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On Sunday, Scout over did it big time. Scout is 3-1/2 years old and loves to chase balls and swim. Sunday was gorgeous and I took the dogs outside several times to play, walk, swim, and explore. I sometimes forget that Scout won't stop when he's had enough. I don't have to worry about this with the other dogs; when they're tired, they find some shade and chill. But Scout will run until he drops.
Several hours after our last foray outside, Scout moved to one of our orthopedic dog beds, whimpering the entire way. He was walking very strangely and his hips and legs seemed to be bowed slightly (but this could have been my over-active imagination). Either way, this is NOT something I see with Scout. I gave him natural pain medication and an anti-inflammatory for the aches in his hips and legs.
Before bed, I also gave Scout some Ewegurt, a natural anti-anxiety supplement made from sheep's milk, to help him relax and get a good night's sleep.
We walked slowly to his sleeping spot (on the sofa). The next morning, Scout was well rested, a bit stiff, but no longer in pain. I will continue giving him the anti-inflammatory and Ewegurt for a few days and we'll keep his play sessions limited to swimming for a few days to allow him to recover.
What is Hip Dysplasia?
Hip dysplasia is a condition where there is a malformation of the hip socket which can lead to severe crippling, lameness, and arthritis. Hip dysplasia is a genetic trait that is one of the most common skeletal diseases in dogs, often seen in Great Danes, German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Saint Bernards, and some bully breeds.
Hip dysplasia usually presents itself when a dog is still a puppy and growing. However, it can also present later in life as an offshoot of arthritis brought about by the deterioration of joint cartilage.
While hip dysplasia can be genetic, it can also be due to obesity or poor diet.
Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia
- Difficulty rising
- Slow movement
- Decreased exercise; prefers sitting, laying, or resting
- Hesitancy climbing stairs
- Awkward gait or bunny hopping
- Stands with rear legs kept close together
- Shorter stride when walking
- Shifting weight from one leg to another when standing
- Tipping over when squatting to potty
- Thigh muscle wasting over time as a dog regularly compensates to avoid pain in joints
- Increased muscles in areas legs that are taking most of the weight and exercise
What Breeds Tend to Get Hip Dysplasia?
In my reading, breeds that commonly develop hip dysplasia are usually the larger sized dogs, however, smaller dogs can develop this condition as well:
- German Shepherds
- Labrador Retrievers
- Great Danes
- Saint Bernards
- other Bully Breeds
Treating Hip Dysplasia Naturally
Hip dysplasia is diagnosed via an x-ray which your dog will be sedated for because it's important that s/he remains completely still. Hip dysplasia can be treated naturally through diet and supplements.
Please note that my dogs do not have hip dysplasia, however, I do make a point of adding foods and supplements to their diet that support joint health.
Transition to a Raw Food Diet
A diet of kibble is highly inflammatory, making joint pain worse. A diet of raw dog food is the opposite in that it doesn't promote inflammation of the joints. Additionally, it's easier to maintain a dog's healthy weight on a raw diet due to the lower carb load (I also add organic fruits and vegetables to my dogs' diet).
Sources for Raw Dog Food
- Darwin's Natural Pet Food – offers balanced raw meals in a variety of proteins based on BARF model
- Raw Paws Pet Food – offers balanced meals and individual ingredients for DIY raw feeders
- Find a co-op near you for more options – I was able to cut my raw feeding budget in half by joining
Choose a Quality Joint Supplement
Often people will wait until their dog is showing signs of joint pain to incorporate a joint supplement into their diet. I learned from my experience with Rodrigo and Sydney that this is a mistake. So with Scout and Zoey, I started them on a joint supplement after their fourth birthday.
Joint supplements that I give to my dogs are:
- Rodrigo and Sydney get WINPRO Mobility (see video below of Sydney's transformation).
- Scout and Zoey get Cosequin DS Plus MSM by Nutramax.
An additional supplement that I give to my senior dogs that supports both the immune system and joint health is Canine System Saver. I add four capsules to Rodrigo and Sydney's meals 4-5 days weekly.
- Read my review of Canine System Saver.
On bottles of joint supplement, you'll be instructed to reduce the dosage to a “maintenance” level after a few weeks. I recommend ignoring this step, keeping your dog at the initial dose when dealing with serious joint issues. In the past, whenever I've reduced the dosage to the maintenance level, my dogs began showing signs of joint pain within a week.
