So, you’re a dog owner and you’re concerned about your pup developing hip dysplasia. First of all, good for you! We love seeing pet parents who are proactive about educating themselves on how to keep their furry friends happy and healthy. It is so much easier, more cost-effective, and less stressful to take preventative measures to maintain your dog’s well-being than to try to get them back to baseline after disaster strikes.
The good news is, that even if your dog is predisposed to hip dysplasia, there are lots of things you can do to lessen the chances that this disease will greatly impact their quality of life.
Hip dysplasia is one of the most prevalent disorders of the canine hip – a degenerative joint disease most common among large and giant breed dogs, although it can affect medium and smaller dogs as well. Some dogs show signs of hip dysplasia as early as 5 to 8 months of age, while some show no problems until they are in their adult or even senior years of life.
What Is Hip Dysplasia?
Canine hip dysplasia is a disease that affects the hip joint, usually bilaterally (on both sides of the dog’s hips). In healthy dogs, the hip joint works like a ball (femoral) and socket (acetabulum) that slides smoothly when they walk or run. In the case of dogs with hip dysplasia, the joint doesn’t develop correctly during their puppy years, and the ball and socket don’t fit well together. This laxity (or looseness) of the joint means the ball moves around loosely in the socket, which can lead to painful degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis, which is the body’s attempt to stabilize the loose hip joint.
Who Develops Canine Hip Dysplasia?
Several factors contribute to the development of canine hip dysplasia. These include genetics, as well as factors in the dog’s environment such as diet and daily habits. Because of the genetic component, unfortunately, some breeds (especially large or giant breeds) are more susceptible to the disease. The top 10 breeds of dogs that are most likely to develop hip dysplasia are:
These larger dogs tend to develop hip dysplasia later in life, often after the age of seven.
Due to their sizable frame, weight distribution, and genetic predisposition to the disease, America’s most popular breed of dog is also one of the most at risk for hip dysplasia.
Unfortunately, this beloved breed has a known predisposition to hip dysplasia, with increased risk as they enter their senior years.
Watch your Rottweiler carefully to ensure a normal gait. If you notice them walking with a limp or leaning in one direction, it could be a sign of hip problems.
Due to their large size, these gentle giants are on the list of dogs most prone to degenerative joint conditions. As with all dogs, keeping them at a healthy weight can lessen the risk of mobility issues.
If you have a Newfie, watch them closely during puppyhood and adolescence for signs of hip dysplasia.
Breeding practices in French Bulldogs have made them susceptible to a variety of physical conditions, including hip dysplasia.
Chesapeake Bay Retrievers
Because these dogs grow fast and are especially active, genetics and lifestyle tend to contribute to an increased risk of joint issues.
This goes to show that not all dogs at risk for hip dysplasia are large dogs. With pugs, symptoms tend to manifest when dogs are younger.
Another non-large breed dog predisposed to mobility problems, the medium-sized Boxer can develop hip dysplasia at any age.
How Can I Lessen My Dog’s Risk of Hip Dysplasia?
Because of the genetic component that contributes to canine hip dysplasia, unfortunately, it’s not possible to 100% guarantee your dog won’t develop the disease, especially if they’re on the list above. However, there are still several lifestyle factors within your control that can be adjusted to reduce their risk. Here are our top 5 ways to lessen your dog’s risk of developing hip dysplasia.
Keep Your Dog at a Healthy Weight.
Ensuring your dog maintains a healthy weight is one of the most important factors for preventing and managing hip dysplasia (and joint disease in general). In all dogs, any excess weight on the body means an excess strain on the joints. Studies suggest that 25% of overweight dogs develop serious joint complications, such as osteoarthritis or hip or elbow dysplasia. When your dog’s joints and bones are required to carry excess weight, they usually start to become damaged. Learn everything you need to know about keeping your dog at a healthy weight – including how to identify an overweight dog, how to tell if you’re overfeeding, and how to give treats in a healthy way – read our Complete Guide to Weight Loss for Dogs.
Feed a Proper Diet.
In large breed puppies (who are more prone to hip dysplasia), it’s important to feed a diet that will satisfy their special nutrition requirements, while ensuring slow and steady growth that allows their joints to develop properly. Maintaining a good diet will also lessen your dog’s chances of developing hip dysplasia as they get older. Talk with your veterinarian about your dog’s unique nutritional needs, ensuring you understand what and how much to feed through puppyhood and beyond.
Ensure Proper Exercise.
During puppyhood and adolescence, exercise is certainly important for many reasons, including to help strengthen your dog’s leg and pelvic muscles, which in turn increases the stability of the hip joint (a plus for helping avoid hip dysplasia). But studies show that too much exercise, or the wrong type – too much jumping, too early access to stairs, etc. – can be detrimental. Taking care about the amount and type of exercise in younger dogs allows their joints to develop without putting too much strain on them, helping to prevent problems down the line. As your dog grows into adulthood and enters their senior years, low-impact types of exercise are beneficial to avoid excess wear and tear on their joints. Instead of running with your dog on hard asphalt or throwing the ball for them to jump and catch, try gentle play, walks in the park on softer ground, or even swimming (which many large breed dogs love). Read more about joint-friendly exercise tips for your pup here.
Provide a Quality Joint Supplement.
The #1 thing you need to know about canine joint supplements is they provide the most benefits before symptoms appear. Quality joint supplements are an essential component of canine joint care, providing nutrients to keep cartilage and joints strong and flexible and keep inflammation down. In short, by giving your pup a supplement before they’re in desperate need of one, you’ll reduce the probability that your dog will develop an issue (such as hip dysplasia) that requires you to fork out large sums of money for pain meds and/or surgery. Chondroprotectors, such as Glucosamine HCL, Chondroitin Sulfate, and Hyaluronic Acid aid in the lubrication and general health support of joints (TopDog’s GlycanAid HA supplement has all three, plus more to help your dog’s joints). There are also natural anti-inflammatory supplements out there to help keep painful inflammation of the joints at bay.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?
Too many dogs suffer in silence from hip dysplasia longer than they need to, simply because their parents don’t realize there’s a problem. The reason for this is basically that we bond so deeply with our animals, we subconsciously see them as somewhat human and expect them to show or communicate signs of pain the same way we do… i.e. by crying out or whimpering verbally.
But with dogs, this is not the case. Since you now know if your dog is predisposed to hip dysplasia, you have an upper hand and can be on the lookout for any silent signs of the disease. Here are 12 “non-verbal” signs of possible hip dysplasia/joint pain in your dog:
- General slowing down
- Slow to get up or get down
- Avoiding stairs / slow to go up stairs
- Avoiding jumping into the car or onto beds/couches
- Sleeping more and/or sleeping longer
- Reluctant to go on walks or walking less than usual
- Standing with hind legs together
- Standing with front legs widely apart
- Bunny hopping
- Muscle loss
If you notice your dog displaying any of these signs, it’s time for a trip to the veterinarian for a physical exam. They will provide a thorough physical exam, as well as x-rays/radiographs if needed, and will be able to give you a definitive answer on what’s causing your dog’s symptoms. From there, you can come up with a comprehensive treatment plan together.
The most important thing for you to do if you know your dog is predisposed to hip dysplasia is this: be proactive. Don’t wait to see if your dog starts showing signs of the disease – take preventative action now. While this joint condition can drastically reduce your beloved pet’s quality of life, the good news is that education on the part of you, the pet parent, can make a world of difference.