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The top hip dysplasia exercises for dogs

October 30, 2020 4 min read

The top hip dysplasia exercises for dogs

If you have a canine companion with hip dysplasia, you may be in search of the best methods to ease their pain. While we used to think that dogs with hip dysplasia require a sedentary life, recent studies have discovered that low impact exercise is actually beneficial for these furry friends. So what are the best exercises for dogs with hip dysplasia?

In this article we’ll dive into the details of hip dysplasia in dogs, and help you implement therapeutic exercise into their life!

Hip dysplasia: A brief overview

Before we discuss some of the best exercises for dogs with hip dysplasia, let’s introduce the condition itself and how it impacts our canine friends. Canine hip dysplasia is a condition that’s classified by the irregular formation of the hip joint. The standard canine hip joint is a ball and socket joint that glides freely with each step a dog takes.

In a dog with hip dysplasia, the hip joint rubs and grinds due to the irregular formation. This is not only extremely painful for the dog with hip dysplasia, but can also cause severe joint damage over time. Dogs with hip dysplasia will often experience painful inflammation, and joint deterioration over time if the symptoms are not managed. The most common symptoms of this condition in dogs include limping, weakness in their hind legs, decrease in activity, stiffness, limited mobility, change in their normal gait, difficulty getting up and down, and other signs of chronic pain. 

While there are a few possible causes of canine hip dysplasia, it is most often a hereditary condition that is passed down from dog to dog. Though other factors can play a role in causing hip dysplasia, they often only affect dogs that already have a genetic predisposition to the joint condition. Some of the other factors that can play a role in canine hip dysplasia include:

  • Fast growth periods (most often in large and giant breed dogs)
  • Improper nutrition that impedes proper growth
  • Canine obesity
  • Excessive exercise, especially during puppyhood

Breeds that are prone to hip dysplasia

Though hip dysplasia can impact any kind of canine friend, there are a few breeds that are known to be more at risk. While you may think that only large breeds can be impacted by hip dysplasia, you may be surprised to see that any sized dog can fall victim to the condition! Some of the breeds that are most prone to hip dysplasia include:

  • Golden Retrievers
  • German Shepherds
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • French Bulldogs
  • Pugs
  • Basset Hounds
  • Great Danes
  • Rottweilers
  • Mastiffs
  • Boxers

Though hip dysplasia is most common in these breeds, any canine companion can be affected by the hereditary joint condition. 

4 exercises to help manage hip dysplasia

Now that we’ve discussed how hip dysplasia can impact our dogs, it’s time to discuss some of the best exercises for dogs with this painful condition. These exercises are not only easier for dogs with hip dysplasia to accomplish, but can result in added strength over time. 

Swimming

Swimming and other types of hydrotherapy are incredible forms of low impact exercise for dogs with hip dysplasia. Swimming can help a dog improve their joint rotation, gain muscle strength without extra impact, as well as offer exercise without added stress on the joints. Due to the buoyancy of dogs in the water, they are able to achieve much more than they could outside of the water, all without the added pain that could come along with high impact exercise. 

Just be sure to ease your dog into swimming before you set them loose in the deep end. Dogs often need to become comfortable in water they are able to stand in, and can then venture out into swimming once they gain extra strength. If you are unable to offer a safe swimming environment for your furry friend, you can always look into canine physical therapy options near you. 

Short walks

Though activity can be challenging for a dog with hip dysplasia, it’s important to keep them moving whenever you can. A sedentary life can lead to weight gain, muscle atrophy, and progression of joint deterioration over time. While long walks are not ideal for dogs with chronic joint conditions, short walks can be just enough to help them maintain their weight and prevent severe muscle loss over time. 

Stretching & range of motion exercises

Since dogs with hip dysplasia can experience stiffness and limited mobility, it's important to help them maintain as much flexibility as they can. Stiffness can result in extra pain and muscle loss over time, so frequent stretching can help them maintain their strength. Some of the best range of motion exercises include hip flexion while your dog is laying on their side and shoulder extensions (since the shoulders often have to compensate). 

Sit & stand

Dogs with hip dysplasia will often lose strength in their hindquarters as the condition progresses. In order to combat this, sit and stand exercises are a great way to help them maintain flexibility and strength in their back legs. Owners can do this by simply instructing the sit command, and then scoot back a couple inches when asking them to come and retrieve their treat. By practicing this for 5–10 minutes each day, your dog will combat muscle wasting in their hind quarters. 

Other ways to mitigate the effects of hip dysplasia

Aside from low-impact exercises, there are a few other successful methods in reading the impact of hip dysplasia symptoms in dogs. Some of the best ways to keep your dog as comfortable as possible include:

  • Maintaining your dog’s weight through a healthy diet and low impact exercises
  • Offering a daily omega fatty acid supplement to help reduce inflammation, as well as increase joint mobility
  • Offering daily joint supplements that help to promote joint health and repair damaged cartilage
  • Keep up with yearly physical exams at your dog's veterinary office, which can help your vet come up with the best pain management plan for your pup
  • Offering an anti inflammatory diet such as a raw diet, prescription joint diet, and any other diet that’s free of inflammatory agents

Summary

Though our dogs may fall victim to hip dysplasia, it does not mean they are sentenced to a life of discomfort. Be sure to review the tips we mentioned above on helpful exercises for hip dysplasia, and you can help your dog achieve longevity going forward!


The article was written by  Amber LaRock, RVT on October 30, 2020.