Hip Dysplasia and Your Pooch – What to Do

As much as it pains us to say this, hip dysplasia is a condition that simply affects far too many pooches than we would like. Dogs are such pure, loving creatures that it is simply too hard to see them suffering in any way whatsoever. Unfortunately, hip dysplasia is something that is common in many breeds of dogs. If you are here, chances are your precious pooch has just been diagnosed with HD. And of course, like any concerned parent, you want to know how to care for dog with hip dysplasia. Don’t worry, we are here to help you understand this condition better so you can better care for your beloved companion.

What is Hip Dysplasia?

If you are a giant breed or a large dog owner, chances are that you have already heard of hip dysplasia before. The sad truth, however, is that hip dysplasia can happen to ANY size dog – not just the larger ones. HD is a condition that can seriously change the life of a dog and drastically reduce his quality of life. It can truly be so uncomfortable to dogs that it becomes painful not just for them, but also to the owners that have to watch their poor pups suffer through it.

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CHD, or canine hip dysplasia, is basically a skeletal condition that affects dogs. It may affect some dog breeds more commonly than others, which is why you will hear that giant/large dog breeds are more prone to it. However, it does occur in smaller dog breeds too – in dogs such as mini pinschers and dachshunds. But before we talk about how to care for dog with hip dysplasia, let’s take a quick look at a dog’s anatomy so that we can understand this condition better.

The hip joint is basically a ball and a socket. In CHD affected dogs, the ball and the socket do not develop properly and as such, do not fit each other properly. As a result, the bones grind and rub together instead of sliding smoothly like it should. Over time, this repeated grinding leads to deterioration and eventually, to the complete loss of the joint’s function.

What is the Cause of Hip Dysplasia?

how to care for dog with hip dysplasia

There are many different factors that can affect a dog’s chances of getting hip dysplasia. This condition is typically hereditary, and as we have mentioned, large and giant dog breeds such as Saint Bernards, Great Danes, Labrador Retrievers, and even German Shepherd Dogs are all breeds prone to CHD. Factors that increase the chances of this condition are things such as the types of exercise a dog is exposed to, improper diet (and corresponding nutrition and weight), and even an excessive growth weight. All of these things can increase a dog’s genetic predisposition to hip dysplasia.

This is basically why large/giant pups have nutrition requirements that are special – food that they take must specifically be formulated for them, because it helps to prevent or stop excessive growth that can lead to all sorts of skeletal conditions.

It’s a good idea to make sure that your dog is also getting proper diet and exercise, because too little exercise – or too much! – can both increase the likelihood of HD. Overweight or obese dogs will experience more stress to their joints, which can then worsen a pre-existing conditions or make them more prone to developing them in the future.

How to Tell if Your Dog May Have Hip Dysplasia

If your dog isn’t actually diagnosed with hip dysplasia yet but you’re just here doing research proactively, good for you. We’re here to tell you the symptoms of CHD – it’s important to discuss them before we get to talking about how to care for dog with hip dysplasia.

Here are the symptoms of this condition:

  • Lessened activity – hyperactive dogs become more mellowed down to the point it is out of character
  • A decrease in the joint’s range of motion
  • Reluctance or difficulty to get on all four feet, run, jump, or climb stairs
  • Some visible lameness on back legs
  • Joint looseness
  • Narrow standing position or stance
  • Swaying gait
  • Loss of muscle mass in the thigh
  • Shoulder muscles noticeably enlarge to compensate
  • Stiffness
  • Pain

If you are noticing that your dog may be displaying multiple of these symptoms without them experiencing any prior injury, it’s time to bring your dog to the veterinarian. Your vet will be able to see if it’s a possible case of CHD, and will diagnose if need be.

Here’s a tip: if you know the medical history of your dog and his bloodline and you are aware that hip dysplasia cases exist, it’s a good idea to be prepared for the possible occurence of it in your dog, too.

Diagnosing CHD

When you bring your dog to the veterinarian, the first thing that they will do is to maneuver and/or manipulate your dog’s hind legs to see if there is any looseness in the joint. With this method they will also be able to see if your dog is experiencing any grinding or pain, or if there is a reduction in the joints’ range of motion. If your veterinarian deems it necessary, blood work may be done to see if your dog is experiencing any inflammation. When you bring your pooch to the vet, make sure that your vet knows of the dog’s medical history, any symptoms, and any possible incidents that may have caused injury to your beloved pet. If your dog was adopted from the pound as an adult, give as much information as you can anyway – even if you don’t have a complete medical history.

The above methods may be enough for your veterinarian to diagnose CHD, but the real, definitive way to make a diagnosis is via an x-ray. Your vet will take x-rays of your pup so they can determine if it’s actually CHD, and if it is, how severe the condition has become.

Your veterinarian will tell you how to care for dog with hip dysplasia as well, giving you general tips and tricks as well as what type of diet to put your dog on.

How to Care for Dog with Hip Dysplasia

how to care for dog with hip dysplasia

It’s not easy seeing your best dog friend struggling to get up, to jump, to run, or even to do daily things such as climbing up the stairs. It’s truly a sad thing watching a formerly hyperactive dog needing to tone down their behavior because they can no longer withstand the discomfort and pain of their condition.

Unfortunately, this condition comes with no cure. This is truly saddening news, since you don’t want your dog to be suffering through it their entire life. However, early detection is key to making sure that you can get it under control so you can help your dog better.

