7 Ways to Treat Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

If your dog seems to be having a more difficult time getting around or seems to avoid using their back legs, your canine friend may be suffering from hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia in dogs is a common condition that can affect mobility, and in many cases, the chronic condition can be painful.

Some dogs are more prone to hip dysplasia and can be difficult to prevent. With proper treatment, your dog can live a long, comfortable, and active life. In this article, we discuss some of the common signs of hip dysplasia in dogs as well as ways to treat the condition.

What Is Hip Dysplasia?

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Hip dysplasia in dogs is a common condition, and deformity, in which the head of the thigh bone (or femur) doesn’t fit properly into the hip socket. When a dog has hip dysplasia, the “ball andsocket” joints grow at different rates during puppyhood which leaves an improper fit in adulthood.


Untreated hip dysplasia can lead to degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis, as the body attempts to compensate and stabilize the ill-fitting and loose joints. Two of the biggest contributing factors in hip dysplasia is genetics and lifestyle. All dogs may be at risk of hip dysplasia, but it’s more common in larger breeds like German Shepherds, Saint Bernards, Retrievers, and other large mixed-breed dogs. A dog’s diet often determines whether or not they will have hip dysplasia. A puppy who is overfed is more likely to develop the condition than a puppy who has a controlled diet.

Signs of Hip Dysplasia

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If your dog is a bit overweight or is a breed that is more prone to hip dysplasia it doesn’t mean that they will automatically the have condition. Preventative measures, such as a healthy diet and exercise, don’t always mean that your dog won’t have hip dysplasia.


The best way to find out if your dog has hip dysplasia is to make an appointment with your vet; your dog will have an examination and may also have x-rays to see if the dysplasia is visible. You can also look for the following signs and symptoms, which may suggest hip dysplasia:

  • Your dog shows signs of pain when
    running or walking
  • Preferring one leg over another
  • Limping
  • Stiff back legs
  • “Bunny Hop” when running
  • Difficulty standing up after lying
    or sitting
  • Less active than usual

Treatment Options For Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

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Once your veterinarian properly diagnoses your dog’s hip dysplasia, the treatment options are likely to vary depending on the severity of the condition. Here are some of the most common way of treating hip dysplasia.

A Weight Reduction Plan


Regardless of the severity of your dog’s hip dysplasia, your vet may strongly recommend that your dog loses some weight. Overweight dogs are more prone to dysplasia, and the pain and discomfort may be more severe the pressure that is on the hip.


Healthy weight loss in dogs can be a long and slow process, but making even small dietary changes (such as eliminating treats) can make a difference. It’s important that if you are planning on helping your dog lose weight, everyone in your family needs to be on-board with the new changes.


If you have a puppy, who is a breed that is at-risk for hip dysplasia, it’s important to be mindful and monitor their diet. Puppies, who are prone to the condition, are more likely to end up with the painful dysplasia if they are “free fed” while puppies with a monitored diet are less likely to experience symptoms.


A large breed puppy, whether or not it is a breed at risk for hip dysplasia, should eat food that is specifically developed for large breed puppies.

Increased and Modified Exercise


If your dog needs to lose a little weight, increased exercise can play an important role. Your dog’s hip dysplasia may cause limitations in movement. While your dog should not quit exercise and going on daily walks altogether, your vet may recommend that you let your dog exercise on soft surfaces and limit your time on hard surfaces like concrete.

Physical Therapy


Just like humans who suffer from joint pain, dogs with hip dysplasia may benefit from physical therapy. Physical therapy for dogs often includes underwater therapy and gentle range of motion exercises.


Even though physical therapy is a less common treatment option for hip dysplasia, your veterinarian may recommend some therapists.

Anti-Inflammatory Medications


Similar to how we treat our aches and pains, you may have success in treating your dog’s hip dysplasia with anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS) or corticosteroids. While medications may not be as effective as a singular treatment option, it’s a great option to try with other treatment plans.

Supplements


Along with pain relievers, your dog may benefit from daily supplements that contain glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, or omega-3 fatty acids. Your veterinarian can recommend a supplement, or you can purchase some online.

Alternative Medicine


If you are looking for a more non-traditional or holistic approach, alternative medicine treatments may be worth exploring. Some dog owners have found success with acupuncture, laser therapy, stem cell treatment, or even Chinese medicine.


Depending on your veterinarian’s experience and practices, they may or may not recommend alternative options. Remember, you can always get a second opinion if your vet doesn’t support some of your treatment options.

Treating Hip Dysplasia With Surgery

surgery

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In many cases, surgery to treat your dog’s hip dysplasia may be a last resort, particularly when other treatment options aren’t effective or if the dysplasia is severe. The cost of surgery may vary depending on the condition, and if your dog is covered by pet insurance, the cost might be taken care of through insurance. Here are some of the most common types of surgery that your veterinarian might discuss with you to fix your dog’s hip dysplasia:

Double or Triple Pelvic Osteotomy


Double or triple pelvic osteotomy (DPO or TPO) is a surgery that typically occurs before your dog is under one year old. During the procedure, the pelvic bone is cut, and segments are rotated, to improve the connection and function of the ball and socket joint.


Another type of surgery for young puppies, under five months old, is juvenile pubic symphysiodesis. During this procedure the pelvic bones are fused together, which allows the rest of the bones in the pelvis grow as normal; the movement of the hip joints improve.

Femoral Head Ostectomy


A femoral head ostectomy (FHO) is a procedure that is appropriate for dogs of all ages. During the surgery, the femoral head (also known as the “ball” of the hip joint) is removed. While the procedure doesn’t improve the function of the hip, the false joint may reduce pain and discomfort.

Total Hip Replacement


If your dog’s dysplasia is severe, your veterinarian may recommend a total hip replacement (THR). Much like a human hip replacement, a THR in a dog involves replacing the entire joint with implants that consist of metal or plastic. A total hip replacement is often the best option for restoring normal and natural hip function and reducing (or even eliminating) pain.

Monitoring Your Dog’s Symptoms

Treating your dog’s hip dysplasia may feel a little overwhelming, especially if you have financial limitations. It’s important to remember that you can try a variety of treatment options before deciding to settle on surgery. If you decide to try various non-surgical options, it’s important to monitor your dog’s symptoms and consider their comfort.


Early diagnosis is important in treating hip dysplasia, but even if your dog is not diagnosed until they are older, it’s not too late to treat the condition. There’s no guarantee that you can prevent hip dysplasia, but some of the preventative actions we mentioned earlier, such as a
healthy diet and exercise, may prevent the condition from causing pain or worsening.


Even as you treat your dog for hip dysplasia, or after they have surgery, it’s essential to monitor your dog for signs that don’t improve or symptoms that get worse. If you your dog continues to have mobility issues or doesn’t seem to have any relief from pain, make an appointment with your veterinarian to explore other options. Don’t treat your dog’s pain or hip dysplasia without talking with your vet first. While most supplements and medications designed for dogs are safe, you want to be sure that the dosage (and ingredients) are safe for your dog.

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Angela Linvill

Angela has been the Hospital Administrator of a multi-specialty/ emergency/ and general practice veterinary hospital since 2005. She is also the Chair of the Contra Costa County Employer Advisory Council. Angela has a Masters of Science degree in Human Resource Management from Troy University. She is committed to helping pet owners make good decisions about the health care of their pets regardless of their financial situation.

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