There are few images more heart wrenching to consider than a dog in pain. Just think about your pupper struggling to stand up or whimpering from simple daily activities like walking or climbing stairs.
Unfortunately, some genetic, developmental diseases like hip dysplasia are relatively common. To make matters worse, such diseases do not only plague older dogs. Understanding how to prevent and manage dysplasia is key to your dog living a happy, healthy life for as long as possible.
Keep in mind that some breeds are simply more prone to developing hip dysplasia as they age (more on this in a bit). Regardless of what breed you own, it’s important to know what hip dysplasia dog treatments exist so you can be as proactive as possible.
Check out this go-to guide on all things hip dysplasia and help your dog live pain-free.
What is Hip Dysplasia?
The word dysplasia is a combination of dys meaning bad or difficult and plasia, which refers to growth. As a dog grows, both the hip socket and the leg bone which fits within it must develop at an equal rate. So when a dog develops hip dysplasia, the hip socket and the leg bone have developed, or grown, at an unequal rate.
This often results in a hip socket that is too large or too small for the leg bone. Often too large, the hip socket allows the leg bone to move around too much.
The misalignment causes further damage as the cartilage that cushions the joint deteriorates. The surrounding tendons and ligaments can become inflamed, which leads to pain and discomfort.
Unfortunately, hip dysplasia is an inherited issue. It is passed down genetically. Though there is no cure for hip dysplasia, there are ways to prevent and control it.
Are Certain Breeds More Prone to It Than Others?
Most dog breeds can develop hip dysplasia throughout their lifetime. However, some breeds are more prone to getting it than others. In particular, big breeds are most vulnerable.
Bernese Mountain Dogs, Saint Bernards, and German Shepherds are among the breeds most likely to be affected. This has to do primarily with the dog’s Body Mass Index (BMI). And the more weight the dog has to put on the joints, the more wear and tear the joints will experience.
But this doesn’t mean that small dogs can’t develop hip dysplasia or other hip issues. Small breeds are susceptible as well.
What Causes Hip Dysplasia?
It is not uncommon for a dog’s hip joint to develop improperly. If you’ve adopted a large or giant breed, or one with a history of hip dysplasia, you need to be careful. How the dog exercises as a puppy, their rate of growth, what they eat, and how much extra weight they carry can all play a role.
Studies have shown that overweight puppies are more likely to develop hip dysplasia than those of normal weight. Those who adopt larger breeds will sometimes try to encourage growth by free-feeding their puppies. They end up overfeeding the dogs in the hopes that they grow larger and meatier.
What they end up with is an overweight puppy. All that extra weight puts unnecessary pressure on the dog’s joints. It can also promote unhealthy growth rates, which ends up causing issues like hip dysplasia.
Signs of Hip Dysplasia
There are a few signs of hip problems in dogs you can look for. If you’re concerned about your dog, reach out to your vet. They’re the experts when it comes to recognizing and diagnosing hip dysplasia.
Sometimes, when the issue is mild, a dog may not present strong symptoms. But more commonly, you’ll notice limping or hopping. Additionally, your dog may be slow to get up or sit down.
They may lose interest in playing or whimper when they run for the ball. These can all be signs of hip pain that you need to take seriously.
In puppies, the signs usually haven’t developed yet. Just take notice of your pup’s weight and activity levels. Help them play in a safe (low impact) way to protect their growing hips from damage or injury.
Hip Dysplasia Prevention
Thankfully, there are several ways to prevent your pup from developing hip dysplasia. First, make sure they’re fed a healthy, vet-approved diet.
Puppies will eat and eat and eat if they’re able. Take the time to learn how much food to give them at each stage of their development.
Activity matters, too. Be sure your dog, no matter their age, isn’t racing up and down the stairs each day. Make sure they don’t spend time on surfaces that are particularly slippery, either.
And if you are used to letting your puppy jump up into the car for drives to the park, lift them in and out instead. All of these activities can put additional strain on the hip joints, if not causing damage or injury to them.
Hip Dysplasia Dog Treatment
There are many things you can do to help ease your dog’s pain! And it may be surprising, but exercise is one of them. Take your dog for a regular walk or swim (anything low-impact) to keep their joints from stiffening.
Your vet may be able to prescribe a joint-friendly diet, supplement, or medication. Those can stimulate cartilage growth, lower inflammation, and more. Alternatively, physical therapy and acupuncture have shown to be helpful as well.
Other ways you can help include putting in ramps around your home to limit your dog’s use of stairs. Help your dog stay warm in the winter with a heated coat or dog bed. Cold joints will be stiffer and subject to causing more pain.
Finally, surgery may be an option. Although always be sure to check with your vet about any other possible treatments as surgery can be costly and risky.
Prevention is your dog’s best defense against the pain and immobility of the disease which is why it’s important to stay as proactive as possible. But understanding what hip dysplasia dog treatments are available can ease your mind should you start seeing symptoms.
Consider getting your dog on a joint care supplement as early as possible. (You can do so as soon as your dog is 1 years old.)
Bark Nutrition’s “Complete Joint Care For Dogs” contains a full spectrum of joint support ingredients that cover all your dog’s bases. Click here to learn more.