Hip Dysplasia In Dogs: Causes, Symptoms And Treatments

If you have a larger breed dog, you are probably aware of hip dysplasia. This degenerative disease is most common in the larger breeds such as the Golden Retriever, Rottweiler, St. Bernard and German Shepherd but can also occur in other breeds.

If you already have a dog with hip dysplasia or you are planning on getting a dog that may have a predisposition to the condition, it is helpful to understand what causes hip dysplasia in dogs, the signs and symptoms of dog hip dysplasia and the types of treatments available.

What Causes Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is a structural problem in the hip joint. During development, the hip socket does not form normally to create a deep cup in the pelvic bone. Instead, the cup is too shallow, allowing the ball of the femoral head to move more freely in the joint. The abnormal growth is caused by the combination of multiple genes that lead to improper development.

In a normal hip joint, the head of the femur fits into the hip socket of the pelvis much like a baseball fits in the catcher’s mitt. In the case of canine hip dysplasia, the socket is shallow giving the ball of the femur too much space. Even though the femur or thigh bone is attached to the hip bone of the pelvis with muscle and the round ligament, it tends to slide and rub in the joint instead of smoothly rotating. Sometimes, the movement becomes so pronounced that it results in dog hip dislocation. Over time the extra friction created by the movement of the femoral head in the hip socket wears down the cartilage and synovial fluid in the joint. As these natural shock absorbers deteriorate, you see signs of dog hip pain when they run and jump.

Once a dog is born with a predisposition to hip dysplasia, nutrition and your dog’s environment play a role in the development of canine hip dysplasia. Overweight dogs are more prone to develop signs of hip dysplasia. When a dog is overweight, it places extra stress on the joints leading to more wear and tear on the hip joint and more pronounced symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs. In addition to your feeding practices, the environment you provide for your furry pal can contribute to hip dysplasia pain. Be careful to let your puppy develop strong bones and good muscle tone when they are young. Do not ask them to do too much in this key stage. Hip dysplasia in puppies can develop if they are asked to jump too high or run long distances before their body is fully mature. Provide training and exercise that fits their stage of development to protect them and their bodies long term.

What are the Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia?

Because the underlying cause of the disease is structural, a larger dog like a Golden Retriever or German Shepherd may show an abnormal gait when running. If the deformity is severe, you will notice the signs of hip dysplasia early in life. Some dogs will run with a “bunny hop” by moving both legs together in a hopping motion when they run. You may also notice your pup standing with the hind legs close together.

If the joint deformity is mild, you may not notice signs of hip dysplasia in dogs until they get older. As muscle tone diminishes and the effects of degeneration progress, dogs will show difficulty getting up, climbing stairs and squatting to go to the bathroom. You may notice them walking with a shorter stride or shifting their weight from side to side on the back legs when they are standing still. With severe hip dysplasia the hip may be painful to the touch, and your dog may flinch or react to being touched or palpated.

When you notice dog hip dysplasia symptoms, you need to consult with your veterinarian. They will examine your dog for signs like dog hip dislocation and the amount of freedom in the hip joint. For a definitive diagnosis, X-rays are required. To get a clear view of the hip joint, a dog must be radiographed on it’s back with the hind legs placed in a frog-leg position and stretched downward. Because of the joint manipulation required, dogs are anesthetized to keep them still and prevent unnecessary pain. A clear view of the hip joint will allow your veterinarian to diagnose hip dysplasia and evaluate the amount of degenerative arthritis present. This will help to formulate a course of treatment.

Can I Use Natural Supplements and Diet to Treat Hip Dysplasia?

Whether you are dealing with hip dysplasia in German Shepherds, hip dysplasia in labs or another breed of dog, there are several possible courses of dog hip dysplasia treatment. Depending on the severity of the disease, you can elect to manage dog hip pain with natural remedies like nutritional supplements that support joint health. Providing natural joint supplements can help support the cartilage and synovial fluid to slow the development of degenerative hip disease and to decrease the severity of hip dysplasia in dogs.

A good joint health supplement will contain glucosamine and may include chondroitin with or without MSM. Supplementation provides the body with essential tools to help keep the joints healthy. Glucosamine is naturally produced in the body and helps in the building and repair of cartilage. As the body ages, it produces smaller quantities of this compound. One good source of glucosamine is ProMotion for medium and large dogs.

