Canine CareHealth

Hip Dysplasia in Old Dogs – How to Take Care of the Aging Fido

Like humans, our dogs become more susceptible to various health problems as they grow older. Aside from canine arthritis, another common condition that senior dogs develop is hip dysplasia in old dogs. This health problem impacts their quality of life. So to make sure that your pooch will live its life to the fullest, you have to know how to handle this condition.

In this post, we discussed the condition, how it’s diagnosed and treated, and what you can do to ease the suffering of your pooch.

What is hip dysplasia in old dogs?

Hip dysplasia is a condition on which the ball and socket of the hip don’t fit perfectly. This causes the two components to rub and grind during movement. This will cause intense pain and in worst cases, other canines will experience total luxation of the joint.

Moreover, hip dysplasia often manifests as limping that some pet owners may mistake for a minor injury. But over time, the joint will degenerate until it loses its entire function. When that happens, your dog will be immobile and will experience intense pain.

Hip dysplasia is daunting…

Pet owners who have encountered hip dysplasia before would be terrified of the condition. It’s not a minor problem, nor a pocket-friendly condition. Aside from the steep cost of treatment, it will also cause extreme pain on your doggo.

It’s painful to watch a dog go through the suffering of hip dysplasia. As much as the condition is preventable to some extent, some canines are born with a high predisposition and risk of developing such condition later in life.           

In addition, treatments for hip dysplasia in old dogs vary as much as its causes. But like any health condition, early diagnosis is crucial in improving the quality of life of your pet.

In this video, Dr. Anthony Cambridge of VetVid tells us more about hip dysplasia among dogs:

What causes hip dysplasia in dogs?

A genetic defect often causes hip dysplasia. However, other reasons could potentially lead to the development of this condition. The following are some of the culprits behind every pet owner’s nightmare.

-Congenital problems

As we said earlier, genetics is the one to blame when it comes to hip dysplasia. There’s nothing you can do about it, especially if you’re adopting a dog from a shelter. However, if you’re purchasing a puppy, always source it from a responsible and licensed breeder.

Usually, congenital hip dysplasia is the worst case. Some dogs are born with deformed hips, soft bones, and other skeletal deformities that will require surgical procedures to correct.

Nevertheless, some mild congenital hip dysplasia in old dogs can be managed with medication and changes in lifestyle.

-Nutritional factors

If your dog isn’t born with a bad hip, the food you’re giving the dog may be the one that triggered the development of hip dysplasia. The lack of joint-friendly nutrients can worsen the predisposition of a dog.

For those who are in doubt, we recommend that you consult with your dog’s vet or a pet nutritionist. 

-Breed-specific predispositions

Large dogs have the highest risk of developing hip dysplasia later in life. This is due to their large bones and rapid growth. Aside from hip dysplasia, large and giant breeds may also develop elbow dysplasia if their growth isn’t managed well.

The likes of Great Dane, Bernese Mountain Dog, Saint Bernard, Golden Retriever, and German Shepherd are some of the dogs that are susceptible to this condition.

The following are the frequencies of hip dysplasia in some breeds according to the Orthopedic Foundation of America:

**Chow Chow – 19%
**Mastiffs – 20%
**Golden Retrievers – 20%
**Rottweilers – 20%
**Catahoula Dogs – 25%
**Bloodhounds – 26%
**Saint Bernards – 47%
**Otterhounds – 54%

Take note that various factors will affect these frequencies. It can rise or fall depending on the overall health of the canine as well as the risk factors they possess.

-Fast weight gain or obesity

Excess weight put extra pressure on the dog’s joints. So if you let them become obese or gain weight fast, you’re also increasing their risk of developing hip dysplasia.

This condition can occur, especially if your dog has the risk factors to hip dysplasia. As much as a chubby puppy is cute, keeping the unnecessary pounds at bay is better.

-Rapid growth rate

This is prevalent among large breeds. Rapid growth rate occurs due to excessive feeding and very high protein content of the dog food. Like obesity, the dog’s bones will grow fast, causing it to be brittle and susceptible to various orthopedic problems. This and the extra pressure applied on the joints will cause the ball and socket of the hips to come off.

Aside from skeletal problems, rapid growth may also cause complications in the internal organs, especially the heart, kidney, and lungs.

Risk factors linked to hip dysplasia

Aside from the mentioned causes above, the following can also increase the likelihood of hip dysplasia among canines.

-Old age

Old dogs have brittle bones and worn out joint cartilage. This means that they are also prone to various skeletal problems like osteoarthritis as well as hip dysplasia. Some dogs will not exhibit any signs of this condition until they have reached the senior age.

-Excessive physical activities

As much as dogs can be active and playful, intense and excessive physical activity will take a toll on their hips. Once your pooch reaches the senior age, you should avoid engaging them in rigorous activities.

-Hormonal imbalances

 Although it’s not quite common, hormonal imbalances can affect the joint health of a dog. This alone can’t cause hip dysplasia, but if combined with other factors, it can increase the chance of developing the condition.

Signs that your dog has hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia isn’t easy to spot as the symptoms often overlap with other conditions. Still, you should know the tell-tale signs of this orthopedic problem so you can schedule a visit to the vet right away.

