Updated: Apr 10
As your German Shepherd enters his golden years, you may be noticing some 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 for it, but there are treatments available to help manage the condition and improve your fur friend's quality of life.
In this blog post, we'll cover what you should know about hip dysplasia in senior German Shepherds.
Our Misty Mae had horrible hip dysplasia, and at 17 years old, we said farewell to her
What Causes Hip Dysplasia in Senior German Shepherds?
Hip dysplasia results from the ball and socket in a dog's hip joint not fitting together correctly, and as a result, they rub against each other 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 Senior German Shepherds?
Difficulty getting up from a lying position
Difficulty or reluctance to go up or downstairs
Difficulty or reluctance to jump
"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 do a physical examination on your fur friend, which may include watching your fur friend walk (if possible), manipulating the hips, 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 weight and maintaining the weight loss. But as the disease progresses, incorporating pain management tools such as NSADs, cortisone, and even therapy such as hydrotherapy will become part of the treatment plan. More severe cases may require surgery, if feasible.
Prognosis For Senior German Shepherds With Hip Dysplasia
Like Elbow dysplasia, if diagnosed early, the outcome for our fur friends 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 fur friend'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 fur friends put on a "good front," so paying attention and keeping them comfortable as they age is essential.
I will leave you with this, some tools we use to help our senior German Shepherd residents with hip dysplasia:
Keep them at an ideal weight
Short walks, if possible
Hydrotherapy and massage
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
Prevention of Hip Dysplasia in Senior German Shepherds
Hip dysplasia can't always be prevented, but if you are purchasing a puppy from a breeder, you can require proof that the appropriate screenings are performed to ensure that hip dysplasia is not present in both mom and dad or the bloodline.
Additionally, feeding your fur friend 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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