How Long Can Your Dog Live With Hip Dysplasia?

Pet Health


May 25, 2020

A hip dysplasia diagnosis is a terrifying prospect for all large dog breed owners. While large dogs like German shepherds and Golden retrievers are the most commonly affected breeds by this condition by predisposition, smaller dog breeds can also suffer from hip dysplasia.

Hip dysplasia can be a very painful condition, and as a pet owner, it can be difficult to watch your dog in pain like this. Unfortunately, this condition can reduce your dog’s quality of life, but it can also be very mild. In this article, we’ll discuss what hip dysplasia is, along with its symptoms, treatment, and diagnosis. Educating yourself about hip dysplasia and its potential risk factors is one of the best things you can do as a dog owner.

What Is Canine Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is an inherited condition in dogs caused by an improperly formed hip joint. The hip joint is a ball and socket joint. When improperly formed, the joint is loose. This causes the dog’s leg bone/femur to move around too much, causing painful wear and tear to the joint. The smooth sliding becomes a painful grinding motion during movement, and causes deterioration of the joint over time. 

Which Dogs Are Prone to Hip Dysplasia?

As previously mentioned, some breeds have a genetic predisposition to develop hip dysplasia because it is hereditary. It’s especially common in breeds like the Great Dane, St. Bernard and German shepherd dogs. That being said, smaller breeds can also develop the condition, and there are some risk factors that increase the likelihood of all dogs, in general, developing it. These include excessive growth rate, the exercise they take part in, and improper weight and nutrition. 

Hip Dysplasia Symptoms

Sometimes hip dysplasia is so mild that it does not produce any real symptoms, but in other cases, there are some common telltale signs. Dogs can begin displaying symptoms as early as four or five months old, and other dogs develop it as they age. Some older dogs develop hip dysplasia together with osteoarthritis, and these dogs can be in extreme and terrible pain.            

  • Your dog seems stiff or sore when getting up
  • Your dog seems hesitant to exercise/shows decreased activity levels
  • Decreased range of motion shown by your dog’s hips
  • They are reluctant to climb stairs, run, and jump
  • Lameness in your dog’s hind end
  • Swaying, limping, or ‘bunny hopping’ gait
  • Grating in your dog’s hip joint during movement
  • Loss of muscle mass in your dog’s hind legs
  • Pain
  • Enlargement of shoulder muscles (front legs) to compensate for the hind leg muscles weakening

If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, you should consult your vet for advice and diagnosis. 

How Is Hip Dysplasia Diagnosed?

Sometimes hip dysplasia can be detected by your veterinarian during regular physical exams, but usually the owner may inform a vet that their pet is experiencing discomfort. After this, a veterinarian will manipulate the dog’s hind legs to test the looseness of the joint. This can help to detect grinding of the joint, pain, and reduced range of motion.

Inflammation due to joint diseases like hip dysplasia can be detected in the complete blood count, so during the physical exam, your veterinarian might also take a blood sample from your dog. The vet will also need the health history of your pet, their symptoms, and any possible injuries that may have contributed to them.

Radiographs and x-rays will be undertaken to confirm if your vet suspects hip dysplasia. These will help to determine the degree of hip dysplasia that your pet is suffering from, which will help determine the best course of treatment for them.

Hip Dysplasia Treatment

There are various treatments available for hip dysplasia in dogs, such as minor changes to their lifestyle or surgery. If your pet’s hip dysplasia isn’t severe, or if your furry buddy is not a candidate for surgery due to medical or financial reasons, your vet’s recommendation may be a nonsurgical approach, such as:        

  • Weight reduction (removes stress off of the hips)
  • Exercise restriction, especially on hard surfaces
  • Physical therapy
  • Joint supplements
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Joint fluid modifiers

A healthy diet is also important to maintain body weight which will be less stressful on your dog’s hips, as extra weight can put further pressure on the joints. If your dog is a candidate for surgery, some of the most common procedures include:   

  • Double or triple pelvic osteotomy (DPO/TPO)
  • Femoral head osteotomy (FHO)
  • Total Hip Replacement (THO)  

Should Dogs With Hip Dysplasia Exercise?

You should ask your vet about an appropriate and good exercise program for your dog suffering from hip dysplasia. Exercises like walking and moderate running can be beneficial to strengthen the muscles around the ball and socket hip joint. In general, it’s wise to avoid jumping, bounding, and running for long distances or long periods of time. Swimming is one of the best methods of exercise. Water is excellent for the muscles surrounding the joint, and it’s good for joint issues in general. 

What Can You Do to Ease Your Dog’s Pain?         

  • Apply a hot water bottle for 15 minutes, twice a day.
  • Massage your pet’s muscles surrounding their hip joints. You should do this in a circular motion with your fingertips, and take note of your dog’s response. If your dog seems irritable, don’t continue.
  • You can obtain prescription painkillers from your veterinarian.
  • Keep your pet out of damp and chilly weather as much as possible.
  • Dogs with hip dysplasia often have a difficult time on slippery floors, so it’s important to provide traction.
  • Provide an orthopedic bed for your dog.

Hip Dysplasia Prevention

While not all cases can be prevented, there are steps you can take to reduce your dog’s risk of developing hip dysplasia. Feeding your puppy on a healthy and appropriate diet will give them a head start on healthy bone and joint development.

As your furry companion grows, giving them appropriate levels of exercise and feeding them a healthy diet will help you to prevent obesity, which is a major contributor to hip dysplasia development. Obesity can cause other health issues for your furry companion, such as heart disease and arthritis.

Always make sure you research the breed of dog you want to adopt before actually adopting them. Doing this along finding a credible and quality breeder who undertakes appropriate health screenings of the dogs they breed from, such as hip dysplasia screenings and hip scores, will minimize your pet’s chances of developing this serious condition.

You should always aim to adopt a puppy whose parents have good hip scores and have been screened for other possible hereditary health issues like hip dysplasia, as this reduces the likelihood of your puppy suffering and promotes good breeding standards in general.

Final thoughts

Dogs who suffer from hip dysplasia can actually live long, fulfilled lives, especially with treatment to ease their pain and increase their quality of life.

If you are concerned that your pet may be suffering from hip dysplasia, you should contact your veterinarian. Even if your dog’s hip dysplasia is mild, your veterinarian will be able to give you advice on how to manage it and keep your dog as comfortable as possible.