Can she have quality and quantity?
September 4, 2011 9:38 AM   Subscribe

Do you have a dog with hip dysplasia? Any suggestions? Details within.

My lovely, wonderful, dear, sweet and gentle 15 month old English Setter was recently diagnosed with mild to moderate hip dysplasia.

Both my regular vet and the second opinion vet agree that before considering surgery options (which I can't afford anyway and are not covered by my puppy insurance) we need to explore physical therapy options.

Basically this means lots of exercises that build up her rear leg and hip muscles so that they are doing most of the work supporting her hips and keeping the joints stable.

The suggestions they've offered are pretty basic - walking, even light running, swimming, going to the dog park to play and doing rounds of light jogging up hills on soft grass. She's now on anti-inflammatory meds as well as glucosamine/chondroitin and fish oil supplements. The vets told me that doing all of this now while her pain levels are relatively low should help manage pain later on and keep the degeneration of her hips at bay for a few years.

My question for ya'll is what other exercises can I do with her to build up her hip/leg muscles to keep her as pain free and healthy as long as I can? I will be getting her a physical therapist, but it will take time to save the funds for it.

Bonus points for exercises we can do in-doors. I live in Portland, Or. and the crappy weather we're famous for will soon be upon us.

Thanks So Much.
posted by space_cookie to Grab Bag (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
my first thought was, if they have your dog on NSAIDS at 15 months old, and she may need them long term, make sure you check her blood (chem screen) every 6-12 months.

most arthritic dogs on those kind of drugs are older...i would worry about long term use. the glucosamine is definitely something to keep up her whole life.
posted by virginia_clemm at 10:19 AM on September 4, 2011

Years ago our now eldest dog had extensive surgery as a 5 month old pup (she was knocked down by a car) and the vet prescribed hydrotherapy as part of her recovery. Best thing we ever did. It got her moving in the warm water, owners were encouraged to join their dogs in the pool and help the therapists with exercising. We continued to go long after the insurance stopped paying because it did her so much good (and we all enjoyed it!).

Check with your vet of course but it could be an ideal exercise, especially during bad weather. There seems to be a hydrotherapy center in Milwaukie but if there's one closer to you, your vet will surely know about it. Best of luck!
posted by humph at 11:58 AM on September 4, 2011

Are you sure you can't afford surgery? The basic palliative surgery for hip dysplasia is a Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO), and should only cost about $1000 per hip, max ... I think I paid $429 from my good ol' sawbones country vet.

They're right that she's going to need a lot of muscle to prepare for or overcome surgery. I would caution against dog park, though -- playing too hard could cause her to associate hip pain with other dogs, which is really not good for her recovery and longevity.

By far the best exercise is going to be swimming/hydrotherapy. If you have somewhere where you can swim with her, especially outdoors -- we used a lake near my house -- then that will be the best.
posted by SpecialK at 2:17 PM on September 4, 2011

There are more and better choices than NSAIDs out there for pain management (tramadol, gabapentin, amantadine are all very effective in dogs and have few to no side effects), see if you can find a vet with some current pain management knowledge. Keep the dog VERY lean. Learn how to do range of motion exercises on her. Use Adequan instead of or in addition to oral glucosamine (it can be given subcutaneously, despite what the label says) - it works better and is cheaper in the long run than oral glucosamine. If you can't or won't give Adequan at home (your vet should have a technician who can teach you how to give the injections yourself), at least use Dasuquin as an oral supplement, it is standardized and tends to be preferred by most vets who do a lot of pain management or orthopedics.
posted by biscotti at 9:08 PM on September 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

My dog was diagnosed with severe hip dysplasia at around 15 months... I'm curious though, as to how the condition presented in your dog. The only real symptoms my dog initially had, was pain when getting up after a long walk (but he was really unfit and quite skinny when I rescued him, and that entire symptom went away once he was fit and active), and a limited range of movement in his hips (You'd never see him hike his leg as high as other dogs, and if you tried moving his leg too far, it'd cause him pain). His x-rays all look terrible, profound remodelling of the hip socket, weakened bone, but other than the limited range of movement, he is now completely asymptomatic. And may (though I'm not counting on it) always be that way. He gets glucosamine supplements, and that's it.

My vet stressed to me the importance of how the dog actually is, compared to how things look on paper. Dog with terrible x-rays can be fine, dog with tiny problem on the x-rays can be terrible. Has your dog exhibited pain to any degree? Just basic fitness and stamina removed all pain from the equation for my dog. It was also stressed to me that hip surgery carries with it a significant risk, and if he's largely asymptomatic for now, better to just wait and see, rather than undertake surgery that carries a risk of leaving him crippled (and has a long recovery period in any case). Essentially, if and when he needs surgery, we'll consider it, but not until then.

The game we're playing now is, take the glucosamine supplements for life, keep him fit and active, and keep an eye to minimising those things which will seriously aggrivate and degrade his hip joints. Push that date where he may need surgery, as far off as possible. He does get hydrotherapy, which is great low impact exercise, building all that muscle and fitness which help protect the joints, without wearing them out. But he's a generally very active dog. He won't do dog sports, there's just too much concentrated activity there. But he'll run and chase balls and frisbees with me, sometimes trot with me when I'm on my bicycle, and likes long walks that last for hours, where he zooms about as he likes, in the countryside.

But the ball or frisbee throwing sessions are limited to 10 minutes. All the while he's putting in that concentrated effort, the likelyhood of damage just keeps increasing. I balance that with his quality of life and needs, and so 10 minutes means his hip joints have never 'heated up' too much. Cycling, I keep to a speed where he trots, or rarely runs, and take frequent breaks. Long walks are good, long runs are bad. He'll zoom around on a long walk, but not constantly, and so that risk of damage is just staying at a low level. Imagine it like an overheating engine. Keep those revs low, most of the time, and keep the crazy speed runs brief. Build the amount of exercise up if she isn't fit yet. A long walk she's not used to, will give her painful hips, until those muscles have developed properly.

I'm afraid I can't really help with indoor exercise tips, except perhaps to suggest a treadmill. With the right cushioning, on a trot, these offer fairly low impact exercise. Otherwise I actually find if my dog is romping around inside, it puts a lot more strain on his hips, because there's a lot more cornering and confined spaces. A visit by his doggy pals and the resulting bouncing off the walls, has left him sore the next day. Good luck, and you are not alone! Do we get to see pictures of your girl? :)
posted by Elfasi at 6:58 AM on September 5, 2011

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