Add a Quality Fish Oil Supplement to the Diet
Essential fatty acids offer many benefits, including reducing inflammation and supporting joint health. I prefer to feed my dogs fresh sardines, which I alternate with fish oil and salmon oil.
Managing My Dogs' Joint Pain
I prefer not to give my dogs prescription painkillers because I worry about the long-term impact on their health (liver and kidneys). Instead, I use a combination of supplements depending on how they're doing.
Turmeric Paste: I add turmeric paste to my dogs' meals daily; Rodrigo and Sydney have it both meals, Scout and Zoey have it in one meal per day (I'm slowly introducing golden paste to them).
DGP for Pets: If the dogs are whimpering from pain, I reach for DGP for Pets. It works fast (within 20-30 minutes) and helps them get a good night's sleep. I often combine it with CBD Oil for more intense pain and discomfort.
CBD Oil for Pets: Despite what some people think, CBD oil doesn't have THC and it doesn't make our dogs high. Not all products are created equal and the one that I've found that works the best for my dogs is created by Irie CBD. I put a dropper full of oil on a small piece of bread, on a treat, in their food, or directly into their mouth. It's a miracle worker.
Ewegurt: Ewegurt is an all natural supplement made from sheep's milk that can naturally treat anxiety in dogs. When a dog is in pain, they feel more anxious. CBD-Hemp oil can help with anxiety and so can Ewegurt. Ewegurt is a more affordable way for me to treat anxiety in the dogs. If one dog is anxious, it impacts the entire pack – they line up for their Ewegurt treat (or I add it to their meal) and within 30 minutes, I have a more relaxed crew.
Exercise for Dogs with Hip Dysplasia
- Light exercise is recommended, including swimming.
- It's important to allow a dog to warm up before exercising and play.
- Invest in pet steps and ramps to reduce jumping on beds, furniture, or into the car.
- Limit exercise and play to 10-15 minutes, several times a day (up to 3 times).
More Ways to Support Dogs
- Invest in a quality, orthopedic bed for your dog; we have two Big Barker dog beds which are worth the price and more. Sydney has less trouble standing thanks to this bed.
- Provide raised dog dishes for the dogs, which are better on their neck and back.
- Use a supportive harness like a Gingerlead when walking your dog during the rehabilitation period, which facilitates exercise and mobility without causing more damage to joints.
Interesting Facts About Hip Dysplasia
When I was researching hip dysplasia for this blog post, I came across the Institute of Canine Biology and discovered some interesting facts about this skeletal disease.
- All puppies are born with perfectly normal hips; hip dysplasia isn't a congenital defect and not present at birth according to ICB. It presents as the puppy starts growing.
- Environmental factors are important; and they are referring to diet, exercise, and weight. Especially body weight.
- “Puppies raised on slippery surfaces or with access to stairs when they are less than 3 months old have a higher risk of hip dysplasia, while those who are allowed off-lead exercise on soft, uneven ground (such as in a park) have a lower risk (Krontveit et al 2012).” ~ the Institute of Canine Biology
- “Dogs born in summer have a lower risk of hip dysplasia, presumably because they have more opportunity for exercise outdoors (Ktontveit et al 2012). On the other hand, dogs from 12-24 months old that regularly chase a ball or stick thrown by the owner have a higher risk of developing dysplastic hips (Sallander et al 2006).” ~ the Institute of Canine Biology
- “Most treatments for hip dysplasia are easier and more successful in younger dogs. If early symptoms are overlooked and screening is done only after 24 months or more, the window of time with the best prognosis in response to treatment will have passed (Morgan et al 2000). Signs of lameness usually first appear when the puppy is 4 to 6 months old, but after a month or two the dog will often seem better. This is because damage to the acetabular rim such as microfractures will have healed and the dog is no longer in pain, but development of dysplasia and osteoarthritis will continue.”~ the Institute of Canine Biology
What You Can Do Now for Your Dog
Scout recovered the next day and although he is still tender, he isn't displaying any of the symptoms of hip dysplasia, nor did he show any signs of lameness when he was a puppy. However, if you think your dog has hip dysplasia, contact your veterinarian now to have the condition diagnosed and begin a treatment plan.
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