happy lives.


We recommend you also read:

Top 10 Signs Your Pet May Have Arthritis

Caring For Your Senior Pet



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