Does Your Dog Have Hip Pain? Signs, Causes & Relief Options

Written By: Matthew

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7 min

Does your dog have hip and joint pain? We are here to help.


This guide will provide you with the knowledge to not only recognize the signs of hip and joint issues but also explore effective strategies to keep your dog happy and comfortable. 

What are the signs of hip and joint pain in dogs?

Signs of hip and joint pain in dogs can vary depending on the severity and specific condition affecting the dog. Here are some common signs to look out for:


  • Limping or Lameness: Dogs may favor one leg over another or have an abnormal gait.
  • Stiffness: Especially noticeable after resting or sleeping, dogs may appear stiff when they first get up.
  • Reluctance to Move: Dogs may be hesitant to walk, climb stairs, jump, or play.
  • Difficulty Rising: Struggling to get up from a lying or sitting position is a common sign.
  • Decreased Activity: Dogs may show less interest in physical activities they once enjoyed, such as running or playing.
  • Behavioral Changes: Increased irritability, aggression, or depression can be signs of pain.
  • Licking, Chewing, or Biting: Dogs may focus on painful joints, leading to hair loss or inflamed skin in those areas.
  • Muscle Atrophy: Loss of muscle mass around the affected joints due to decreased use.
  • Frequent Slipping: Dogs may slip more often, especially on smooth surfaces.
  • Loss of Appetite: Pain can lead to a decreased interest in food.

What causes hip and joint pain in dogs?

Hip and joint pain in dogs can be caused by a variety of factors, which can be broadly categorized into developmental and degenerative issues. Here is a detailed overview based on the provided sources:

Developmental Joint Issues:

  • Hip Dysplasia: An inherited condition where the hip joint doesn't form properly, leading to instability and arthritis.
  • Elbow Dysplasia: An abnormal fit can lead to several problems within the joint, including bone fragments breaking off, improper cartilage development, and overall joint instability.
  • Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD): A condition where the cartilage in the joints doesn't form correctly, leading to joint inflammation and pain.

Degenerative Joint Issues:

  • Osteoarthritis (OA): Is the progressive degeneration of joint cartilage, the smooth, cushioning material between bones.
  • Cranial cruciate ligament (CCL): Injuries, also known as cruciate ligament ruptures, are a common cause of hind leg lameness in dogs.
  • Injuries and Trauma: Ligament tears, fractures or dislocations of the joints.
  • Immune-mediated conditions: Autoimmune diseases such as Rheumatoid arthritis and Lupus.
  • Infectious Diseases: Certain bacterial or viral infections such as Lyme disease and fungal infections.

Other Contributing Factors:

  • Obesity: Excess weight puts additional stress on the joints, exacerbating pain and accelerating the degeneration of joint structures.
  • Injuries and Trauma: Past injuries, such as fractures or ligament tears, can lead to chronic joint pain and arthritis.
  • Nutritional Factors: Poor nutrition, especially during the growth phase, can contribute to improper joint development and subsequent pain. Diets high in calcium or calories can also play a role in the development of conditions like hip dysplasia.
  • Infections and Immune-Mediated Diseases: Conditions like septic arthritis, caused by bacterial infections, or immune-mediated diseases can lead to joint inflammation and pain.

What is hip dysplasia in dogs?

Hip dysplasia is a developmental disorder where the hip joint does not form properly, leading to joint laxity (looseness) and instability. This improper formation causes the ball and socket of the hip joint to rub and grind against each other instead of fitting together smoothly, resulting in pain, inflammation, and eventual degeneration of the joint. The most common causes are:

  • Genetics: Hip dysplasia is primarily a hereditary condition. Dogs with parents that have hip dysplasia are more likely to develop the condition themselves.
  • Nutrition: Diets high in calories or calcium can contribute to the development of hip dysplasia, especially in rapidly growing puppies.
  • Environmental Factors: Factors such as excessive weight, lack of exercise, or inappropriate types of exercise can exacerbate the condition.

How can I prevent my dog from developing hip and joint pain?

Weight Management:

  • Maintain a healthy weight: Excess weight puts extra strain on your dog's joints. Talk to your veterinarian to determine your dog's ideal weight and create a weight loss plan if needed.
  • Portion control: Carefully Measure your dog's food using measuring cups to avoid overfeeding.
  • Resist treat temptations: Limit treats and table scraps, which can contribute to weight gain. Opt for healthy, low-calorie alternatives like chopped vegetables.

Diet and Supplements:

  • Glucosamine and chondroitin: These are natural substances that support healthy cartilage function. Glucosamine helps the body produce the building blocks of cartilage, while chondroitin helps maintain elasticity and attract lubrication to the joint.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: These essential fatty acids possess anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce joint pain and inflammation. They may also improve joint mobility and function.

