Is your pup showing symptoms of discomfort in his lower body or a reduction in mobility? He could be suffering from early signs of canine hip dysplasia.
Fortunately, your dog doesn’t have to suffer. There are several treatment options available. Learn how to spot symptoms and see what treatments could help your pup regain strength to live a longer, happier life.
This chronic condition, in which the head of the femur bone doesn’t fit correctly into the hip socket (acetabulum), is one of the most commonly occurring orthopedic conditions in dogs, especially larger dogs.
In a healthy dog, the hip socket is rounded and deep enough to accommodate the femoral head so that the hip’s ball and socket joint forms correctly. These two bones should fit perfectly together, supported by a strong ligament that attaches the femoral head directly to the acetabulum. In a healthy dog, the two bone surfaces are smooth and contain a cartilage cushion and lubricant that creates a fluid and painless motion when the joint is in use.
In dogs with hip dysplasia, the hip and femur don’t fit together correctly. These dogs have shallow acetabulums—the head of the femur will not rest in the hip socket and instead slides around against the surface of the socket.
With hip dysplasia, the ligament attaching the femur to the hip socket isn’t as strong, allowing the two bone surfaces to grow further apart rather than stay together. As a result, the misaligned joint develops extremely painful bone spurs, which make walking difficult. As the dog walks, these bone spurs rub against each other, causing an increasing amount of pain in the hip joint. Hip dysplasia also makes a dog more susceptible to arthritis in that area.
Canine hip dysplasia is often a hereditary disease that progressively gets worse with age and can become quite painful. Dog breeders who do not keep dogs with hip dysplasia out of the breeding population contribute to even more dogs having this painful condition. Veterinarians believe that most dogs with hip dysplasia are born with normal hip joints, but starting as early as a few weeks after birth, a gradual subluxation (separation of the two bone surfaces) causes the development of abnormally shaped hip joints.
Osteoarthritis in older years can also exacerbate the condition as well as its associated pain. Hip dysplasia is often bilateral, meaning it can affect both hips.
Due to the wide range of data and no conclusive evidence, it’s difficult for researchers to determine which breeds are more prone to hip dysplasia. However, a study released in February 2021 by Wisdom Panel DNA (in partnership with the University of Helsinki) found a common thread.
They took DNA samples from more than 1,600 dogs and found a common genetic variant among ten breeds. They hope to use this information to further understand the complex genetic causes of hip dysplasia to diagnose and treat the debilitating disease more accurately.1
However, some experts say large and giant breeds are more susceptible than smaller pups due to the stress their heavier weight puts on the hip joint.
For example, the Morris Animal Foundation lists the large and giant-breed dogs that most commonly experience hip dysplasia:
According to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, the top breeds with canine hip dysplasia are:
- Olde English Bulldog
- Dogue De Bordeaux
- Brussels Griffon
- Neapolitan Mastiff
- Saint Bernard
- Clumber Spaniel
- Black Russian Terrier
- American Bully
- Sussex Spaniel
- Basset Hound
If you’re unsure what breed or mix of dog breeds you have, consider using a dog DNA test to find out. This information could help you identify if your dog’s breed is prone to hip dysplasia. Discuss the test results with your vet.
If possible, it’s important to know your dog’s family history and whether hip dysplasia in dogs is present in any of your dog’s relatives. If there is a family history, you’ll be more watchful for any early signs of symptoms.
Early signs of hip dysplasia in dogs are mild. But the signs of hip dysplasia in dogs worsen over time. And, even if there is no family history or if it is unknown, here is a list of things to look for as your dog’s hip movement declines.
Symptoms to watch for:
- Pain or signs of discomfort while exercising
- Walking with stiffened back legs
- Running with a bunny hop
- Stiffness when getting up or running
- Trouble rising from a prone position
- Loss of muscle tone in the back legs
- Reluctance to enjoy previously enjoyable physical activities
Like most illnesses and disorders, dog hip dysplasia can be more successfully treated when caught early. If you notice any of these symptoms, visit your veterinarian. Your vet will conduct an x-ray to visualize the sockets of your dog’s hips to make a proper diagnosis.
If your dog has canine hip dysplasia, your vet will explain a variety of solutions, ranging from how to make your dog more comfortable to surgery. Treatment for hip dysplasia in dogs varies depending on the severity of the condition. And the price can vary significantly.
