Canine Hip Dysplasia: Surgery Isn’t The Only Option

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Dog in wheelchair on beach: Canine Hip DysplasiaIs your pup showing symptoms of discomfort in their lower body or a reduction in mobility? They 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.

Article Overview

What Is Hip Dysplasia In Dogs?

This chronic condition, in which the head of the femur bone doesn’t fit correctly into the hip socket, is one of the most commonly occurring conditions in dogs, especially larger canines.

In a healthy dog, the hip socket (acetabulum) 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 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. 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.

Also, 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. Hip dysplasia also makes a pet more susceptible to arthritis in that area.

What Causes Canine Hip Dysplasia?

Canine hip dysplasia is 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. 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.

Osteoarthritis in older years can also exacerbate the condition as well as its associated pain. Further this condition is often bilateral, meaning it can affect both hips.

Breeds Prone To Canine Hip Dysplasia

Certain breeds are prone to developing hip dysplasia. For instance, large and giant breeds are more susceptible than smaller pups due to the stress their heavier weight puts on the hip joint.

According to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, the top breeds with canine hip dysplasia are:

  1. Bulldogs
  2. Pugs
  3. Dogue De Bordeaux
  4. Neapolitan Mastiff
  5. Otterhound
  6. St. Bernard
  7. Brussels Griffon
  8. Clumber Spaniel
  9. Boerboel
  10. Black Russian Terrier
  11. Sussex Spaniel
  12. Basset Hound

Dog with DNA: DNA Testing For DogsBut, more common large breeds like German Shepherd, Golden Retriever and Labs often experience this disease as well.

If you’re unsure what breed or mix of dog breeds you have you should consider a dog DNA test to find out. This information could help you identify if they are prone to hip dysplasia.

How Do I Recognize Symptoms Of Hip Dysplasia?

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.

At first, most dogs show mild signs of hip dysplasia, but they worsen over time. And, even 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
  • Lameness
  • 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 physical activities that were formerly enjoyed

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.

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.

Pet Insurance Reviews and 2 dogsIf you have pet insurance for your dog and hip dysplasia was not a preexisting condition, your treatment costs should be mostly covered (check with your provider to gain a better understanding of what you should expect to be reimbursed with your policy).

Surgical Options

In severe cases of canine hip dysplasia, surgery is often the best treatment. How much does dog hip dysplasia surgery cost? Surgery costs for dog hip dysplasia range from $1,700 to $4,500+.

  • 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, 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 Ostectomy (FHO) and Neck Excision – 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 (THP) – 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 severe joint degeneration. The surgery involves a highly specialized surgeon removing the hip joint and replacing 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.

Alternatives To Surgery

If your dog’s hip dysplasia isn’t yet severe, or you simply can’t afford surgery, there are other treatment options available.

Hip & Joint Supplements | Anti-Inflammatory Drugs | Pain Medications | Other Medications

Hip & Joint Supplements

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

Nutramax Dasuquin with MSM Chewable TabletsDasuquin With MSM

Dasuquin with MSM is one of the preferred supplements for dogs with hip dysplasia and arthritis.

Nutramax Cosequin DS Chewable TabletsCosequin DS

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.

Vetri-Science Laboratories Glyco-Flex III Bite-Sized Dog ChewsGlyco-Flex III

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.

Bayer 120 Count Synovi G3 Soft ChewsSynovi G3

Synovi G3 is a lesser recommended supplement than both Dasuquin and Cosequin DS; however, a good number of breeders and athletes 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

Anti-Inflammatories help reduce the swelling in the hip joints. These medications come in either pill or injectable form.

Deramaxx

Deramaxx is a pain medication designed to control inflammation and pain associated with both osteoarthritis and orthopedic surgery. This non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) 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 25mg Deramaxx pills is $90, and dosage depends on your dog’s weight and your veterinarian’s recommendation.

Rimadyl

Rimadyl is another non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that lasts for 24 hours once administered. Rimadyl relieves 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

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

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

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

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 ween 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

Tramadol has been used for many years to treat canine pain, especially 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 painkiller, 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. 

Other Medications

CBD Oil

Dog with CBD oilCBD oil is a great option for many dogs, especially since it has no known side effects. You can also purchase it without a prescription for your vet, 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 arthritis and dysplasia.

It can also help reduce anxiety, digestive problems and even manage seizures. King Kanine is our top pick for CBD oil and they also offer treats, for an easier method to administer CBD to your pet.

Adequan

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 $50; this vial is enough for approximately three to four doses. Adequan requires a valid veterinarian prescription.

Canine Physical Therapy

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.

Exercise Regime

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, it adds more stability to the diseased hip joints and in many cases, it can help a dog avoid surgery altogether.

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

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.

Other Holistic Options

We have also talked to vets who recommended acupuncture, massage or laser treatment to treat hip pain and muscle deterioration.

Prevention & Maintenance

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.

Hip Health Dog Food

Doswell Happy Hips Dry Dog FoodWhat’s the best dog food for hip dysplasia? We recommend Dogswell Happy Hips Dry Dog Food and  Dogswell Happy Hips Can Dog Food which contains Glucosamine and Chondroitin to promote healthy hips and joints.

Added Backend Support

WalkAbout Backend HarnessIf your dog stumbles on walks, going up and down stairs or getting up from a laying 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.

Reduce Slipping On Slick Floor Surfaces

LONSUNEER NonSlip Dog BootsIf your dog is slipping on tile, hardwood and other slippery surfaces, he may find added stability with booties. One of our team member’s dog 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 they adjust and be sure to give treats to reward them.

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 can be controlled with 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 (since many of them have potentially dangerous side effects).

A Healthy Dog Is A Happy Dog

Dealing with a dog who has 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 another way to save on potential costs for any dog 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?

About The Author:

Sally holds a BA in English from James Madison University and began her 25-year writing career as a grad student at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Journalism & Mass Communications. She’s been a pet parent since college years (and spent her whole childhood with pets). Her work has appeared in many notable media outlets, including The Washington Post, Entrepreneur, People, Forbes, Huffington Post, and more.

Now as a parent of two teenagers, she’s made sure to raise her daughters to learn how to love and care for pets (and other animals) in the most responsible and loving ways. As a result, she and her daughters now have 5 rescued dogs and cats who essentially rule their home! Sally has also volunteered over the years to help raise funds for various animal nonprofit organizations.

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