Hip dysplasia is abnormal functioning of the hip joint that can lead to pain, stiffness in the joint, limping and difficulty climbing. It is more common in larger dogs and typically starts to develop later in a dog’s life. It often results in arthritis.

Hip dysplasia is unfortunately common in certain purebred dogs. St. Bernards, Rottweilers, golden retrievers and German shepherds all suffer from this painful disease.

If your dog Roland has no genetic factor that will lead to this hip dysplasia, there are some ways that you can reduce his chances of developing it.

• Keep Roland within a healthy weight. Ask your veterinarian what Roland’s ideal weight is. She will also be able to tell you how much to feed him to keep him at his ideal weight. Remember that his feeding needs will change as he ages.

• Make sure that Roland gets the right amount of calcium and phosphorous. Both minerals lead to healthy bone development.

• Get Roland enough exercise. Not only will this ensure that his weight stays down, it will help him build muscle that he needs to reduce abnormal wear on the joints.

• Glucosamine Supplements. Glucosamine and Chondroitin are used by humans to prevent cartilage from deteriorating prematurely. In dogs, glucosamine can be given to actually heal existing damage, which is cause from hip dysplasia. Your vet will be able to recommend the best form for supplement. You may also be able to find some high quality foods with glucosamine in them.

• Give Roland a warm place to sleep. People with joint problems tend to feel more pain in cold weather. Roland is no different. Let Roland sleep by the fireplace or keep your bedroom warm and let him sleep in it. He may also enjoy an orthopedic bed that is easy on his joints.

• As a puppy, Roland should be prevented from putting excess strain on his hips. Don’t let him jump down from your bed or other high items. Give him a little step to transition onto.

• If he is genetically predisposed to hip dysplasia due to his breed, he should be on a strict diet of high quality food and only enough for appropriate growth. Keeping a close eye on his weight is one of the best ways of preventing joint problems such as hip dysplasia. Rapid growth is also hard on his joints so only feed him what is recommended for his age and weight.

• Pavement can be very hard on Roland’s joints. Instead, let Roland run free in a yard or a grassy field. Take him to the dog park or for a swim.

• Massage therapy. Dogs actually benefit from massage and physical therapy much like humans. Roland’s stiff muscles can relax under your gentle massage. Ask your vet to show you the best technique.

• Anti-inflammatory Drugs. If Roland starts to develop some early signs of hip dysplasia (discomfort during exercise, a distinct “bunny hopping” gait), anti-inflammatory drugs can help reduce the pain and get him some mobility back. Roland must never have human anti-inflammatory drugs, but your vet can offer you some medications that will reduce swelling and pain.

Hip dysplasia is not entirely preventable in dogs with genetic predispositions. However, it is possible to reduce the severity of it in predisposed breeds and to prevent early onset in larger dogs. The single most important factor in prevention of hip dysplasia is maintaining a proper body weight. Keep Roland healthy and happy by giving him adequate exercise. Make sure he eats a balanced diet with adequate calcium and phosphorous. Talk to his vet about additional supplementation.


by Ron Ayalon