How to Know if Your Dog Has Painful Hip Dysplasia

Posted by ted@pethangout 04/17/2018 0 Comment(s)

How to know if your dog has painful hip dysplasia


Could your dog be suffering from this disease?  


What is it?  

Hip Dysplasia is a malformation of the hip where the ball and socket joints do not meet properly.   The result is a rubbing and grinding of these bones when the dog tries to walk.   As you can imagine, this disease can be quite painful for your dog.  


Proper and improper hip joint on a dog. 






What can cause Hip Dysplasia?  

Yes, a dog can be born with this disease as it can be hereditary.    Only about 15 - 40% of cases are genetic though.   


Other factors, like diet and the environment, can contribute to the degeneration of the bones which eventually lead to hip problems.

With that being said, there are some breeds more predisposed to having hip issues due to their larger size.

Collies, Great Danes, German Shepherd, Saint Bernards, and Labrador Retrievers are some of the larger breeds that may battle this debilitating skeletal disease.


Great Danes can have hip dysplasia.

The problem can develop early on, even as young as 4 - 6 months old, or later in life when arthritis and joint inflammations tend to set in.





How can I tell if my dog has Hip Dysplasia?

Symptoms can vary depending on when your dog gets the disease and the severity.  


Some things to look for are:

  • Loose joints (technically called laxity).   Some consider this to be the leading cause of hip dysplasia in dogs. states, "Puppies are born with perfect hips, and if the hips do not develop laxity the dog does not develop hip dysplasia (Riser 1985). Joint laxity occurs when the head of the femur does not fit snugly into the acetabulum. This could be the result of traumatic injury, overloading of the joint by weight, lack of muscle strength, or adductor forces (e.g., bringing the legs together). Joint laxity is the primary factor that predisposes a dog to the development of hip dysplasia."

  • A change in your dog’s activity level

An inactive dog could be a sign of hip dysplasia.

  • Challenging for your dog to get up
  • Limping or swaying when trying to walk
  • Whining or crying from pain in hips
  • Audible “grating” sound when your dog moves
  • Less range of movement in the hips
  • Refuses to jump or walk stairs

Refusing to use stairs could be a sign of hip dysplasia.

  • Less muscle mass in legs
  • Increased difficulty going on walks or running for exercise
  • Takes longer for your dog to get up and get moving
  • Hind-limb stiffness or slower to move

Stiff hind quarters could be a sign of hip dysplasia



How to get a proper diagnosis?


Although your vet will want to do a complete exam on your dog (including flexibility tests on the hips), the only definite way to know for sure is to X-Ray your dog's hips.   This will show any issues with how the hip and ball joints are developing and how they fit together.





Things that could make hip dysplasia worse:

  • Gaining too much weight - extra weight on the misaligned joints only further aggravate the condition.   This is only logical.  

Overweight dogs could contribute to hip dysplasia

  • Nutrition - poor nutritional content of your dog's food can contribute to the further breakdown of your dog's bones.
  • Missing an early diagnosis of hip dysplasia - Note: it can be detected as early as 4 - 6 months of age.   If caught early, greater help can be given for managing the problem.

​​The Institute of Canine Biology writes:  '"Most treatments for hip dysplasia are easier and more successful in younger dogs. If early symptoms are overlooked and screening is done only after 24 months or more, the window of time with the best prognosis in response to treatment will have passed (Morgan et al 2000). Signs of lameness usually first appear when the puppy is 4 to 6 months old, but after a month or two the dog will often seem better. This is because damage to the acetabular rim such as microfractures will have healed and the dog is no longer in pain, but development of dysplasia and osteoarthritis will continue. From there, the dog might not display clinical signs again for years while the pathological damage progresses.

Laxity in the joint can be determined as early as 4 months old (either by palpation or PennHIP). If detected early, intervention to mitigate additional damage can include weight loss, modifying exercise and activities, or surgery - but it must be done early before skeletal growth is complete."



What can I do to help my dog with Hip Dysplasia?



1 - First and foremost, you must pay attention to our dog’s nutrition.

Feed them a good quality food with a balanced calcium-phosphorous blend.

What makes up a quality food?  


They are many differing opinions but it’s probably fair to say the cheaper the food, the lower quality of food and vice versa.    You do get what you pay for when it comes to dog food.   Quality carbohydrates, protein, and fat that are easily digested and absorbed are going to be more expensive.   And please don’t waste your money on foods with fillers.  Fillers are empty calories that do absolutely nothing to help your dog, especially if you are trying to help hip dysplasia.



