Elm Point Animal Hospital
Q: Our 3-year-old yellow Labrador, Jake, is showing signs of hip dysplasia, including reluctance to jump into the car and slowness upon getting up. Is the condition inevitable or are there ways we can reverse the damage and alleviate his pain, such as exercise, supplements, etc.?
A: If you haven’t done so already, make sure to have X-rays taken under sedation to confirm the diagnosis of hip dysplasia and rule out any other orthopedic issues like knee ligament rupture. If the diagnosis is hip dysplasia, it can progress in many directions. One, it will progressively get worse; two, your pet will have good and bad days; and three, there may be minimal changes. There is no way to predict which direction the condition will take, and the degree of changes seen on the X-rays often does not correlate with the severity of the clinical signs.
But the good news is that there are a lot of things you can do to slow the progression of the disease and keep Jake comfortable:
1. The easiest and best thing you can do is control his weight and prevent obesity. Any extra weight puts a lot more stress on the hip joints and makes the pet less likely to move around.
2. You want mild to moderate exercise to keep the joints loosened, but not too much to cause additional pain. Low impact exercise like swimming is even better. You will have to individually determine the optimum time and distance.
3. Try disease-modifying agents that can slow down and possibly reverse changes in the joint cartilage. They come in injectable and oral formulations that often contain glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. They may not help every pet but are definitely worth trying.
4. Try one of the various anti-inflammatory medicines to help alleviate pain and discomfort. They are very effective, but are expensive, can have side effects, and do not address the underlying joint cartilage changes.
5. Some pet guardians prefer a holistic approach, which could include the therapeutic laser, acupuncture, chiropractic care, or nutraceuticals, natural products like green tea extracts or omega-3 fatty acid supplements.
6. Surgery such as hip replacement may be an option, whereby you would be referred to an orthopedic surgery specialist.
So you can see there are a lot of available options, and each pet will respond differently, so there may be some trial and error. Good luck!
ABOUT the Vet
Dr. Daniel Lange has been practicing veterinary medicine for the past 27 years. He has served the needs of pets and their guardians in the greater St. Charles area along with surrounding counties. He deals in companion animal medicine (primarily dogs and cats), but also deals with exotics like ferrets, guinea pigs, hedge hogs, rats, and the like, as well as birds.
Dr. Lange is a 1975 graduate of the University of Iowa with a B.A. in Zoology. In 1981, he earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Missouri Veterinary Medical Association. In his spare time, he enjoys running, swimming, and spending time with his wife and four-legged kids, including horses, ducks, chicken, cats, and dogs. He is grateful for the wonderful pets he has met and the great guardians who go with them at Elm Point.