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Signs of hip dysplasia in dogs: What to watch for

German shepherd running

Hip dysplasia is a painful condition that can greatly impact a dog’s quality of life. Though originally thought to be an ailment in large breeds only, hip dysplasia can impact any of our canine friends. So what is this painful hip condition?

In this article we’ll dive into the details of hip dysplasia in dogs and discuss proper management for the beloved companions that have already been diagnosed.

What is hip dysplasia?

Canine hip dysplasia is a condition that is classified by the improper alignment of the hip joint. In a healthy dog, the hip joint should glide freely with each step they take. Since the ball and the sockets of the hip joint do not align properly in dogs with hip dysplasia, this causes the hip joint to grind each time the dog moves. Not only is this incredibly painful for our canine friends, but it can lead to deterioration of the hip joint over time. 

Hip dysplasia is a hereditary condition that can be passed down from dog to dog. Though it’s most common in large breed dogs, it’s becoming more common in small breed dogs as well. The threat of hip dysplasia is one of the main reasons responsible dog breeders provide medical paperwork clearing their dogs of any joint conditions.

Causes of hip dysplasia

So what causes hip dysplasia in dogs? A few factors can lead to this painful hip condition in dogs, but the most common cause is genetics. Most dogs with hip dysplasia have inherited the condition genetically. Many cases of hip dysplasia are the result of irresponsible breeders continuing to breed dogs with the condition—and many do not perform x-rays or checkups to clear these puppies before they are purchased. 

Though genetics play a huge role, there are other causes that can exacerbate hip dysplasia in dogs as well. These include:

  • Excessive exercise or sports
  • Improper nutrition
  • Canine obesity
  • Fast growth periods

Though most of these factors only magnify the condition in dogs that are already susceptible, some veterinarians believe they can actually cause the condition as well. Due to this, it’s so important to make sure that your dog is getting everything they need in terms of nutrition and exercise.

9 signs of hip dysplasia in dogs

When it comes to keeping our canine friends pain free, we need to be aware of the signs of uncomfortable conditions like hip dysplasia. Some of the most common symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs include:

  • Stiffness
  • Decrease in daily activity
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Difficulty getting up
  • Change in their normal gait
  • Decrease in the thigh muscle mass
  • Weakness in the hind legs
  • Crying out or whining during activity
  • Sensitivity in their back end

How to manage or prevent hip dysplasia naturally

Since hip dysplasia in dogs is becoming so common, it’s important to be aware of the best ways to prevent or manage this condition in our furry friends. In order to keep your canine companion as comfortable as possible, let’s dive into some of the trusted ways to manage or prevent hip dysplasia naturally. 

Regular vet visits

Regular vet visits are one of the best ways to prevent and manage hip dysplasia in our canine friends. A physical exam and simple x-ray can help to diagnose the condition in growing puppies, as well as keep up with the progression of the condition as they age. Being informed is the best way to keep your dog comfortable, and keeping up with their yearly vet visits can do just that. 

Joint supplements

Joint supplements are a wonderful way to promote joint health and comfort in dogs. Not only are joint supplements essential in dogs with hip dysplasia, but they are now recommended for all large breed dogs due to their susceptibility to joint pain. Joint supplements contain ingredients such as glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, and other substances that are known to strengthen cartilage and reduce inflammation. Daily joint supplements can prevent joint conditions in dogs, as well as offer your dog longevity if they do suffer from hip dysplasia. 

Omega fatty acids

Omega fatty acids are another wonderful addition to your dog’s daily diet. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are a group of nutritional fats that help to target inflammation and promote immune health. These nutritional fats act as a lubricant for dogs with joint pain and help to increase their range of motion with daily use. By offering an omega fatty acid to your dog daily, you can help to manage and prevent future hip pain. 

Maintain a healthy weight

Obesity in dogs can aggravate many health conditions, hip dysplasia included. An obese dog is more at risk to hip and joint pain due to the extra stress put on the body, making it so important to keep them as trim as possible. You can promote a healthy body score by offering a nutritious diet, promoting daily exercise, and keeping up with yearly vet visits. If you have any questions about proper nutrition in dogs, your vet is always there to lead the way!

Choose a responsible breeder

If you’re opting to purchase a dog from a breeder, choosing a responsible breeder is the best way to prevent having a dog with hip dysplasia. Since hip dysplasia is such a common threat in dogs, a responsible breeder will perform x-rays on each parent, proving that the likelihood of their puppies having hip dysplasia is lessened. A responsible breeder can also clear the puppies of other hereditary conditions as well. Though it can be tempting to choose the puppy with the best price tag, we urge you to do thorough research before choosing a breeder (or consider adopting!). 

Final words

Hip dysplasia can be unbearable for our canine companions, making it so important to understand the condition and how to best help them. Be sure to review the information that we listed above and you can drastically improve your dog’s quality of life while living with hip dysplasia.

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

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