Alternative Therapies for Hip Dysplasia in a Dog
What Is Hip Dysplasia?
Hip dysplasia is a disease where the hip joint is abnormal (the head of the femur does not fit down into the socket of the hip) and the dog develops lameness and arthritis. It is inherited and seen mostly in large and giant dog breeds; some dogs are more prone to develop it but there are other factors that make it worse.
Holistic veterinarians believe that over-vaccination and dogs fed a poor quality commercial dog food are more likely to develop hip dysplasia when they are at risk. The dog may not start showing clinical symptoms until he is older, however, when the dog develops arthritic changes at the site where the head of the femur no longer fits into the hip correctly.
It is at that point that your dog is in pain.
Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia
- Reluctance to rise and move around
- Difficulty rising
- The bunny hop, a style of running where the dog tries to minimize movement of the hip
- Pain when touched in the hips
- If the early signs are not recognized, the dog will start to lose muscle mass in his thighs. Please don’t let it get this far without trying alternative therapies.
If your dog has symptoms of lameness and you are worried about hip dysplasia or any other disease, you need to take him into your veterinarian for a physical exam and maybe x-rays. The diagnosis may be mild and your prompt action will help him a lot!
Traditional Treatments for Hip Dysplasia
- Rimadyl or other NSAIDs: Several may be tried over a long period. The side effects (like stomach ulcers, liver failure, and kidney disease) can be severe.effects (like stomach ulcers, liver failure, and kidney disease) can be severe.
- Oral and injectable steroids: Despite the side effects, sometimes steroids are used to control the inflammation and pain. With long-term use steroids can cause weight gain, which is what an arthritic dog does not need. They can also cause damage to the cartilage in the joint.
- Weight loss: Since obese dogs have a harder time getting up and walking around, hip dysplasia is always a lot worse when the dog is overweight. The amount of food given is controlled and the dog may be put on a diet food. Even a drug like slentrol may be given to help control his weight.
- Controlled exercise: This may be part of traditional or alternative therapy. If swimming (hydrotherapy) is used to control weight and provide exercise to keep the muscles built up, exercise can be helpful and will not add stress to your dog´s joints. Just be sure to keep a vest on the dog, stay present at all times to help, and try to use a pool with a ramp so that the dog will find it easy to exit and is less likely to panic.
- Surgery: There are many alternatives: the most successful is a total hip replacement and if nothing else works the final treatment can be a femoral head ostectomy (FHO). FHOs are a lot more successful in small dogs. Surgeries can be expensive and out of reach for many dog owners.
Alternative Treatments for Hip Dysplasia
1. Neutraceuticals: Glucosamine and chondroitin. They can be given as a pill or by injection right into the joint, but take a long time to start working. (These treatments are so successful, that many conventional vets are using this treatment.)
- Feeding raw-especially tracheas and other cartilage (like knees and chicken feet) is a great way to provide these supplements. Feeding raw is also a good way to stimulate appetite in a dog that does not want to eat dry commercial food anymore.
2. MSM: This is an anti-inflammatory, another alternative that may work about half of the time. It takes a while to work so needs to be tried for at least two to three months before giving up on it.
3. Vitamin C and E: Both vitamins reduce the inflammation in the joint and probably help decrease cartilage damage. Although there is a lot of controversy on the necessity of vitamin C, in large doses it might improve the quality of the collagen and provide protection for the joint. If you are going to try it the vitamin is going to be successful at large doses, over 500 mg, up to 2000 mg.
- Vitamin E may work in conjunction with Vitamin C to reduce inflammation and protect the joint.
4. Fatty Acids: These products have anti-oxidant properties and reduce the inflammation in the joint. Salmon oil can be purchased commercially, or you can feed fresh salmon twice a day.
5. Herbs: Several herbal therapies are available. If you decide to try something, do so for at least a few months, as results may take time.
- Alfalfa: Mostly for pain relief, this is also good for removing “waste”. This supplement can cause problems in dogs prone to bleeding.
- Cayenne: This herb may increase blood circulation to the joint.
- Dandelion: This herb may help joint repair and keep the joint clean. Best when combined with nettle.
- Licorice: This herb is sold as an anti-inflammatory. Best when used with Yucca.
- Gingko: This herb is said to improve blood circulation to the joint and decrease stiffness. It is best when combined with hawthorn and rosemary.
- St. Johns Wort: an anti-inflammatory that may be applied right over the joint.
- Ayurvedic products (available in some health stores): A combination of Ashwagandha, an anti-inflammatory, and Boswellia, another anti-inflammatory, may help with the pain.
- Pre-packaged products: The product Agile Joints for Dogs contains guggul, an anti-inflammatory, cayenne, ginger, alfalfa, and astragalus, a herb that improves your dog´s immune system.
6. Chinese Traditional Medicine: An arthritis therapy, Du Huo Jisheng Wan, may remove the pain in the joints. It is a mixture of several herbs, including ginger, foxglove, and licorice. The proponents of this mixture say that it works faster than the other herbs and results may be seen in only one week.
7. Colostrum: Mostly used with herbal therapies, colostrum (the first milk produced after birth) is suggested since it provides minerals and other substances that the dog may be missing. Goat´s whey is another supplement available, and the producers claim it provides biologically active sodium that the dog needs in the joint.
8. Massage: Several good massage therapies are available and in some areas a veterinary massage therapist can decrease the dog´s stiffness. The massage may be more effective if done with an essential oil.
9. Acupressure: This procedure can be done at home and, although it will not cure the dog, may provide some pain relief.
10. Acupuncture: Veterinary acupuncturists deal with animals suffering from severe hip dysplasia and arthritis every day. Acupuncture is more successful than acupressure.
11. Orthopedic Dog Bed: This is not really an alternative treatment but it may make a great difference in the quality of your dog’s life.
Consider Alternative Treatment Before Surgery
Although alternative therapies for hip dysplasia can be very helpful, dog owners need to go into this with the realization that they will none of them will make the joint new again. The only thing to do for an absolute “cure” is replace the hip, and even that procedure has several side effects.
Alternatives can provide a lot of relief, however, and make your dog´s life pleasant. If she is already suffering from hip dysplasia consider some of these alternatives before starting steroids that may further degrade the surface of the joint.
Think about the alternatives.
Questions & Answers
Are there any over the counter products at a pet store for hip dysplasia?
Nutraceuticals (glucosamine and chondrotiin) are available over the counter and if you do not want to buy the human brand you can buy a brand for your dog at a pet store.
Vitamin C is also available over the counter. Larger pet stores will also carry orthopedic beds, omega-3 fatty acids, and some of the herbs that I have discussed in this article.