Once you have received a diagnosis of CHD, there are a bunch of things that you can do to help alleviate the things your poor pup is going through. So without further ado, let’s talk about what you can do for your dog, and how to care for dog with hip dysplasia.


But in decreased intensity. Yes, even for dogs with hip dysplasia, exercise is still an important part of daily life. Exercise allows your dog to avoid other issues later in life, such as cardiovascular problems or respiratory problems that may occur in pups that don’t get moving at all. Of course, since your pup is experiencing discomfort and pain with his dysplasia, it’s important to go for low impact exercises – such as swimming (lucky pup!) or slower leashed walks.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

For dogs suffering with CHD, keeping a healthy weight is important. After all, increased weight also increases the strain on the joints, giving your beloved pet more pain and discomfort. This is basically another reason why low impact exercise is important in the steps of how to care for dog with hip dysplasia.

Avoid Stairs

As much as possible, you want to decrease your dog’s contact with stairs. Stairs cause quite a lot of movement as your pup climbs or even trots down – so if you can, keep your dog downstairs instead. If you cannot avoid stairs, or if your beloved pet doesn’t want to go to bed without you, then consider using ramps to help your dog get up and down the house without having to use stairways.

Get Warm

In cold weather, or if you are using air conditioning, do make sure that your dog is warm with an extra coat, sweater, or extra blankets and bedding. This is especially important for short-coated dogs. Keeping pets warm is a great way to reduce any arthritic pain – especially in the winter months!

Reduce Stress and Keep Them Comfortable

A good way to alleviate some of the discomfort experienced with CHD is basically making sure your dog lives the perfect life at home. Provide them with soft beds and sleeping areas. You may even want to consider an orthopedic bed for your pet. On slippery flooring, make sure you put down rugs to help your dog to avoid slipping and falling – something that will definitely aggravate CHD.

Supplemented Diet

how to care for dog with hip dysplasia

Naturally, one of the best ways to help your dog to fight of the symptoms of hip dysplasia (and a great way to help prevent further worsening) is to make sure that they are on a healthy diet. Make sure the food your pet is eating contains plenty of high-quality proteins. Essential antioxidants and fatty acids are also vital, along with vitamins and minerals.

Additionally, you may want to make sure you are giving your dogs dietary supplements that help to protect cartilage. Supplements like glucosamine work well for this purpose. Another supplement you may want to look into is chondroitin sulfate. Furthermore, you may want to make sure you are giving your dog any prescribed medications from the vet – such as NSAIDs and any other pain medication.

Therapy? Yes, Please!

An important step in how to care for dog with hip dysplasia is making sure that you are providing therapy for your dog’s affected joints. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you have to spend on expensive therapists – in fact, you can do this work yourself. Focus on some exercises that help to build muscles, especially the muscles on the rear limb. Do exercises like sit-stands, as well as uphill walks.

Most noteworthy is the fact that massages really help. Massage the muscles around your pup’s hip area to help relieve any of the pains and aches they may be experiencing.


In some cases, preventative or corrective surgery may be an option. Ask your veterinarian if it is the right choice for your pet. This of course is an extreme option, so see first if there are any other options you can exhaust before you go for it!

Another thing that may help you in taking care of your dog is to tell any relevant people about the CHD. It’s important to tell people like your pet sitter or your dog walker of your pet’s condition, because they will of course have to adjust how they care for your dog to ensure the CHD is not aggravated.

Because of this, it is really important to make sure that you tell your dog’s caretakers about your pup’s condition and physical limitations. That way, any person who acts as your dog’s carer will know what needs to be done to make sure your dog is comfortable and pain-free.


The main takeaway from all of this is that you need to make sure your dog is healthy and comfortable in order to help ease their canine hip dysplasia. On top of this, make sure that everyone in your dog’s life is aware of their condition. Tell any possible caretakers about how to take care for dog with hip dysplasia. And most of all – last but not the least – love and care for your pooch no matter what!

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One Comment

  1. Yeah; I don’t think I buy that muscle building suggestion for dog’s with HD. So, the more muscle a dog has; there is still going to be their HD. You can build up a lot of muscle in those areas doing special exercises; but then they have extra muscle for exercises they cannot sustain, and later what they don’t use they lose; but until then they are walking around at a heavier weight than they should or need to be at. You of course want them to exercise; but walking is probably the best one they can do. They have to walk, and they will keep the muscles they need to walk, by walking. My dog has progressed HD and has had issues since he was a pup. I used to throw the stick or ball for him, and watch him put everything he had into chasing them. I mean you could see how he put all his weight back on his hips to get going. Then he started to limp here and there. Then he would limp after every run. Finally I got smart and stopped throwing balls and sticks for him completely. It was very sad to see him unable to do what he seemed to enjoy more than anything. Before I stopped completely; I started to just lob the ball up in the air versus throwing it as far as I could. I think this takes a great strain off of his hips and puts it more on his front legs. Some dogs may jump up which is not good. I walk my Bud every day for about 2 to 4 miles. I ride a bike so that he can go at the pace comfortable for him instead of making him walk my speed. His average walking speed is about as fast as I can run and I am not a runner; at least not anymore. He does not run; I try and keep him from running. He likes to get into a rhythm and he paces his self. He gets into a zone much like long distance runners do and seems to enjoy it.

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