If your dog has been diagnosed with hip dysplasia, surgery is the only way to cure your dog of the disease. Some dogs are not good candidates for surgery, other pet parents don’t wish to pursue surgical intervention and so I get a lot of questions about how to treat my dog for hip dysplasia without surgery. While you cannot cure your dog of hip dysplasia without surgery, however, there are things you can do to help your dog have less pain and better mobility and better quality of life even if they have been diagnosed with hip dysplasia and you don’t pursue surgery. One of the most important things you can do is make sure that your dog is lean. They have a lot of studies out there that show that dogs that hip dysplasia, dogs that have arthritis, have a lot less symptoms of pain associated with the disease if they are thin. How do you know if your dog is thin? The easiest thing is the hand test. I talk about this all the time with my clients. You want to feel your dog’s ribs, which are located right behind your dog’s front legs. You run your fingers along them and they should feel like a washboard. They should feel like the back of your hand. If the ribs feel like the palm of your hand, you can’t feel them anywhere, then your dog is too heavy and you need to talk with your veterinarian about helping your dog lose weight. If the ribs are sticking out or they feel more like your knuckles, then your dog is too thin and you need to talk to your veterinarian about how to appropriately feed your dog.
That’s the most important thing. The second most important thing is low impact exercise. My physical therapist says “motion is lotion.” The more you can get your dog out moving around that will increase synovial cell fluid, which is joint fluid, that will help the joint fluid to circulate, that will keep the muscles strong, which are the framework that supports the joints. That will keep the metabolism up which will help the dog not get too heavy. Low impact exercise, such as walking, especially on soft uneven surfaces, like grass or trails, swimming is a fantastic exercise, walking underwater on a treadmill with a canine rehabilitation specialist. Great way to treat hip dysplasia. The last thing is making sure your dog’s pain is controlled with appropriate pain medication. Either traditional western style drugs or any myriad of alternative therapies that are out there. Another thing that is really important is making sure that those joints are cushioned and that your dog has a supportive sleeping surface to sleep on. If your dog is achy, or if you are achy, you know how you feel after you have slept on a really bad hotel mattress or after you have slept on a pull out couch, that one always gets me. You know how you feel when you wake up in the morning. Your dog feels the same way. You want to make sure they are sleeping on something that is thick and cushioning and keeping those joints up off the floor.
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.