If your dog is already showing severe hip pain, your veterinarian may prescribe Adequan which is an injectable form of glucosamine. Chondroitin is another nutrient the body produces in decreasing quantities with advancing age. Chondroitin is involved in preventing abnormal cartilage breakdown by blocking the enzymes that destroy cartilage. The destructive enzymes are normally present in small levels to help keep the cartilage surface smooth. When abnormal wear occurs, they increase and accelerate the breakdown of cartilage. Chondroitin neutralizes the enzymes and helps the cartilage stay healthy.

An example of a joint health supplement with glucosamine and chondroitin is Cosequin for dogs. Another joint health supplement, Synovi G3 also contains MSM. MSM is a sulfur-containing compound that provides sulfur bonds that enhance the structural integrity of the cartilage. It helps reduce scar tissue and has anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties. Use of natural supplements is the first course in treating hip dysplasia. Once the supplements work into the system and reach therapeutic levels, they can help prevent further degeneration and bring relief by promoting joint lubrication and cartilage health.

In addition to giving natural supplements to treat the symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs, you can help manage the disease with proper feeding. One key way to prevent the development degenerative hip disease is to avoid overfeeding your dog. When an animal is overweight there is added stress on the joints. Food manufacturers recognized the importance of feeding to prevent or delay the onset of hip dysplasia and have developed foods specially designed for large breed dogs. The foods provide the needed nutrition with a lower caloric content so puppies and adult dogs stay lean. Research has demonstrated that thinner puppies were less likely to develop hip dysplasia later in life than were roly poly puppies. Keeping an adult dog lean can also delay onset and lessen the severity of dog hip dysplasia symptoms by minimizing the stress on the joints.

What Else Is Available to Treat Hip Dysplasia?

Sometimes natural supplements and a proper diet will be all you need to help your dog deal with hip dysplasia. When the supplements are not enough to reduce pain and restore your canine’s quality of life, you will need to consider pain management and anti-inflammatories as your next step.

There are some excellent natural anti-inflammatory products available. Natural products do not create the same side effects that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) and corticosteroids can produce. One product, Yucca Intensive has anti-inflammatory properties like corticosteroids and has been helpful to significantly reduce the pain and inflammation of hip dysplasia.

If natural remedies do not bring relief, your veterinarian may prescribe NSAIDs or corticosteroids to help deal with the pain and inflammation. Usually, these drugs are intended for short term use to get the disease under control. Long term use can lead to ulcers and kidney or liver damage, so with prolonged treatment your veterinarian will request periodic blood tests to confirm there has been no damage to body systems. If you need to resort to medications to deal with acute pain, be sure to follow up with supplements and good nutrition to support joint health long term.

Sometimes the degeneration and pain associated with hip dysplasia is so severe, that dog hip replacement is indicated. A dog hip replacement is similar to the surgery in humans. For old dogs with severe arthritis, a total hip replacement (THR) surgery is the best hip dysplasia treatment. In this surgery, both the head of the femur and the socket of the hip are replaced to create a whole new joint that is free of arthritis and degeneration.

Hip Dysplasia in DogsWhile a THR is necessary when surgically treating hip dysplasia in large breeds such as labs and German Shepherds, a femoral head osteotomy (FHO) can be used for dogs under 50 pounds. In an FHO, the head of the femur is removed and scar tissue is allowed to develop in the area. The scar tissue creates a false joint that will not produce arthritis pain. Another type of surgery is available for hip dysplasia in puppies under 2 years old. A triple pelvic osteotomy (TPO) can be used to create a tighter joint in young dogs before any arthritis develops. By repositioning the hip socket, the head of the femur fits better and will rotate properly.

Whether you are considering getting a larger dog or you already have an older dog that is showing arthritis pain in the hips, you need to know about hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia is a genetic disease that is most common in larger breed dogs. Although a combination of genes lead to an abnormal development of the hip joint in dogs with this deformity, proper feeding and environment contribute to the disease and resulting signs of hip dysplasia in dogs. Starting early with joint health supplements can help prevent or delay the onset of hip dysplasia. If your dog starts to show hip pain and other symptoms of hip dysplasia, you will want to consult with your veterinarian to diagnose the cause and develop a course of treatment. Treatment for hip dysplasia in dogs starts with good natural supplements and proper feeding and nutrition. Keeping your furry friend lean and healthy reduces the stress placed on the hip joints. For more moderate disease, you may need to use natural anti-inflammatories or prescription medications. For the most severe cases, surgery is used to restructure the joint and provide long term relief. With an appropriate course of treatment you can help your canine pal experience less pain and have a better quality of life.