In physical therapy, we know that motion is lotion, and the more a joint can move around, the more the synovial joint fluid will circulate, and the lower the inflammation will be, the better the musculature will be that is supporting that joint, so exercise is a really important component of a dog that has hip dysplasia, and helping them have good quality of life because they need those muscles to be able to get around, especially big dogs. It’s really important for them to maintain good muscle mass as much as possible. So with dogs with hip dysplasia, they are probably not good jogging partners. Running is a wonderful way to burn calories and get exercise, but it’s not the best for a dog with hip dysplasia.
A better exercise would be swimming. If you can get your dog to a pool or to a lake and let them swim around, low impact exercises are the best thing for dogs with hip dysplasia. Also you can, if you have a canine rehabilitation specialist in your area, they usually have an underwater treadmill. Walking on an underwater treadmill is a fantastic exercise for dogs with hip dysplasia because the warm water warms the joints. They are supported by buoyancy and then they are getting the exercise and the motion as well. Also a good exercise for dogs with hip dysplasia, as long as their pain is controlled with pain medication, is just plain old walking. Try to avoid really hard surfaces, such as asphalt or concrete, and stick to dirt trails or grassy hills.
The, if it’s uneven surfaces that are soft, that actually helps them develop more placement ability. They are able to get their feet and exercise different parts of their body and just keeping their balance, which strengthens their core as well. Another good exercise is sit stands, so you ask your dog to sit and then you move back a little bit and you say come here, and then when they come, you give them a little, tiny treat, and then you say sit again, then they sit, you back up a little bit, and you say come here, they come, you give them a little tiny treat. So they sit, then they stand, then they sit, then they stand. That motion, that closes the hip joint and opens the hip joint, closes the hip joint and opens the hip joint. And that motion keeps that joint lubricated and loose. Again, if you have a job with end-stage hip dysplasia, the cartilage is all gone and so that’s just bone on bone, and so if you do have a dog that has severe hip dysplasia and a lot of pain from that, before you engage in any exercises, you need to make sure that the pain is controlled, either with medication or alternative therapies, so talk with your veterinarian about what is right for your dog.
Author: Dr. Sarah Wooten
A graduate of UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, and a member of the American Society of Veterinary Journalists, Dr. Wooten has 16 years of experience in small animal general practice, and 9 years experience of writing and vlogging. You may have seen her speak at Fetch DVM360 conference, NAVC (or VMX), AAHA, AVMA, or WVC, or you may have seen her articles and videos on DVM360, Firstline, Vetted, Healthy Pet Magazine, The Bark Magazine, Vetstreet, Chewy. or PetMD.