Hip Dysplasia in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment [Expert Guide]
Updated April 28, 2023.
Is your dog showing signs of discomfort or difficulty moving? Hip dysplasia could be the culprit. This common condition occurs when one or both hip joints develop abnormally as a puppy grows, resulting in a loose joint that can cause pain and limit mobility.
If you are wondering at what age hip dysplasia appears in dogs, the answer is "it depends." The first symptoms often appear when dogs are one to two years of age, but they can develop in animals as young as a few months old, especially in larger breeds. It's also possible for dogs to only develop symptoms as they get older and other diseases, like osteoarthritis, start to appear.
Hip dysplasia is hereditary in dogs, but it has been known to skip generations. This means some dogs might carry the gene and not develop symptoms, but their puppies might then suffer from hip dysplasia. Although any dog can develop hip dysplasia, larger breeds like Great Danes, German Shepherds, and Saint Bernards are more commonly affected.
Environmental factors such as excessive growth rate, a diet poor in essential nutrients, and excess weight during puppyhood can accelerate or worsen hip dysplasia in dogs that already carry the gene.
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How fast does hip dysplasia progress in dogs? The answer varies. It usually takes years for a dog to become symptomatic, and many do not show obvious symptoms of hip dysplasia until their senior years. Early signs of hip dysplasia in dogs include weakness in the hind legs and difficulty getting up from a sitting or lying down position. Hip dysplasia is painful in dogs and requires ongoing care and attention to ensure a good quality of life.
While hip dysplasia does not cause urinary incontinence, these two conditions often go hand-in-hand. According to PetMD, the consequences of hip dysplasia in dogs often include limping or chronic lameness, loosening of the hip joint, and pain.
End-stage hip dysplasia in dogs appears when the cartilage and hip bone begin to wear down, which can lead to arthritis, muscle atrophy, and limited mobility. Hip dysplasia is not fatal in dogs, but it can negatively impact a dog's quality of life, which is why owners sometimes elect humane euthanasia to end the dog's suffering.
Other signs of hip dysplasia in dogs include:
- Decreased range of motion
- Stiffness or swelling in the hip joint
- Decreased activity or reluctance to play and climb stairs
- Loss of muscle in the thigh
- Popping sounds in the joints
If you are looking for tips on how to prevent hip dysplasia in dogs, it is important to remember that this is an inherited condition. There is no cure for hip dysplasia in dogs already carrying the gene that causes the condition, but there are treatments and supportive care that can help with pain relief. Water therapy, proper nutrition, and supplements can also help prevent further damage, especially in puppies.
If you are considering buying a puppy from a breeder, ask about genetic testing. Screening programs are available so you can be sure the puppy you are taking home is not a carrier of the gene that causes hip dysplasia.
There are no home remedies for hip dysplasia in dogs, but you can reduce the risk of early symptoms by providing a proper diet and essential nutrient supplements so your dog's skeletal system grows properly. You should also avoid high-impact exercise for at-risk dogs.
Potential treatments for dogs with hip dysplasia include:
- Physical therapy: This includes water therapy, massage, cold laser, joint range of motion exercises, stretches, and more.
- Joint supplements: These supplements contain glucosamine, omega fatty acids, and chondroitin. These can relieve inflammation and help rebuild and support healthy cartilage.
- Exercise reduction: Dogs with hip dysplasia should not engage in strenuous, high-impact exercises like running and jumping. Instead, focus on low-impact exercises that won’t damage the joints, such as a relaxed walk or swimming.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): They help manage pain associated with hip dysplasia.
- Weight reduction: Alleviates the added stress put on the hips, improving overall joint health.
Safeguard Your Dog's Future
To help protect your dog, consider signing up with Lemonade Pet Insurance. Insurance will cover your dog's treatment and care as long as they were not diagnosed with hip dysplasia before you sign the policy contract. Lemonade Pet Insurance covers a number of things that can help a dog with hip dysplasia, including physical therapy, hydrotherapy, acupuncture and laser therapy, joint mobilization, and gait training. Lemonade is also more affordable than other pet insurance plans in the market, and offers plenty of customized plans to choose from to fit your needs.