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Hip Dysplasia: How to Care for Your Pet?

Last updated on: February 6th, 2020

Hip dysplasia is a common issue in dogs as they age and is more common in the large and giant breeds – from German Shepherds to Irish Wolfhounds.  Like our hip joints, a dog’s hip joints should glide smoothly at the hip and ball joint. Hip dysplasia causes the bones in the joint to grind together instead. It causes pain, slows your dog down and makes it difficult for your pet to walk or run properly. Your dog may begin avoiding activity as a result. In today’s article we are going to give you all the information you need for helping a dog with hip dysplasia.

What to Look For You may notice that your dog has begun to move more slowly and avoid some activity like walking up and down stairs. Other symptoms can include:

  • Struggling to stand up or walk
  • Pain in the back end
  • Muscle loss in the hips and legs
  • Lameness or an inability to walk
  • Loss in the range of motion of the hips

The good news is that there are several things you can do to care for you dog, ease their pain and help them move better again. We will talk about lifestyle changes, supplements, pain medication, surgery and physical therapy.


Lifestyle Changes for Hip Dysplasia

1. Diet

Helping your dog lose weight can help decrease their risk of developing the condition and can also ease the condition by reducing stress on the hips. Be sure to feed your dog a healthy, low-calorie diet while encouraging light exercise until the weight is off.  When they have reached their goal weight, change to a maintenance diet and continue to encourage exercise.


2. Exercise

Try to exercise your dog on soft surfaces like the ground in a park, your lawn, or beaches. Hard surfaces can increase the pain of hip dysplasia. The exercise can help strengthen muscle and delay loss of muscle mass, improving mobility as well.


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3. Massage

Massages help flush toxins, reduce pain and stiffness and improve circulation which can all help a dog with hip dysplasia.  You may see improved mobility and reduced swelling with a massage routine but you should also check with your vet to ensure it is recommended for the stage of your pet’s condition.


4. Physical Therapy

Physio can help keep your dog’s muscles in good shape and help slow down the muscle mass wasting that is associated with hip dysplasia. Swimming and hydrotherapy can help a great deal because it takes the pressure off the hips while they exercise. You could also try underwater treadmill therapy if your dog is resistant to swimming but enjoys walking.


5. A Dog Friendly Home

There are several changes you can make at home that are small for you but can make a big difference to a dog suffering with hip and other joint issues:

  • Ramps you can place a ramp over a part of your stairs or up onto furniture to help your dog climb without the additional stress on their joints.
  • Stairs you can also try pet stairs for couches and bed to help reduce joint stress. Pet stairs have a reduced incline so climbing them can be easier on your dog.
  • Dog beds rest is important for a dog experiencing joint issues. This allows muscle to recover and can ease pain. An orthopedic dog bed is designed to help with dysplasia by supporting your dog’s joints while they lay down. Avoid having your dog sleep on hard surfaces.



There are home remedies and joint supplements for dogs that can help your pet.  Omega 3s, Chondroitin and Glucosamine can be very beneficial.

1. Home Remedy – Bone Broth

Bone broth (or stock) is made by simmering bones and cartilage in water over low heat for long periods of time. The broth is very beneficial for the health of your pet’s joints and is also very high in nutrients. It can help lubricate the joints and supports bone health. It is also great for the immune system because of the nutrient density.  These are all important for aging dogs.


2. Omega 3

Omega 3 fatty acids are a very effective anti-inflammatory that cannot be produced naturally in your dog and must come from their diet or supplements.  The molecules stop inflammation from occurring by blocking the substances that cause swelling.


3. Glucosamine and Chondroitin

Both glucosamine and chondroitin levels decrease as your dog ages.  Glucosamine is an anti-inflammatory and lower glucosamine levels can result in stiffer joints and muscles.  Speak to your vet about dosages that are appropriate for your pet (also read more about Benefits and ways of using turmeric to heal your dog.).

Chondroitin helps cushion joints and is usually taken with glucosamine so that it is absorbed better. Additional chondroitin can help your dog’s flexibility.


4. Medications

What is the best hip and joint supplement for dogs?In some cases your dog may remain uncomfortable even with physio, massage, exercise and supplements. In this case, your veterinarian may recommend anti-inflammatory and pain medications. Your vet may recommend an opiate based pain medication or an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug).

NSAIDs reduce stiffness, pain and swelling and are usually safer for your dog than opiate based pain medications. If these are ineffective your veterinarian may prescribe an opiate based mediation like Tramadol (for severe and constant pain). Amantadine (a Parkinson’s disease treatment) or Gabapentin (a pain medication for nerve damage) may also be tried.


5. Surgery

If all else fails, surgery may help to relieve some of your dog’s discomfort. There are a number of surgeries that may help your pet and you should discuss these thoroughly with your veterinarian. Surgeries include removed the femoral head and neck (the ball and socket joint), hip replacement, juvenile pubic symphysiodesis (removing growing bone cells on one part of the hip to allow the bone in other parts to grow thicker – for young dogs), and triple pelvic osteotomy (for early stage hip dysplasia).

Be sure to ask your vet any and all questions you have about a proposed surgery including how long the dog may have to be confined to bed rest, recovery time, supplements that may help during recovery, side effects from medications and recommended exercise.


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Nobody wants to see their dog suffer or struggle to get around. Your dog wants to be with you and enjoy a high-quality of life. Hip dysplasia can interfere with your dog’s enjoyment of life and you are right to be concerned. Thankfully, there are many things that you can do to improve your dog’s condition, support the dog and help delay and ease symptoms. Many of these treatments make a huge impact for your dog and even small changes can help. Talk to your vet about what’s right for you and your pet.

Hip dysplasia is a common issue in dogs as they age and is more common in the large and giant breeds – from German Shepherds to Irish Wolfhounds...read more.
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