If you have pet insurance for your dog and hip dysplasia was not a pre-existing condition, your treatment costs should be mostly covered after any applicable waiting period (check with your provider to gain a better understanding of what you should expect to be reimbursed with your specific policy).
If you don’t have pet insurance but are curious to learn more, read our pet insurance guide to find out whether it might be a worthwhile investment for your family.
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- Juvenile Pubic Symphysiodesis – A less invasive surgery that surgeons perform on dogs younger than five months old. This surgery, which involves the fusing of the two pelvic bones to allow the rest of the bones in the pelvis to develop properly, is designed to improve the movement of the hip joints by changing the angle of the hips.
- Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (TPO) – With TPO surgery, the surgeon makes bone cuts in the pelvis to realign the head of the femur with the hip socket to correct the joint anatomy. TPO is best for dogs ten months or younger because it’s not effective once damage begins to occur in the hip socket. It is an expensive and painful procedure, and younger dogs tend to recover much more quickly. TPO is one of the most recommended surgeries for younger dogs with subluxation because it restores full function to the hip joints.
- Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO) and Neck Excision – This surgical technique involves removing the femoral head from the hip joint. Over time, fibrous scar tissue will create a ‘false joint’ to hold the femur in place in the hip joint. While this is a more affordable option than total hip replacement and relieves pain, it’s not always the best choice for some dogs. Vets usually recommended this surgery for lighter-weight and older dogs. While this procedure relieves most of the dog’s pain, the joint’s original range of motion and stability isn’t fully corrected.
- Total Hip Replacement (THP) – THP is the most invasive surgical procedure, but it restores full function to the joint. Dog hip replacement cost is high and surgeons only perform this procedure on fully grown dogs that show signs of end-stage or severe hip dysplasia in dogs. The surgery involves removing the hip joint and replacing it with an artificial joint. Dogs that undergo a THP can recover to a pain-free life that allows them to function with a near-normal range of motion.
If your dog’s hip dysplasia isn’t yet severe, or you simply can’t afford surgery, there are other treatment options available, including some dog hip dysplasia home treatment options.
Hip and joint supplements are widely recommended for dogs with hip dysplasia and include glucosamine chondroitin and MSM (methylsulfonylmethane), as well as fish oils. Here are some of our favorite hip and joint supplements:
Dasuquin with MSM is one of the preferred supplements for dogs with hip dysplasia and arthritis.
Cosequin DS is another go-to supplement for those who prefer not to use Dasuquin or who cannot afford the higher prices of Dasuquin. The dosage of Dasuquin is based upon a dog’s weight. Dosage varies from half a tablet to two tablets daily.
Glyco-Flex III is a supplement designed not only to support the joint of the leg but also the connective tissue around the joint as well. Vets highly recommend Glyco-Flex as a post-surgery nutritional support method to help the joints to recover. Dosage varies based on the dog’s size.
Synovi G3 is a lesser-recommended supplement than Dasuquin and Cosequin DS; however, some breeders and athletes still use this product for their dogs. The dosage of Synovi G3 varies based on your dog’s weight and ranges between one chew every other day to two and a half chews daily as a maintenance dose following an initial dose called a loading dose.
Pain medications help ease the discomfort in dysplastic hip joints. Some dog owners, though, may be wary of the potential side effects of pain medications, and therefore choose to manage pain through water therapy sessions and other muscle-building exercises. Anti-inflammatory drugs help reduce the swelling in the hip joints. Talk to your vet if you have concerns about giving your dog anti-inflammatory drugs or pain medications for hip dysplasia.
Deramaxx is a pain medication designed to control inflammation and pain associated with osteoarthritis and orthopedic surgery. This non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) comes in various strengths that will be prescribed by your vet according to your dog’s weight.
It’s crucial to stay in contact with your veterinarian while your dog is taking Deramaxx due to the possibility of side effects or interactions with other medications that your dog may be taking. The average cost of a bottle of 30 25mg Deramaxx pills is $90, and the dosage depends on your dog’s weight and your veterinarian’s recommendation.
