Hip dysplasia is one of the most common illnesses in older dogs, and can be devastating to both dogs and their owners. Otherwise healthy dogs suddenly have trouble participating in their favorite activities, dramatically interfering with their quality of life. If your dog is suffering from hip dysplasia, here’s what you can do to help.
Hip Dysplasia in Dogs: What Is It?
Hip dysplasia is one of the most studied dog illnesses, but we still don’t know exactly what causes it or how to cure it. Hip dysplasia is caused by a malformation of the hip joint, that interferes with the top bone of the hind legs fitting perfectly into the hip socket. The illness is thought to be at least partially genetic, but typically only hits in middle aged or older dogs, so environmental factors have a clear impact. Over the course of several years, the bone becomes progressively more worn and the inability of the hips to properly support the weight of the body causes more and more problems. In the beginning, hip dysplasia may manifest in the form of minor issues controlling the hips, an inability to jump high, or occasional slipping when running, but in the later stages hip dysplasia can severely limit a dog’s mobility. Thus the key with hip dysplasia is to catch it early and to prevent it from getting worse.
Factors That Can Make Hip Dysplasia Worse
Obese dogs are at a higher risk for hip dysplasia and also have more pain when they get hip dysplasia because the hips are being forced to support more weight than they should. If your dog is overweight, avoid putting her on a restrictive diet, but provide her with light exercise and consider a diet pet food.
Over-exercise, especially when a dog is still young, can contribute to hip dysplasia. In old age, however, it can make hip dysplasia worse. Limit exercise that puts a strain on your dogs hips, including jumping, fast running, and walking over uneven surfaces.
Poor nutrition, especially diets lacking in calcium, or extremely high calorie diets, can also cause problems. Ask your vet about the food you are feeding your dog, and read up on canine nutrition since vets are often not well-educated about nutritional issues in dogs.
Improving Comfort and Health in Dogs With Hip Dysplasia
There are numerous factors that can help a dog with hip dysplasia still continue to live a relatively normal life. Veterinary medicine has come a long way, and some surgical treatments have had amazing success, so be sure to talk to your vet about your dog’s prognosis and consult with a specialist if you’re interested in pursuing surgical treatment. In conjunction with working with your vet, there are several things you can do at home to help your dog:
-Supplementing with glucosamine and chondroitin is one of the most effective ways to slow the effects of hip dysplasia. Many people swear that this approach has actually cured their dogs, but there’s no debating that these important nutrients can help with bone health. Make sure to buy a high quality supplement and feed to your dog daily.
-Aim to make life more comfortable for your dog and help him avoid overly exerting his hips. Provide a ramp to get into your car, bed, sofa, or other places your dog regularly climbs, and encourage your dog to limit his jumping.
-Provide your dog with regular exercise. While over-exercising a dog can be damaging, providing moderate exercise daily helps your dog to maintain good range of movement. Take your dog for at least one thirty minute walk daily.
-Provide your dog with an excellent sleeping area. Cold weather can make the pain worse, and an uncomfortable bed is equally bad. Giving your dog a foam bed in a warm spot in your house can help ease the stiffness.
-Massage can work wonders. Dogs aren’t that different from people, and massage can help to loosen tension and relieve pain. Ask your vet to show you where to massage your dog. Start slowly and follow your dog’s lead. If she’s resistant to being massaged, don’t force it.