There are several reasons dog hip pain may occur. Most issues arise in a dog’s later years, and can really put a damper on a dog who is otherwise young at heart. Luckily, treatment for hip problems are more effective than ever, and more varied, helping to give your achy pooch the most individualized treatment possible. Medications like Rimadyl (aka Carprofen) can be incredibly effective at quelling your dog's hip pain, but it often helps to get a treatment plan tailored to meet your pet's specific needs.
Most Common CAUSES OF DOG HIP PAIN
Dogs may experience pain in their hips for a few reasons. The most common causes are osteoarthritis and dysplasia.
Arthritis may occur at any time in a dog’s life, and for a number of reasons. From joint injuries to an inherited condition, no dog is completely immune -- nearly 20% of dogs suffer from some type of arthritis in their lifetime.
Although arthritis is more common among larger breeds, all dogs are susceptible. Patella luxation, a knee problem common among tiny dog breeds, can lead to arthritis in small dogs at all stages of life.
Dysplasia in one of the more common inherited causes of canine arthritis. Hip dysplasia is a condition where the femur bone and the hip socket are ill fitting -- the socket is too shallow for the bone, causing rubbing that results in pain, irritation, and inflammation.
The condition is genetic -- that is, it’s an inherited trait -- although its onset is influenced by factors in the dog’s environment, like obesity or lack of exercise.
Dysplasia can occur at any time in a dog’s life, even before a puppy’s first birthday (although it is more common in a dog’s later years).
INDICATIONS OF HIP PAIN IN DOGS
The following are the most common indications that your dog may be experiencing pain in their hips.
- Favoring one leg over the other by limping or staying off one foot
- Slower to rise from a laying position, or trouble laying down
- Trouble with common tasks that involve climbing (as in, up the stairs) or jumping (into the car, for example)
- Slowness or apparent stiffness, especially just after getting up
- Swollen joints
DOG HIP PAIN DIAGNOSIS & TREATMENTS
Most dog hip pain will be evaluated through x-rays. Veterinarians will typically check both hips, even if pain is only apparent on one side.
Common Treatments for Dog Hip Pain
Depending on the severity of your dog’s hip pain, your doctor may choose any of a number of approaches.
- Pain relief: Pain relief alone can sometimes return a pet to an excellent quality of life. Relief from pain, in the case of hip problems, is typically synonymous with inflammation relief. Rimadyl is a common non-steroidal anti inflammatory drug (NSAID) that’s seen a great deal of success with fairly few side effects. Other pain relief treatments may include corticosteroids, or a combination of several meds.
- Joint Health: Lubrication of the joints can be a measure taken after pain relief, helping to provide long term care for your dog’s hip pain. Glucosamine is the most familiar joint lubricant on the market, coming in a number of different forms -- treats, powders, tablets, capsules and foods. Other supplements like vitamin C and biological sulfur, known as MSM, might also be recommended. Some of these supplements come in a combined medication, as in Excel Glucosamine, with both MSM and vitamin C. Alternatively, your veterinarian may see fit to offer joint lubricating injections, at least in the beginning stages of treatment.
- Home Care: A massage and a warm compresses can greatly ease your dog’s discomfort. They should have a warm, soft, dry place to sleep. Exercise, at least while your dog is recovering from a cycle of pain and inflammation, should be kept light. Water therapy can be a great option because it provides exercise while keeping weight off the joints.
- Acupuncture: This ancient Chinese treatment that has been becoming ever more popular for humans has actually started gaining traction with dogs as well. It is recommended for pain relief in combination with additional treatments.
- Surgery: In the case of a severely malformed joint, and if nothing else has worked, surgery may be the best, or only, option, even though it is invasive, expensive, and recovery times can be long and arduous for dogs and people alike. Be sure you’ve exhausted all your resources before considering this most extreme option.
DOG HIP PAIN PREVENTION
A lifetime of regular exercise and a quality diet can go a long way toward putting off the inevitable onset of hip dysplasia.
If you suspect your dog may be prone to hip problems, you can try prophylactic treatments like adding a daily hip supplement to your pet’s diet. If possible, encourage them to exercise by swimming, which will keep them fit without adding stress to their hips. You should also be sure your dog has a warm, dry place to sleep.
Breeders should remove dogs with evidence of dysplasia from the breeding pool. If purchasing a full breed dog, ask to see records of not only the dog’s parents, but also the grandparents.
A Final Note: Beware of Ticks
It's always a good idea to check for tick-borne diseases in the case of apparent joint or hip pain. Tick paralysis, Lyme disease, and other illnesses can cause similar symptoms.
More on Joint Health
Joint Health Products for Pets with Arthritis
The Complete Guide to Dog Arthritis
Treating Your Dog's Hip Dysplasia Through Diet
This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.