Rimadyl is another NSAID and lasts for 24 hours once administered. Rimadyl relieves pain and inflammation. Rimadyl comes in a variety of strengths, and your vet will prescribe the appropriate dosage for your dog based on his weight. A bottle of 30 100mg Rimadyl tablets costs around $40. As with other types of pain relievers for dogs, there is a chance of side effects with Rimadyl, including digestive and liver problems, as well as interaction with other medications. It’s crucial that you notify your veterinarian of any side effects, such as vomiting or diarrhea, that your dog experiences after starting the medication.
Aspirin may be recommended to help to control pain and inflammation for dogs that have developed arthritis in their hips as a result of canine hip dysplasia. The dosage of aspirin varies based on your dog’s weight and your vet’s recommendations, so purchasing a powdered form may make it easier to administer.
You do not need a prescription from your vet to purchase aspirin, but it is crucial that you follow your vet’s instructions for giving your dog aspirin. This is because aspirin can have serious side effects in dogs, such as vomiting and gastrointestinal ulceration. An overdose can lead to coma and even death. Alert your vet immediately if your dog has any side effects.
Vetprofen relieves arthritic swelling and pain. The dosage your dog needs varies upon his body weight. You must obtain a prescription from your veterinarian for Vetprofen. As with other similar types of drugs, dog owners are warned to watch for any signs of toxicity and interaction with other medications. The average cost of a bottle of 60 100mg Vetprofen tablets is around $40.
Gabapentin can be used to treat pain in dogs and, thus, it can work well to manage pain in dogs with hip conditions. Another positive of this product is that a lower dose can be given when combined with NSAIDs like Deramaxx. You may notice some lethargy as a side effect. It is also important to wean a pup off of this drug rather than stopping it abruptly. Note: this drug has not proven effective in managing pain for all dogs.
Tramadol has been used for many years to treat canine pain, especially for those going through surgery or suffering from arthritis pain. This drug adapts the transmission and perception of pain, increasing a pet’s pain tolerance. So, while it has proven very effective, it is an opioid, so proceed with caution.
A schedule IV controlled substance, Tramadol is addictive and may prove too risky for some humans to have in the home (dosage is quite different for pets too). Most dogs will do well with this product but watch out for side effects, including vomiting, loss of appetite, tiredness, anxiety, tremors, etc. Call your vet immediately if you notice any of these. Like all other drugs, Tramadol should only be taken under the guidance of a licensed vet.
CBD oil is a great option for many dogs, especially since it has no known side effects. You can also purchase it without a prescription, so it could be a good place to start your treatment.
CBD oil can be used therapeutically to treat pain, inflammation, and arthritis, all of which are associated with hip dysplasia.
It can also help reduce anxiety and digestive problems and even manage cancer symptoms such as nausea. HolistaPet is our top pick for CBD oil, and they also offer treats, for an easier method to administer CBD to your pet.
Adequan is a unique medication designed to treat arthritis, a common side effect found in dogs with hip dysplasia. Adequan is injected intramuscularly or subcutaneously once a month after an initial loading dose. This medication is designed to keep the cartilage in the hip joints from wearing away so that the bones in the joint don’t end up rubbing against each other.
When the bones rub against each other in a joint, it causes pain, swelling, and inflammation. There is currently no other medication that offers the benefit of cartilage preservation. The average cost for a single 5ml vial of Adequan is $50; this vial is enough for approximately three to four doses. Adequan requires a valid veterinarian prescription.
Many owners of dogs with canine hip dysplasia find that their dogs thrive with a physical therapy regimen. Depending on the dog and the severity of the hip dysplasia, you can combine physical therapy with pain medications to make your dog as comfortable as possible.
Your vet can recommend a physical therapy routine that your dog can do at home. They may also recommend physical therapy at a canine rehabilitation center.
The key to developing any exercise routine for a dog with canine hip dysplasia is to ensure that your dog is comfortable and not overdoing it. Start slowly, so his muscles and hind end gradually strengthen to better support his weight and compensate for his dysplasia.
It’s important to consult a veterinarian when establishing an exercise routine for any dog with canine hip dysplasia. As the muscles around the dog’s hips strengthen, the diseased hip joints become more stable. In some cases, exercise can help a dog avoid, or at least delay, surgery.
