Caring for Your Dog’s Hips


I do take requests and this month is a bit more of a delve into hip dysplasia and hip-related arthritis.

First – the more dog there is, the harder it is on the hips. Hips support much of the weight of a dog and simply decreasing weight is the simplest, and most effective thing you can do to increase comfort and mobility. It is essential that any weight loss plan be a positive experience for both the owner and the pet, incorporating education, exercise, and play. The goal for an overweight dog is 1% to 2% weight loss per week until the desired weight is achieved. Although this seems slow, it is important that weight loss be gradual, allowing the body to adjust and to also prevent malnutrition and other harmful effects. Weighing once per week is sufficient to monitor a weight control program. For small dogs one may be able to use a home scale, for bigger pups, a visit to the vet’s scale may be necessary. Remember that weight loss is a simple ratio of calories in versus calories out. Watch treats very carefully and consult with your veterinarian about how much to feed your pup.

Be certain your house is walking-friendly. Hardwood and tile floors are easy to clean, but also slippery, adding strain to hips. When the hips are compromised, there may not be enough strength in the muscles for a dog to rise on such a slippery surface. And repeated slipping on slick flooring can result in further damage to joints. Adding non-slip rugs to your house is essential to aid in grip. In addition, place carpet tiles on any slick stairs. Falls on stairs are a common source of repeated leg injury.

Another step to reduce slippage is trimming the hair on the bottom of a dog’s feet and be certain that the dog’s nails are an appropriate length. The paw pads have some gripping ability, but hair only causes greater slipping. Long nails may affect the ability of paw pads to rest on the e ground in a maximal position, reducing grip. They also may cause unusual rotation in the position of the leg, causing discomfort. Having proper length nails is essential. If you are not comfortable trimming the hair or clipping nails, seek the services of a local groomer or your veterinarian.

A new product is on the market where small silicone rings are placed on the nails, providing grip. As of this writing, I have seen them used, but not often. It may be an additional tool to increase comfort. There are also small grippers that adhere to pawpaws – but I have been underwhelmed by these.

Where does your pup sleep? Like some people with joint or back pain, a comfortable bed can make all the difference. Some dogs will prefer hard floors, but others with arthritis and hip pain may find orthopedic dog beds much more comfortable. You can purchase special orthopedic mattresses that prevent the dog from placing all of its weight on its joints.  These mattresses can help your dog get more rest and makes it easier for your puppy to get up after resting.

Home physical therapy can increase range of motion of joints, help increase strength, and provide pain relief. It is best to consult with your veterinarian to discuss referral to a rehabilitation specialist. They will review your pup’s condition and formulate a plan that works for both you and the dog.

Now that we have provided a safer home, slimmed down the pup, utilized appropriate foot care, and have a posh bed, what can we do to increase comfort? Simplest would be to discuss with your veterinarian nutritional supplements, which may help provide arthritis relief. We utilize several high quality glucosamine /chondroitin products that have been shown to have positive effects. Not all brands on the market work, especially human formulations. And less expensive usually means less effective. These supplements are easy and usually provide some relief as part of an overall arthritis/hip dysplasia plan.

In addition to supplements, we frequently prescribe anti-inflammatory medications, such as Rimadyl, to ease swelling and inflammation from arthritis pain. We discussed these NSAIDS in a past article – it may be worth reviewing. These medications provide relief and may help slow progression of disease in some dogs. They must be used carefully under the direction of your veterinarian.

Options for care outside of the home may also include acupuncture, cold laser therapy, hydrotherapy (swimming / water exercises), and others.

In many cases of hip dysplasia and arthritis, the above ideas and methods can help alleviate discomfort, but in others, we might have to make a surgical turn. This past summer District Vet teamed up with the Veterinary Orthopedic Sports Medicine Group and will begin offering orthopedic consultations and surgery at the Eastern Market location in November. If your dog is having hip or other orthopedic discomfort, the specialists at Veterinary Orthopedic Sports Medicine Group may be able to help. District Vet will start booking appointments for VOSM in late October.

There are many options for increasing comfort in your dog with hip dysplasia. Talk to your veterinarian or drop us a line.


Dan Teich, DVM is Medical Director at District Veterinary Hospital Eastern Market.