Dogs love to run and play. If your dog’s mobility becomes compromised, their entire quality of life can suffer. One of the most common causes of canine mobility impairment is hip dysplasia. Your dog can live a happy life after a diagnosis of hip dysplasia, but it’s helpful to know what the first signs of this ailment can look like. Let’s dive into what hip dysplasia is and what breeds are most at risk.
What Is Hip Dysplasia?
Hip dysplasia is a genetic condition passed down through generations in which the hip joint is improperly formed. Over time, this condition can be aggravated by environmental factors, such as injury, age, or weight gain. If a dog develops hip dysplasia, they’ll experience painful joints, arthritis, and impairment of mobility. While there are several treatments available for hip dysplasia, prevention is often the best course of action, and early detection can be crucial.
What Are the Signs of Hip Dysplasia?
You know your dog best, so keeping an eye on your furry friend is one of the best ways to catch symptoms of hip dysplasia early on. Watch for signs of pain or stiffness, such as a decreased range of motion or a new reluctance or difficulty to rise from the floor or to climb stairs.
Pay attention to the way your dog walks; a swaying gait could indicate changes in joint health. A dog experiencing joint pain on the hind legs may also appear to be bunny-hopping when running due to the desire to have both hind legs on the ground at the same time. Additionally, dogs favoring their front legs due to joint pain caused by the early signs of hips dysplasia could lose muscle mass in the thighs or display an enlargement of shoulder muscle mass as the front legs take on a heavier load.
Preventing Hip Dysplasia
Prevention starts with awareness. Certain dogs are more likely to develop problems with hip dysplasia than others. Here are ten breeds that are susceptible to hip dysplasia. If you own one of these types of dogs, you and your vet should work together to develop a lifelong strategy for mobility health.
1. German Shepherds
Large, active dogs are at a higher risk of developing hip problems later in life. Many German Shepherds develop mobility issues as they enter their “second stage” of life, which starts around the age of seven.
Rottweilers with hip dysplasia often display an abnormal gait. If your Rottweiler starts to walk oddly, with a limp or a directional lean, contact your vet. The sooner you make an appointment, the sooner you can find out if your Rottweiler has hip dysplasia—and the sooner treatment can begin.
3. Golden Retriever
Golden Retrievers are born with a high risk of hip dysplasia. Unfortunately, this risk only increases as they age, so it’s important to pay attention to changes in your pup’s activity levels and gait throughout the various stages of life.
4. Saint Bernard
As a general rule, the bigger the dog, the higher the risk of hip dysplasia. With Saint Bernards, you’ll want to carefully monitor their weight to keep this risk as low as possible. Obesity can increase joint pain and mobility problems in all dogs, but especially in large and giant breeds.
5. Labrador Retriever
Another large dog breed, labs also have a high risk of developing hip dysplasia. Left untreated, this can lead to muscle atrophy. Labs are active, working dogs, so signs of pain and behavioral changes should be fairly easy to spot.
You’ll want to watch the Newfoundland carefully as they grow into adulthood. One advantage here is this breed often loves to swim, which is a great low-impact exercise. Activities like running tend to put more stress on the joints.
7. Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Another big dog with a love for water, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a breed to watch as they age—as is true for all large working dogs. Because these dogs grow quite fast, they need a good diet that includes the appropriate vitamins to ensure they develop properly.
Not all dogs at risk for hip dysplasia are large dogs. Pugs also run a high risk of developing hip dysplasia. Typically, symptoms of hip dysplasia will appear in younger dogs, although it is possible for the condition to develop later in life.
The Boxer is a medium-sized breed, often reaching 70 pounds, with a risk of mobility problems. Boxers can be affected by dysplasia at any age. Long-term issues can develop following an injury, so be sure to protect and monitor your pup during activities and exercise.
10. French Bulldog
Their small, uniquely shaped, stout body makes the French Bulldog susceptible to a variety of physical complications, including hip dysplasia, so you’ll want to be on the lookout and take measures to keep your Frenchie healthy from puppyhood through old age.
Preventing Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
By understanding which breeds have the highest risk for hip dysplasia, you’ll be able to contact your vet sooner if you notice signs that your dog is experiencing pain or loss of mobility in the hips. Your vet will examine your dog at regular checkups and may uncover signs of hip dysplasia there, but your observations are invaluable because you know your dog’s habits and personality.
A nutritious diet and the maintenance of a healthy weight are essential, along with exercise. Joint health supplements or glucosamine can also help maintain your dog’s joint health. Here are some more helpful tips for preventing hip dysplasia in dogs.
All dogs benefit from a healthy diet explicitly geared to their breed and age, including large and giant breeds. Feed your large breed puppy food specially formulated for him to provide the right kind of nutrition to support slow, steady growth. Abnormally speedy growth can put strain on the bones and joints of a large dog. In general, keeping your dog at a healthy weight and avoiding obesity is probably the best overall step you can take to keep your dog’s joints healthy and pain-free.
An overall healthy lifestyle will benefit your dog in many ways. Feeding your dog the right diet and keeping him at a healthy weight are just a few factors. Make sure to see a veterinarian regularly for checkups, as well. Keep your dog’s body and mind fit and sharp with the right amount and type of exercise for your breed and personality. In addition, you might consider a supplement formulated to promote joint health and mobility—but be sure to check with your vet before introducing any changes into your pet’s diet.
Strengthen Your Dog’s Back Legs
Different breeds of dogs have wildly different exercise requirements, but all dogs need some level of activity and some variety to keep it interesting. Swimming is a great, low-impact, full-body exercise for your dog that is great for hind legs. Consider playing fetch at the beach or letting your dog swim somewhere safe.
To strengthen your dog’s back legs, try to convince her to stand on her hind legs with front legs up on a bench or platform of some kind appropriate to your dog’s size. Putting the front paws up on a higher platform will force some more of the load of body weight onto the hind legs. See how long your dog can hold this position and try to work your way up to thirty seconds or so – always giving praise and making sure not to strain your dog.
Treatment of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
Unfortunately, not even the best preventative care can guarantee that your furry friend will never become impaired. You may be wondering, can a dog live a normal life with hip dysplasia? The answer will depend on the severity of your pup’s condition.
There are a variety of treatments for hip dysplasia, and many dogs go on to live a healthy and happy life after a diagnosis. Talk to your vet about physical therapy or strengthening exercises. Help your pet lose weight if necessary, and make sure to keep activity and play on more forgiving surfaces. Some canines may also be candidates for surgery, which can help get him back on his feet.
Keeping Your Canine Happy and Healthy
With the right care, your canine can stay healthy and active for years to come. Supplements can promote normal joint health in older dogs and puppies alike, which is why Wapiti Labs has dedicated years of research to unlocking the power of natural ingredients. If you have any questions about our supplements, don’t hesitate to reach out.