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Does your pup have a family history of hip and joint problems? Is he showing symptoms of discomfort and a reduction in mobility? He could be suffering from early signs of canine hip dysplasia. Canine hip dysplasia is one of the most commonly occurring conditions, often attributed to bad breeding around the world. But it’s also a hereditary disease that progressively gets worse with age and can become quite painful. Your dog doesn’t have to suffer. Fortunately, there are several treatment options available. Read on to learn how to spot symptoms and see what treatments could help your pup regain his old self.
What Is Canine Hip Dysplasia?
Canine hip dysplasia is a chronic condition in which the head of the femur bone doesn’t fit correctly into the hip socket. In a healthy dog, the hip socket (acetabulum) is nicely 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 which 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 a dysplastic dog, the hip and femur don’t fit together correctly. Veterinarians believe that most dogs with hip dysplasia are born with normal hip joints, but a gradual subluxation (separation of the two bone surfaces) causes the development of abnormally shaped hip joints.
Dysplastic 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 shallow hip socket. And the ligaments aren’t as strong, allowing the two bone surfaces to grow further apart rather than hold the two bone surfaces 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.
Is My Dog More Prone to Canine Hip Dysplasia?
Certain breeds are prone to developing hip dysplasia, but it can occur in a wide variety of dogs. Large and giant breeds are more susceptible than smaller pups due to the stress their heavier weight puts on the hip joint. Some of the breeds most prone to canine hip dysplasia, according to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, include:
- Labrador Retrievers
- Golden Retrievers
- German Shepherds
- Great Danes
- St. Bernards
- American Staffordshire Terriers
How Do I Recognize Hip Dysplasia Symptoms?
If possible, it’s important to know your dog’s family history and whether hip dysplasia in dogs is present. If there is family history, you’ll be more watchful for any early signs of symptoms. Usually, at first there are mild signs of hip dysplasia in dogs, and they worsen over time. Symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs include:
- 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
- a reluctance to enjoy physical activities that were formerly enjoyed
Like most illnesses and disorders dog hip dysplasia can be more successfully treated when caught early enough. 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.
What Are My Dog’s Treatment Options?
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.
In severe cases of canine hip dysplasya, surgery is often the best treatment. Dog hip dysplasia surgery costs can range from $1,700 to $4,500+.
Juvenile Pubic Symphysiodesis
Juvenile Pubic Symphysiodesis is 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 in a proper manner, is designed to improve the movement of the hip joints by changing the angle of the hips.
Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (TPO)
With TPO surgery, an osteopathic surgeon breaks the pelvis to realign the head of the femur with the hip socket to correct the joint. Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (TPO) is best for dogs ten months or younger because it’s not effective once damage begins to occur to the hip socket. TPO 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 and Neck Excision
Femoral Head and Neck Excision is a surgery that involves removing the tip of the femur (the neck and the head of the bone), replacing it with a fibrous joint. While this is a more affordable option than total hip replacement, 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
Total Hip Replacement is the most invasive surgical procedure, but it restores complete function to the joint. Dog hip replacement cost is high, however, and surgeons only perform this procedure on fully grown dogs and dogs that show signs of severe joint degeneration. In total hip replacement, a surgeon removes the hip joint and replaces it with an artificial joint. Dogs that undergo a total hip replacement can recover to a pain-free life that allows them to function with a near-normal range of motion.
Do I Have Other Alternatives?
If your dog’s hip dysplasia isn’t yet severe or you simply can’t afford surgery, there are other treatment options available, including:
- Weight management is an important part of any dog’s life; however, it’s crucial that a dysplastic dog doesn’t carry excess weight on an already stressed hip joint. Your vet will recommend a healthy weight for your dysplastic dog and give you some tips on how to maintain that weight. What’s the best dog food for hip dysplasia? Dogswell Happy Hips Dry Dog Food (View on Amazon) and Dogswell Happy Hips Can Dog Food (View on Amazon) contain Glucosamine and Chondroitin to promote healthy hips and joints.
- Hip and joint supplements
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
- Pain medications
Hip and joint supplements are widely recommended for dogs with hip dysplasia and include glucosamine chondroitin and MSM as well as fish oils. Some of our favorite hip and joint supplements
Dasuquin with MSM
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. Unlike Dasuquin, Cosequin is not sold on a large breed and small breed basis; rather dosage is recommended based upon a dog’s weight. Dosage varies from half a tablet daily 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 both Dasuquin and Cosequin DS; however, a good number of breeders and sportsmen still use this product for their dogs. The dosage of Synovi G3 varies based on your dog’s weight and range between one chew every other day to two and a half chews daily as a maintenance dose following a “loading dose.”
Anti-Inflammatories help reduce the swelling in the hip joints. These medications come in either pill or injectable form.
Deramaxx is a pain medication designed to control inflammation and pain associated with both osteoarthritis and orthopedic surgery. This non-steroidal anti-inflammatory comes in various strengths that will be prescribed based upon your dog’s weight. Deramaxx requires a valid veterinarian prescription. It is crucial to stay in contact with a 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 Deramaxx pills is $90, and dosage depends on your dog’s weight and your veterinarian’s recommendation.
Rimadyl is another non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that lasts for 24 hours once administered. Rimadyl relieves the pain and inflammation. Rimadyl comes in a variety of strengths, and your vet will recommend the appropriate dosage for your dog based on their weight. A bottle of 30 100mg Rimadyl tablets costs around $40. Rimadyl requires a valid veterinarian prescription. As with other types of pain relievers for dogs, there is a chance of side effects with Rimadyl including digestive and liver impact as well as interaction with other medications. It’s crucial that you make your veterinarian aware of your dog’s current dosage.
Pain Medications help ease the discomfort in dysplastic hip joints. The long-term effects of many pain management drugs are not known, so some owners choose to manage pain through water therapy sessions and other muscle building exercises rather than masking the pain with medications.
Aspirin may be recommended to help to control pain for dogs that have developed arthritis in their hips as a result of canine hip dysplasia. Veterinarian grade aspirin is best and comes with an artificial flavoring added to it to make it more palatable. The dosage of aspirin varies based on your dog’s weight and your vet’s recommendations, so purchasing a powdered form of may make it easier to administer. A prescription is not required to purchase veterinary aspirin; however, it is important to inform your vet if your dog is taking aspirin since it can impact blood clotting ability.
Vetprofen relieves arthritic swelling and pain. The dosage your dog needs varies upon his individual 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.
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 a “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 $52; this vial is enough for approximately three to four doses. Adequan requires a valid veterinarian prescription.
Is Canine Physical Therapy an Option?
Many owners of dogs with canine hip dysplasia find that their dogs thrive with a physical therapy regime. Depending on the dog and the severity of the hip dysplasia, you can combine physical therapy with pain relief medications and anti-inflammatories to make the dog as comfortable as possible.
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 out 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 it adds more stability to the diseased hip joints and in many cases, it can help a dog avoid surgery altogether.
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 consists of a large tank with a treadmill on the base. The 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.
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.
Always Monitor Your Dysplastic Dog
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 are often controlled through the application of ice and heat, administration of anti-inflammatory drugs and in some cases pain killers. It is important not to administer these medications without veterinary supervision however since many of them have potentially dangerous side effects.
How are you managing your dog’s discomfort with canine hip dysplasia?