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Hip Dysplasia in Older German Shepherds

Updated: May 21

As your German Shepherd enters his golden years, you may notice changes in his mobility. His once-sprightly steps may now be slightly slower, and he may have difficulty getting up after lying down. These are common signs of hip dysplasia, a congenital, degenerative joint disease that can cause significant pain and discomfort as your fur friend ages. Although hip dysplasia is one of the most common afflictions in older German Shepherds, there is no cure, but treatments are available to help manage the condition and improve your dog’s quality of life.

In this blog post, we’ll cover what you should know about hip dysplasia in older German Shepherds.

Our Misty Mae had horrible hip dysplasia, and at 17 years old, we said farewell to her.

What Causes Hip Dysplasia in Older German Shepherds?

Hip dysplasia results from the ball and socket in a dog’s hip joint not fitting together correctly. As a result, they rub against each other out of sync instead of sliding smoothly like they are supposed to. This abnormal wear and tear eventually leads to deterioration and loss of function of the hip bone structure.

Normal canine ball and socket of hip bone structure (L) Evidence of hip dysplasia (R)

What Are The Signs Of Hip Dysplasia in Older German Shepherds?

  • Limited Activity

  • Limping

  • Difficulty getting up from a lying position

  • Difficulty or reluctance to go up or downstairs

  • Difficulty or reluctance to jump

  • Unnatural gait

  • “Bunny hopping” (When both back legs come off the ground at the same time)

  • Atrophy of the back end

  • Stiffness in the back end

  • Visible pain and discomfort

  • Whining and or panting

  • Inability to get up or walk at all

How Is Hip Dysplasia Diagnosed?

Your trusted veterinarian will physically examine your dog, which may include watching your dog walk (if possible), manipulating the hips, doing blood work (to rule out anything else), and taking X-Rays. She may also refer you to an orthopedic veterinarian for further testing, but it’s most likely that your vet will be able to diagnose hip dysplasia without a specialist.

Treatment of Hip Dysplasia:

Treatment of hip dysplasia depends on the severity. Typically, mild cases may include lifestyle changes, such as losing and maintaining weight. But as the disease progresses, incorporating pain management tools such as NSAIDs, cortisone, and even therapy such as hydrotherapy will become part of the treatment plan. More severe cases may require surgery, if feasible.

Prognosis For Older German Shepherds With Hip Dysplasia

Like Elbow dysplasia, if diagnosed early, the outcome for our dogs with hip dysplasia certainly looks more optimistic. But unfortunately, the prognosis for hip dysplasia in older German Shepherds comes down to maintaining the disease. Then, in the end stage, we are forced to determine when our dog’s quality of life has come into question and plan accordingly.

The signs of canine hip dysplasia can be evident in older German Shepherds. Still, we should be mindful that some of our dogs put on a “good front,” so paying attention and keeping them comfortable as they age is essential.

Here are some tools we use to help our older German Shepherd residents with hip dysplasia:

  • Keep them at an ideal weight

  • Short walks, if possible

  • Hydrotherapy and massage

  • Dr. HempDog Hemp oil

  • High-quality orthopedic dog beds such as Big Barker Dog beds

  • Heated dog mats that go on top of the beds

  • NO STAIRS (or very few)

  • No jumping, especially in and out of vehicles

  • Area rugs to avoid slippage and impact of walking

  • Veterinarian-approved pain management

  • Supplements such as Omega 3s, Glucosamine Chondroitin, and collagen

  • Turmeric

Prevention of Hip Dysplasia in Older German Shepherds

Hip dysplasia can’t always be prevented, but if you purchase a puppy from a breeder, you should insist on proof that the appropriate screenings were performed to ensure that hip dysplasia is not present in both mom and dad or the bloodline.

Additionally, feeding your dog an appropriate diet and keeping a close eye on their activity level (don’t let them do too much for too long) will help prevent hip dysplasia.

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***** Disclaimer: Throughout the 20 Most Common Health Issues in Senior German Shepherds series, each blog post is expressed explicitly from our point of view and is not to be substituted for the professional medical expertise of your trusted veterinarian.

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