-Reluctance to jump, climb stairs, and exercise
-Bunny hopping
-Decreased activity and difficulty to stand
-Poor range of motion on the hind legs
-Enlargement of shoulder muscles as the front legs compensate for the hind legs
-Pain when the hip area is touched
-Stiffness in the hind legs

Take note that some dogs will not exhibit signs of hip dysplasia unless the condition is worse. Some breeds are more tolerant of pain, which will make it difficult to spot the problem early on. Nevertheless, regular visits to the vet should help diagnose hip dysplasia in its early stages.

Moreover, some of these symptoms can also point to osteoarthritis, especially in the case of old dogs. Nevertheless, both these orthopedic conditions require immediate attention. Remember that early diagnosis is the key to prevent the condition from worsening.

In this video, we’ll see 2-year-old Bud with hip dysplasia. Check if the following signs are also showing on your dog:

How is hip dysplasia in dogs diagnosed?

A physical exam is necessary to identify the presence of hip dysplasia. The vet will manipulate the hip joint with mild stretches and see how the dog will react. Also, the vet will feel the joint movement and range. Usually, a grinding feel is a giveaway of the condition.

Usually, physical exams are enough to identify the condition. Still, if the veterinarian has doubts, he or she will perform an X-ray test on your dog’s hips to check its skeletal structure.

Further tests might be needed…

Also, the vet may ask for your dog’s medical history to assess the condition and to identify which treatments work best. If your pet has adverse reactions to anesthesia, the vet will rule out surgical operations and stick to non-invasive treatment methods.

Also, if you have a brachycephalic breed, the veterinarian will have to check for tracheal stenosis first. This condition is common among flat-faced canines, which will make breathing difficult, especially under the influence of canine anesthesia.

In addition, blood work might be done to confirm the joint disease. In fact, veterinarians may discover another health problem based on the results of the blood test.

Treatment for hip dysplasia

Treatment for hip dysplasia falls in three main categories: physical therapy, non-invasive options, and surgical options. Below, we discussed each one briefly to give you an idea of what will probably work for your dog.

Physical therapy options

Physical therapy is the usual option for mild cases of hip dysplasia. The following are the two most common methods used: 

–Special exercises and stretches

Specific exercises can be administered to the dog to improve its range of motion. This will strengthen the dog’s muscles, which can also be done in preparation for a surgical operation.

Take note that such exercises are low impact. Anything like agility drills, Frisbee catching, and other activities that include jumping should be avoided at all cost.


This is a common therapy method for dogs with orthopedic problems. It’s administered in a special tub filled with water up to the dog’s chest. There’s also a treadmill below where the canine can exercise. This can be used for hip dysplasia in old dogs in conjunction with other treatments.

The goal here is for the water to reduce the impact of exercise by cushioning the dog’s weight. However, canine hydrotherapy can be expensive with some ranging to $50 per session.

Moreover, hydrotherapy can be used to aid the recovery of canines that have undergone surgery for fractures and other health problems. It improves circulation and flexibility without the extra pressure on the joints.

Still, hydrotherapy isn’t fit for all dogs. You should always consult your dog’s vet before availing a session from a different clinic.

Not familiar with hydrotherapy for dogs? Here’s a quick look at the innovative treatment:

Non-invasive options

For a more serious case of hip dysplasia, the vet will recommend potential non-invasive options. Take note that this is the common resort if it’s impossible or risky to perform a surgery to an old dog inflicted with hip dysplasia.

–Modified lifestyle

The pet owner plays a vital role here as he or she needs to revamp the activities of the dog. That starts by switching the canine to a new diet prescribed by the vet. Also, it’s important that you also modify the environment where your dog will stay.

Avoid slippery floors and always lift the pooch whenever it needs to get in the car, climb the stairs, or the other way around.

Moreover, you have to purchase an orthopedic dog bed to disperse the pressure from your dog’s hips as it sleeps. In addition, weight management is also crucial, much so for obese dogs.

–Medication and supplements

Some cases of hip dysplasia can be managed just like canine arthritis. A veterinarian may administer a specific corticosteroid, NSAID, and other drug depending on what your dog needs.

However, you should note that medications for hip dysplasia are only meant to ease the pain and inflammation brought by the condition. It can’t, in any way, cure the physical defect.

Surgical treatment options

For the worst cases of hip dysplasia, surgical treatments will be considered. The veterinarian will advise you which of the following surgical operations your dog needs:

–FHO surgery

An FHO or Femoral Head Osteotomy surgery involves cutting the femoral head of the joint to create a false joint. This will reduce the pain and discomfort of hip dysplasia, plus it will improve the range of motion of your dog.

However, you should still remember that an FHO surgery will not fix hip dysplasia in old dogs entirely. You still need to limit your dog’s physical activities. Overall, this surgery is still an ideal pain management solution that applies to young and mature canines.

–DPO/TPO surgery

This surgery stands for Double Pelvic Osteotomy/Triple Pelvic Osteotomy. This is mostly done on young dogs and puppies that are under 10 months old. Unlike FHO, this includes cutting a section of the pelvic bone to improve the function of the ball and socket joint.

