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If your dog is limping on a back leg or having a hard time getting up, then the problem could be in the hip joint. 

There are many things that can affect the hip joint in dogs. Fortunately, many of these conditions can be successfully treated or managed well enough to promote good quality of life in most dogs.

What Causes Hip Problems in Dogs?

A dog’s hip joint is a ball and socket joint, where the head of the femur forms the ball, and the hip bones form the socket. Anything that impacts the growth of the bones or cartilage of the hip joint can impact the hip and cause problems for our pups. 

Trauma, genetics, infections, or osteoarthritis associated with normal wear and tear can all cause hip problems in dogs.

Common Hip Problems in Dogs

Two dogs running outside

The hip is the largest joint in the body, and susceptible to several issues. The following are the most common hip problems seen in dogs.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a disease in dogs that causes malformation in the hip joint, leading to uneven rubbing of cartilage in the joint and resulting in pain, lameness, and early onset osteoarthritis. 

Hip dysplasia is thought to be a genetic condition. Breedings dogs in breeds that are known for hip dysplasia, including Labrador and Golden Retrievers, should be tested and shown to be negative for hip dysplasia to prevent the condition in puppies.

Osteoarthritis

Hip pain and limping can be due to osteoarthritis in the hip joint. Osteoarthritis is a progressive inflammatory condition that results in swelling and loss of articular cartilage in the joint. Cartilage loss leads to pain and reduced mobility in dogs, and can be a significant issue in large breed dogs. There is no cure, but pain and mobility associated with osteoarthritis can be managed with medications, supplements, diet, exercise, and other therapies.

Hip Dislocation 

Hip dislocation in dogs occurs when the hip joint becomes dislocated due to trauma (hit by car, for example), or the hip dislocates due to severe hip dysplasia. If a dog has a dislocated hip due to trauma it can be treated, however, dogs with hip dislocation due to hip dysplasia require surgery to treat.

Legg Calve Perthes Disease

This is a disease that causes spontaneous degeneration of the head of the femur, which is the top of the leg bone that moves with the hip joint in dogs. The cause of this disease is not known, however it is mostly seen in small breed dogs, including Miniature Poodles and West Highland White Terriers. This disease usually only affects one hip joint, and treatment is surgical removal of the affected bone.

Osteochondrosis

Osteochondrosis is a disease that causes abnormal cartilage growth. This disease affects large and giant breed dogs, and causes joint pain and swelling, and can also cause osteoarthritis in the joint.

How to Help a Dog With Hip Problems

Veterinarian checking Jack Russell

The way to help a dog with hip problems varies with the type of hip problem present. For example, the treatment for hip dysplasia in a puppy is likely aimed at surgical correction of the disease, while treatment of hip arthritis may be managed with diet, exercise, and pain control. Decisions about treatment are best made under the supervision of a veterinarian that has knowledge about your dog’s disease.

In general, any dog that is diagnosed with a hip problem should be kept at an ideal weight because excessive weight can lead to pain and decreased ability to walk and get up. If you are unsure what your dog’s ideal weight is, ask your vet.

Motion is lotion, so providing your dog 30 minutes to an hour of low-impact walking every day is a good way to keep joints lubricated and mobile, and to keep good muscle tone. Swimming is an excellent exercise for dogs with hip problems. There are also canine rehabilitation specialists that have underwater treadmills that your dog can walk on to build muscle, strength, and mobility.

If your dog has a hard time getting around, getting into cars, or climbing stairs, then you need to modify the environment to help your dog. Get a ramp that your dog can use to get into the car or climb stairs, and put down non-slip rugs on hard floor surfaces that might be slippery for your dog. Getting a good night sleep may be hard for dogs that are in pain from hip problems, so make sure to provide your dog with a supportive sleeping surface like an orthopedic bed that cushions the dog’s achy joints up and away from hard floors.

Managing pain is an important part of helping a dog with hip problems. There are several prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications that can provide relief. Over-the-counter hip and joint supplements can also be beneficial. Many people have seen their dogs feel better on CBD oil or by giving dogs joint supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin.

Photobiomodulation, otherwise known as cold laser therapy, has also proved to help reduce pain and swelling in dogs with hip problems. Additional treatments that are available for dogs with hip problems include acupuncture, massage, arthroscopic surgery, and intra-articular joint injections.

How to Prevent Hip Problems in Dogs

Hip and Hop soft chews from The Anxious Pet

The best ways to prevent hip problems in dogs include proactively managing your dog’s weight, starting joint supplements early, and purchasing puppies from breeders that certify their dogs are free of hip diseases such as hip dysplasia.

If you adopt a puppy with hip dysplasia, getting surgery early may help prevent arthritis and pain down the road. In large and giant breed dogs, starting a high quality joint supplement in early adulthood may help protect and preserve cartilage, and help maintain joint health and mobility.