Hip Dysplasia in Dogs


Dysplasia means improper growth and in the dog’s hip this tends to mean the hip socket becomes too shallow and doesn’t hold the head of the femur (thigh bone) firmly in place. This then means there is too much movement in the joint which can wear away the cartilage and cause arthritis and pain and reduced flexibility in the joint. Hip Dysplasia is a genetically inherited condition. All puppies are born with normal hips, but their genetics and their early life experiences will determine the severity of any dysplasia and how that affects them in their everyday life. A puppy with a genetically high risk of hip dysplasia that is over exercised or overfed is more likely to develop serious dysplasia that will cause pain and restrict movement. An x-ray will show the degree of dysplasia but that doesn’t always determine how it affects the dog. Some dogs with x-rays showing severe dysplasia will appear only mildly affected and others with slight dysplasia will appear to be in terrible pain – it all depends on the dog.

Signs of Hip Dysplasia

  • Rear limb lameness, particularly after exercise.
  • Difficulty or stiffness when getting up from lying or climbing uphill.
  • Pulling up from lying using their front legs rather than pushing up through their back legs
  • A “bunny hop” gait (moving both rear legs together).
  • Swaying from side to side in their rear end when they walk
  • Difficulty stretching back legs behind them
  • Short stride with the hind legs
  • Reluctance to jump, exercise or climb stairs.

Reducing the impact of hip dysplasia

  • Restricting the diet in puppies so they don’t put on too much fat or grow too quickly. Fast bone growth means the muscles are unable to support the skeleton properly and extra fat means extra weight for the growing joints to support
  • Restricting exercise to normal puppy play activities rather than long walks, especially on hard pavements.
  • Restricting puppies to safe areas they can explore without putting too much strain on growing joints. This means not allowing puppies to use stairs, jump on or off furniture or climb where there is a risk of falling. Slippery floors should be covered to reduce the risk of sliding and slipping when running about.

Managing Hip Dysplasia

  • Good pain control is essential. Your vet will be able to provide you with this.
  • Make sure your dog can access the house and garden without problems. Provide extra steps and ramps as necessary specially to help them get in and out of the car.
  • Provide regular exercise which doesn’t strain the joints. Relatively flat, low intensity walks are best. Long walks at the weekend to make up for short walks during the week are not a good idea.
  • A good supportive bed in a draft free spot will provide warmth and comfort.
  • Joint supplements can help maintain healthy cartilage.
  • Keep your dog at a healthy weight so the joints don’t have any unnecessary strain.
  • Massage and physical therapy can help maintain good muscle health to support the joints and help the dog remain comfortable and mobile.

To find out how massage could help your dog call 07761 826736

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