Short daily walks are recommended to keep the body working, especially since movement can slow the deterioration of the muscles. If your dog is a jumper, try to limit that behavior by discouraging them from getting on the couch, into the trunk of a car, or any other elevated surface. Also, reduce stair climbing.
Hydrotherapy is a controlled type of aquatic exercise used for dogs with hip dysplasia to build muscle in weak hind legs without allowing the dog to overdo it. Hydrotherapy, which is done at a canine rehabilitation center, consists of a large tank with a treadmill on the base. The physical therapist places your dog in an empty tank, seals the door, and fills it with warm water. Walking on the treadmill in water leads to better muscle development. The heat of the water allows for the muscles to relax while the dog is exercising. The physical therapist may get in the water with your dog to help your dog walk.
While hydrotherapy is one of the most highly recommended exercises and therapy routines for dysplastic dogs, it’s expensive, averaging $50 per session. And hydrotherapy may not be available where you live.
Check out the following video to see Baxter, a two-year-old yellow lab, undergo physical therapy and hydrotherapy as he recovers from surgery.
Other Holistic Options
Whether you choose for your dog to undergo surgery, physical therapy, or hydrotherapy, it’s important to monitor your dog for progress and signs of pain and discomfort. By nature, dogs want to please which often means pushing through pain and overworking their joints and muscles. As your dog’s owner, it’s important to identify signs that your dog could be in pain after surgery or while undergoing therapy. Some signs that your dog could be uncomfortable with his canine hip dysplasia include:
- Difficulty getting up or lying down
- Inability to climb stairs
- Tail tucking, especially during an activity that they usually enjoy
- Carrying the head or body slinked downwards and not seeming “like themselves”
- A reduction or reluctance to take part in activity
- An inability to get comfortable
As your pet’s parent, it’s your job to keep an eye out for these signs and treat them accordingly.
Depending on your dog and your vet’s plan of action, these symptoms can be controlled with ice and heat and the administration of pain medications. It is important not to administer these medications without veterinary supervision (since many of them have potentially dangerous side effects).
Hip dysplasia is certainly not a death sentence for your dog. Dogs can live many years — well into their senior years — with hip dysplasia. And, as long as you follow your vet’s pain management guidance, your dog can have a great quality of life.
Are you wondering how to prevent hip dysplasia in dogs? Unfortunately, because hip dysplasia is a genetic disease, it cannot be prevented. However, there are things you can do to decrease your dog’s risk of developing full-blown hip dysplasia. For example, weight management is an important part of any dog’s life. However, it’s crucial that a dog with hip dysplasia doesn’t carry excess weight on an already stressed hip joint. Your vet will recommend a healthy weight for your dog and give you some tips on how to maintain that weight.
Hip Health Dog Food
What’s the best dog food for hip dysplasia? We recommend Dogswell Happy Hips Dry Dog Food and Dogswell Happy Hips Can Dog Food, both of which contain glucosamine and chondroitin to promote healthy hips and joints.
Added Backend Support
If your dog stumbles on walks, going up and down stairs, or getting up from a lying down position on the floor, he may benefit from a little assistance from the WalkAbout Backend Harness. It can also be useful in conjunction with a car ramp. Your vet can also recommend a dog hip dysplasia brace.
Reduce Slipping On Slick Floor Surfaces
If your dog is slipping on tile, hardwood, and other slippery surfaces, he may find added stability with booties. One of our team member’s dogs has seen marked improvement with the affordable LONSUNEER NonSlip Dog Boots. Be patient while your dog gets used to wearing these on his paws. You may want to add one at a time as your dog adjusts to them, and be sure to give treats to reward your dog.
Dealing with a dog who has hip dysplasia isn’t easy, but there are other things you can do to help them feel more comfortable. One thing that you should consider is an orthopedic dog bed to help with your dog’s pain. With your vet’s approval, you can also look into a dog wheelchair to extend your dog’s active years but remember, this will further deteriorate your dog’s muscle tone, so this will probably be the last resort.
Pet insurance is a helpful way to save on potential costs for any dog accidents or illnesses that aren’t already known (i.e., pre-existing conditions). So sign up early when your dog is young to get reimbursed for part or all of your associated costs, depending on your company and policy coverage.
How are you managing your dog’s discomfort with canine hip dysplasia and arthritis?
Sources:  Business Wire