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Hip dysplasia, what is it and how can physio help?

Updated: Apr 6

Hip dysplasia is a condition that can affect any dog but typically is seen more in larger breeds such as German Shepherds, Labradors and giants like Great Danes and Mountain dogs.


How to recognise if your pet has hip dysplasia

You may notice some or all of the following:


  • Stiffness and difficulty in rising, sitting or lying down

  • Difficulty with stairs, up or down

  • Sensitivity to touch of the hip area

  • Limping on one or both of the back legs

  • Reluctance to exercise


If your dog is causing you concern in any of these areas, it’s worth consulting your vet for a proper diagnosis.

The technical bit

The hip joint is a ball and socket joint, the top or head of the femur is the ball and the pelvis has a deepened cup which is the socket. The cup is deep to make sure the joint is stable and the head of the femur has a large surface which is held within the cup.

In hip dysplasia there is either a shallow cup, a flattened head of femur or both. – see picture!

This means that the joint is not stable, and depending on the severity of the condition, the head of the femur can pop in and out of the cup.


If the condition is severe, your vet may decide that surgery is needed to deepen the cup or remove the head of femur. If the condition is less severe, they may suggest physio.


So, what can physio do to help?


Physio exercises focus on maximising stability provided by the muscle, to compensate for the weakness of the joint and bones. Specifically, I work on the muscles surrounding the hip and back end.

Some of the exercises may be more static such as using a wobble cushion to destabilise the front legs so making the back end work harder. Other exercises will be more dynamic such as involving pole work; as the dog lifts one leg to step over the pole they must work harder on the standing leg to stabilise.

Some physios may also treat the condition with hydrotherapy, using immersion in water to add resistance to the dog’s legs when walking (try walking through water and feel how much more effort you are needing to use). It is a gentle, supportive, yet effective treatment for building strength, and many dogs enjoy it!

If there is pain related to the condition, it may be preferable to use treatments such as laser and biomag (a low frequency, pulsed magnetic field) to alleviate symptoms and aid rehabilitation.

Neuro muscular stimulation machines can also help with muscle building.

How you can help


I can teach you some stretches and soft tissue techniques to try at home, to release tightness or tension and keep your dog as comfortable and pain free as possible.

It’s important too, to maintain a healthy weight for your dog, to reduce undue strain, wear and tear.

Outlook


Your dog may need surgery at some time in the future depending on the severity of the condition. I can though, delay the need for surgery and help to manage and improve symptoms, with a combination of physiotherapy and appropriate home care.

With my expert care and your tlc, your dog couldn’t be in better hands!

Call us today on 07591 112 814 to discuss your concerns, or use our contact form to send a message, with a short description of your pet’s symptoms.

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