2 - Give Vitamin C and E supplements.   Rich antioxidants can fight free radicals that damage cells and tissue.

Give your dog vitamins C and E to help hip dysplasia




3 - Give glucosamine supplements to aid in joint and tissue health.  Phyllis Giroux, DVM and Retriever breeder/trainer at Deep Run Farm, of Goldvein, VA, has had a lot of success using the GlycoFlex supplement.  

She states:


"Perna is a food product containing 57 nutrients, among them glucosamine precursors. Perna seems to be effective for our joints in the same way aloe is good for wounds in the skin: as a complex of nutrients for which the whole result is greater than a sum of the parts. We start all of our puppies on Perna when they start on food, at five weeks, and keep them on this supplement throughout their whole lives. The puppies receive about 20 mg. per pound of body weight crushed in their food. I continue this throughout their lives, although I may double or even triple that dosage if they show evidence of certain problems."




4 - Maintain a thin weight for your dog.  Now, I don’t mean malnourished!      But based on the breed of your dog, try to maintain their weight at the low end of their recommended healthy weight range.   You can check out American Kennel Club's recommended weight by breed to get your dog's target weight.


Keep your dog slim to help with hip dysplasia




5 - Exercise your dog.   I know this seems opposite of what you should do but exercise will strengthen muscles which in turn make your dog’s legs stronger and able to handle weaker joints.   The best exercise to help your dog’s pain is swimming.    All pressure points are relieved in the water while muscles are being strengthened and toned.


Watch how hydrotherapy helps a Chocolate Lab named Izzy!




Note:  There are 2 schools of thought about allowing your dog to exercise.  


Some vets say to keep your dog still and just let them rest.  


The other thought is that you still need to move these joints and your dog’s body so that their overall energy and muscle tone can be maintained.    One key factor is to look at the impact of the exercise.   Exercising on a hard surface could do more damage.  Exercising in water is nothing but great for your pooch.


I totally agree with the “keep it moving” theory.   This dynamic is pretty much true for anything.   If you don’t keep things moving, everything gets stiffer, tighter, and even more painful!   


For the safest swim for your dog, be sure to check out Pet Hangout's Kurgo Pet Life Jacket (available in 3 sizes), Racing Flames Dog Life Jacket (in 6 sizes), and The Dog Life Jacket in neon yellow!


Swimming is great doggie exercise.


6 - Give painkillers if necessary.  Although every drug has its side effects, you may have to balance the good with the bad.   Noone knows your dog as good as you.    Take an honest assessment of their pain level.   

Anti-inflammatories and other painkillers may be appropriate if it increases the quality of life for your dog.   Your dog may also be able to move around and exercise more if their pain can be managed effectively.




7 - Chiropractic care could keep your dog’s body in good balance and working condition.




8 - Physical Therapy - massages can greatly help your dog's pain and mobility.





9 - Surgery Options - If your dog is a good candidate for surgery, some of the more effective procedures are:


  • Double or triple pelvic osteotomy (DPO/TPO)
  • Femoral head ostectomy (FHO)
  • Total hip replacement (THR)





In Summary:  


Heredity, environment, and/or nutrition could all be contributing factors to your dog developing painful hip dysplasia.    One of the most important things is to catch the hip problem as early as possible.    Some puppies can begin developing laxity as early as 4 - 6 months of age.   The earlier the treatment can be started the better the chances of managing your dog's pain and severity of this skeletal disease.  



If you see your pup beginning to have trouble moving around, whining when moving, or hear sounds when they walk, these are among some of the signs that you need to pay attention to.    It may be time to head to the vet for a full exam and x-ray of their hips.      This is the only way to be sure they are suffering from hip dysplasia. 



If they are diagnosed with the disease, stay hopeful.   Among the things you can do to help your pooch:  feeding them a healthy diet, giving them vitamins and glucosamine, helping them maintain a healthy weight for their breed type, and providing them an opportunity to get regular water exercise.




Does your dog suffer from hip dysplasia?   


Let's start the conversation to help others learn about this painful dog disease.


To learn more about the health of your pooch, check out How to Bust Your Stinky Dog Problem, How to Know if Essential Oils Are Good for Your Dog, and How to Solve Your Dog's Horrible Diarrhea.


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