Hip dysplasia is a health problem that affects many dogs around the world. Due to hereditary genetic factors, certain breeds are more prone to this degenerative disorder than others, but almost any dog can develop the disease. For this reason, all dog owners should be on the lookout for signs of mobility problems in their companion animals. If you have noticed difficulties in the mobility of your partner and the vet has diagnosed him with hip dysplasia, he will give you guidance on how to treat this disease.
In this article we bring you a series of exercise recommendations to help dogs with hip dysplasia, or to prevent them from it.
What is hip dysplasia?
Hip dysplasia is a physical condition that arises from the abnormal conformation of the hip joint, where the joint socket (acetabulum) and the ball of the femur do not fit together correctly. There are two general types of hip dysplasia in dogs:
- Congenital: when the disease is inherited genetically. It is believed to be because the two main parts of the hip joint do not grow at the same rate, probably due to hormonal problems.
- Acquired: When environmental factors cause a dog’s joints to become damaged or worn to the point that they do not connect. While general neutering is still advisable for a dog’s overall health, some experts believe that spaying a dog too early can lead to a higher prevalence of hip dysplasia. Excess protein in the diet or excessive pressure on the dog’s joints while they are still developing can also be factors.
Diagnosis of hip dysplasia will require X-rays and other clinical tests. However, we must be attentive to possible symptoms. These include difficulty standing up, being too tired after walking, or a change in the way you walk.
Due to their prevalence of genetic inheritance, there are some breeds that are more likely to develop hip dysplasia than others. They include:
- Labrador retriever
- Irish setter
- German shepherd
Although we have exposed some breeds that are predisposed, that does not mean that other breeds cannot develop the disease. If they do, there is no cure. The most drastic approach is surgical intervention, but even this can produce limited results. The most important thing is to reduce the associated pain and other problems with proper symptom management.
How to help a dog with hip dysplasia
There are several physical therapy techniques that you can apply to help your dog with hip dysplasia. All of them should aim to strengthen and relax the muscles to ease discomfort or relieve pain. The gluteal muscles are essential for the stability and mobility of the hip, so it is important to perform therapy on them.
Other methods to help the dog with hip dysplasia include changing his diet to help maintain joint function. While this includes feeding them foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, it also means limiting their total amount so they don’t become obese, as being overweight puts more pressure on already damaged joints.
That’s why exercises to help dogs with hip dysplasia should make it easier for the joints to heal without further damaging them. We bring you some of the best for your dog:
A dog with hip dysplasia will have a difficult time standing on the affected limbs. This is because the pain makes it difficult. The result will be muscle atrophy, that is, loss of muscle mass due to inactivity or other effects on the dog’s musculoskeletal system. Massaging the dog favors the recovery of muscle mass as well as helping to correct its posture.
We can perform a relaxing massage along the dog’s spine. It is important that we move our hands in the direction of the dog’s hair, since otherwise it can be very uncomfortable. We can also perform circular movements along both sides of the spine to release tension. The muscles of the hindquarters, however, are perhaps the most important to focus on.
In each movement we must be attentive to the reaction of the dog and make sure not to make it feel more uncomfortable and sore. You can start gently and increase the intensity.
With dogs that are comfortable in the water, swimming can be a great way to strengthen their muscles without overloading their joints. This is because being suspended in water you don’t have to strain your joints.
The specialists will have hydrotherapy facilities larger than we probably have at home. These can include an underwater treadmill. In general, exercises for hip dysplasia in water should be performed by a professional physical therapist.
Of course, if you have a pool at home, you may be able to carry out some of these exercises (always with a life jacket for dogs) and let it swim in your company.
If the dog is uncomfortable in the water, then this type of exercise is not a good idea. Shaking out of fear or some other quick movement can cause more damage to your joints.
Other types of exercises
For more advanced techniques, a physical therapist can be consulted. In addition to the exercises for dogs with hip dysplasia described above, you may also be able to perform:
- Passive movements.
- Active or stabilizing exercises.
- Cryotherapy (cold therapy).
- Thermotherapy (heat therapy).
It is important to note that many of these therapies are considered “alternative” and have little scientific evidence to support their efficacy. If you wish to pursue other methods of treating your dog’s hip dysplasia, you will need to discuss these with your veterinarian beforehand.