Like most surgical procedure for hip dysplasia, this is a great pain management solution. And since it’s performed at a young age, there’s a higher chance that the dog will have a better quality of life in the future.

–THR surgery

THR or Total Hip Replacement surgery is probably the most effective solution for hip dysplasia. As the name suggests, this involves a complete replacement of the hip using plastic and metal implants.

If done successfully, the THR surgery can restore most of your dog’s range of motion. It will also eliminate all the discomfort associated with hip dysplasia. Still, life-long care is needed here to ensure that the implants will remain intact.

Also, you should know that not all dogs are qualified for THR surgery. Old dogs and those with other health complications are usually subjected to non-invasive solutions. Nevertheless, the veterinarian can advise about this.

The cost of hip dysplasia in dogs

Hip dysplasia in old dogs is an expensive condition. A surgical operation can range from $1,700 to $4,500, depending on the extent of the defect.

The good news here is that hip dysplasia is usually covered under pet insurance. However, you should purchase the policy as early as possible, so your dog will be covered if it happens to develop the condition.

However, you should know that some insurance companies will perform an intensive check up on your dog, especially if its breed is known to have a high risk of hip dysplasia. If so, chances are your premium would be higher than most pet owners.

Many pet insurance covers hip dysplasia…

Also, pet insurance has a waiting period from the date of purchase. So even if you have the policy, it will only take effect after a specific timeframe has lapsed. This is to ensure that the pet owner isn’t purchasing the policy for the sake of covering the expense of a looming health problem.

Moreover, some organizations offer financial assistance to pet owners who can’t afford the cost of treatment. You can check these organizations if you need help with the expenses for your dog’s treatment.

How to take care of a senior dog with hip dysplasia

Taking care of a senior dog with hip dysplasia requires more effort than nursing a younger one. The first thing you have to do is to keep the extra pounds off. This translates to smaller food portions since senior dogs are usually less energetic than younger canines.

Still, this doesn’t mean exercise is out of the window. You still have to work those muscles with home therapy through exercises prescribed by the vet.

In this video, Dr. Jena Questen discusses some exercises you can do with a dog suffering from hip dysplasia:

Massage will also help…

Also, massaging the hip area can help ease the pain of hip dysplasia as it improves circulation. It’s also an excellent way to keep the hind leg muscles of your old dog in check.

Moreover, if you are to entrust the old dog to a walker, make sure that you inform the person about your pet’s condition. Educate the walker about some do’s and don’ts as well as the special needs of the canine.

Most of all, make your doggo feel loved and supported. Senior dogs are already at the last stage of their lives. You must give them the best experience for their remaining years.

How to reduce the risk of hip dysplasia in old dogs

Like how the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is always better than a pound of cure. So even if you’re lucky enough to have a healthy dog, you should still keep their hips and joints safe. The following are some of the simple steps you can do to reduce their risk of developing orthopedic problems:

-Give them the right food

A dog food with the right balance of protein, carbs, and fats are crucial in keeping a canine in good shape. Avoid surplus if your dog isn’t active. Also, look for dog food rich in chondroitin and glucosamine. These two nutrients help improve bone cartilage while delaying its wear and tear.

-Don’t let them grow too fast

If you own a large breed, you have to prevent overgrowth. This way, their bones will grow normally and their joints can adapt to the added weight slowly.

Avoid food products with very high protein content since this will lead your doggo to build too many muscles at a very short period. If in doubt, you can always consult a pet nutritionist or veterinarian.

-Manage the dog’s weight

A chubby dog is only fun until you discover that it has grown a bad hip. So from now on, help your dog shed the extra pounds through proper exercise and portion control. Again, take it slowly but surely to prevent taxing their joints too much.

-Take it easy with physical activities

It’s true that dogs need enough exercise and playtime, but you should always know when to stop. The continuous exposure to rigorous physical activities will impact your dog’s joints and hips. It’s best to take it easy and let your pet have a rest.

-Use a ramp

For dogs with short legs, deep chests, or big bodies, a ramp is indispensable equipment. This will allow the pooch to climb on and off an elevated surface without jumping. It reduces the stress on their joints, especially hip dysplasia in old dogs.

-Purchase a puppy from a responsible breeder

If you’re yet to get your new dog, make sure that you purchase the puppy from a responsible breeder. Ask for certification and veterinary check-up, proving that the puppy has a clean bill of health. Professional breeders will also provide various proof that guarantees the health of the doggo.

Anyway, adopting is still a noble thing to do. Although you don’t have control over the dog’s pre-existing condition, adopting is one of the best things you can do as a pet owner.

Final words

Hip dysplasia in old dogs is a debilitating condition. It will cause intense pain and discomfort on your pet. Also, it will impact their quality of life with a limited range of motion.

Still, you can do something to alleviate the suffering of your doggo. Consulting with a veterinarian and following professional advice should improve your dog’s condition.

Although treatments for hip dysplasia could be expensive, you should never self-medicate your dog. As much as your intentions are good, it will do more harm than help in the long run.