Supportive Bedding:

  • Ensure your dog has a supportive, cushioned bed that encourages proper spine and joint alignment during rest.
  • Orthopedic beds are particularly beneficial for larger breeds or senior dogs.

Minimize Jumping and Impact: 

  • Discourage activities that involve excessive jumping or high-impact landings, such as playing fetch on concrete surfaces. 
  • Encourage gentler activities like swimming or controlled walks.

What are the treatment options for dog hip and joint pain?

Medications:

  • Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): Commonly prescribed to control pain and inflammation. Examples include Galliprant, carprofen, and meloxicam.
  • Additional Pain Medications: These may include gabapentin, tramadol, and muscle relaxants like methocarbamol.
  • Adequan Injections: FDA-approved injections that help with inflammation and increase joint lubrication.
  • Librela: An anti-nerve growth factor monoclonal antibody therapy used to treat osteoarthritis pain.
  • Corticosteroids: Used in some cases to reduce inflammation and pain, but should not be combined with NSAIDs due to potential side effects.

Physical Therapy:

  • Exercise: Low-impact exercises such as walking, swimming, and using underwater treadmills can help strengthen muscles around joints and improve mobility.
  • Massage and Stretching: These techniques can increase circulation, reduce muscle tension, and improve joint flexibility.
  • Hydrotherapy: Exercises done in water to reduce stress on joints while improving muscle strength and range of motion.
  • Heat and Cold Therapy: Heat therapy can reduce stiffness and increase blood flow, while cold therapy can reduce inflammation and pain

Alternative Therapies:

  • Acupuncture: Increasingly popular for treating joint pain and can help reduce pain and improve joint function.
  • Laser Therapy: Uses light energy to reduce pain and inflammation and promote healing.
  • Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) Therapy: Helps reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Shockwave Therapy: Uses high-energy sound waves to promote tissue healing and reduce pain

Surgical Options:

  • Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO): Removal of the femoral head to create a "false" joint, reducing pain but not restoring normal function.
  • Total Hip Replacement (THR): Replaces the entire hip joint with metal and plastic implants, restoring normal function and reducing pain.
  • Double or Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (DPO/TPO): Involves cutting and rotating the pelvic bone to improve the ball and socket joint fit, typically performed on younger dogs.
  • Juvenile Pubic Symphysiodesis (JPS): A preventative surgery for puppies to improve hip alignment as they grow.

Home Care:

  • Moderate Exercise: Short, frequent walks rather than long, strenuous activities.
  • Comfortable Living Environment: Providing a firm, orthopedic bed and traction on slippery floors can help manage pain and improve mobility.
  • Heat and Cold Application: Alternating between warm and cold packs can help manage pain and inflammation.

How can I modify my home to make it more comfortable?

Here are some tips for modifying your home environment to make it easier and more comfortable for a dog with hip and joint pain or arthritis:

  • Install Ramps or Pet Steps: Use ramps or pet steps to allow your dog to get on/off furniture like beds and couches without having to jump, which can be painful on joints.
  • Elevate Food/Water Bowls: Raise food and water bowls off the ground to prevent your dog from having to bend down as far, which can strain joints in the neck, shoulders, and back.
  • Orthopedic Bedding: Use orthopedic foam beds or place thick padded mats/blankets in your dog's sleeping area to cushion bony joints. The bedding should be thick, low to the ground, and have raised sides to provide support.

What is the best bed for dogs with hip and joint pain?

Orthopedic dog beds are considered the best solution for dogs with hip and joint pain. The beds are designed to contour to your dog's body shape, evenly distributing their weight and relieving pressure points on hips, elbows, and other joints.


Key benefits include:

  • Firm support: A bed that is too soft can cause dogs to sink in uncomfortably. Look for beds with a firm, dense foam base of at least 4-5 inches thick to provide sturdy support
  • Low entry: Beds with a low profile or entry ramp are best, as dogs with hip issues struggle to climb over raised sides or bolsters. A flat surface allows easy entry and exit
  • Memory foam is ideal as it prevents sagging and makes it easier for dogs to get up
  • Warmth: Some orthopedic beds are made with materials that retain heat, which can be comforting for dogs with joint pain.

Conclusion

In conclusion, hip and joint pain in dogs is a prevalent issue that can significantly impact their quality of life. 

By recognizing the signs early and seeking appropriate veterinary care, you can help manage your dog's pain and improve their mobility. 


Implementing home modifications, providing a balanced diet are essential steps in ensuring your furry friend remains comfortable and active.

Remember, proactive care and regular check-ups are key to maintaining your dog's joint health and overall well-being.