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How to manage hip dysplasia in senior dogs?

As a parent to senior dogs, we can’t help but notice, how years take a toll on them. We see their agile bodies, slowing down, taking breaks, and sitting down at the first chance they get. Other than aging, a skeletal condition, Hip Dysplasia, is a common reason to affect their quality of life. This deformity is found majorly in larger breeds like Labrador, Golden Retriever, German Shepherd, Rottweiler, and Great Dane. Understanding this condition will help us take care of them better.

What is hip dysplasia? 

Hip Dysplasia is a condition where the femur’s (the longest bone of the leg) rounded head, does not properly fit into their hip socket because it is too shallow. Aging causes their ligaments to grow weaker. As a result, the muscles which are supposed to hold the bones tight, become loose, allowing movement. This can be extremely painful and irritable to your dog. The joint could also lose function over time. 

hip dysplasia in dog

What are the causes and symptoms of Hip Dysplasia?

The hip joints of all dogs are normal at birth. Laxity or looseness develops as they grow. The reason could be either genetic or an injury. Environmental factors like poor nutrition, slippery flooring, bad weight management aggravate the laxity and result in hip dysplasia as the dogs grow old. It isn't too difficult to identify the symptoms. Dogs exhibit both physical and behavioral symptoms when they are in pain. Take this quiz to find out if your dog is hiding pain.

causes of hip dysplasia in dogs
symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs

How do I confirm if my dog has hip dysplasia?

The diagnosis of hip dysplasia is an easy process. Your vet would take x-rays and perform physical tests on their hind legs and hips. They could ask you to walk them as they look for a ‘pop’ in their joint or stretch/rotate their rear legs to look for anything abnormal.

I have a senior dog. How do I prevent hip dysplasia in my dog?

You cannot reverse hip dysplasia. However, there are little measures that you can incorporate in your dog’s lifestyle to help with their condition.

  • Weight and dietary restrictions.

A significant factor contributing to the worsening of hip dysplasia is obesity. Heavy bodies put a strain on the hip joints and cause further damage. It is extremely important to track their diet. Speak to your vet and formulate the right diet plan for your dog.

  • Avoid slippery floorings. 

Slippery marble/tile floorings, as commonly found in Indian households, make our dogs slip or skid indoors. The lack of necessary grip could cause irreparable damage to older dogs with hip dysplasia. Advisably, you could consider replacing regular flooring with anti-slip vinyl tiles or carpet your house.

If that’s not convenient, you can get anti-slip indoor shoes. These shoes provide traction and save your dog from skidding which reduces stress on their joints and prevents further damage. Make sure that these shoes are breathable as your dog's paws need to be ventilated. Zoof Grips are specifically designed to manage hip dysplasia. You can get more information here.

  • Appropriate exercise.

Weight management is important, however, avoid any sort of strenuous exercise. Heavy exercises like jumping, running for long distance could lead to trauma. Instead, light strength-building exercises can help build a stronger muscle set for your dog. Opt for short walks and light running. Water exercises like swimming also help, since they have a low impact on the joints.

  • Massages. 

Much like human joints, when dog muscles are massaged properly, it brings them relief. Dog parents can use gentle massaging techniques, approximately for 10 minutes, twice a day, on the dog's hips. A warm water bottle should also bring them relief. Check this video on how to massage your dog for hip dysplasia.

My senior dog is unable to get up or walk due to hip dysplasia. What do I do?

Talk to your vet. He will be able to suggest the best line of treatment to help with his mobility. There are two broad categories of treatment.

  • Supplementary measures and therapy times

Medicines

Although not treating the condition, the medications can help reduce inflammation in your dog's ligaments and heal the damaged cartilage.

 

Physical therapy

You can opt for Acupuncture, Chiropractic care, Hot and Cold Compresses or Hydrotherapy to bring relief.
  • Surgeries 
In extreme cases, where the ligaments are entirely ruptured, damaged or bruised, causing deformities in the hip muscles, your vet may recommend surgery.

There are two treatment methods - Femoral Head Osteotomy (FHO) and Total Hip Replacement (THR). FHO involves the neck and the head of the femur being replaced by a fibrous joint. It is a cheaper alternative to the second option. THR like human hip replacements involves the femur stem, head, and socket replaced with components made of cobalt chrome, stainless steel, or titanium. It is a costly process, not very accessible as well.

Can hip dysplasia affect smaller breeds?

Yes. Hip dysplasia is commonly found in larger breeds but is not restricted to them. Of the smaller breeds, pugs are most affected.

Our dogs are our children and it hurts to see them in pain. However, dogs with hip dysplasia often lead long, full lives, with adequate care. If you think that your dog may be in pain, talk to your veterinarian. Treatment options and lifestyle changes can keep your dog comfortable well into old age. 

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