doggone hips
October 6, 2011 12:02 PM   Subscribe

What else can I do to help my dog with hip dysplasia? I've written a book inside.


Stinky is the sweetest dog ever. He's almost two years old, and is a cuddly Boxer cross. (I don't know how to link photos so I'm breaking mandatory photo rules)!

This summer he was diagnosed with hip dysplasia, just as we were moving away from a big city in one province to a small town in another. A big part of why we were moving was to be closer to nature and the outdoors, and I planned to teach him to pull me on cross country skis, etc.

So the diagnosis was devastating, and the vet said that I should be limiting his exercise, which meant not letting him run around very much, not letting him walk up big hills, helping him in and out of the car, and not letting him roughhouse with other big dogs.

I did a lot of research and found that total hip replacement was pretty much the only option that would 'cure' him. It runs about 5000$ where I live. This cost felt SO prohibitive, as another reason that we were moving was to move back into my mom and get back on my feet financially. I've been a student for a good while now, plan on being one for at least another 5 years, and am super in the hole. I'm 26 and don't get help from either parent (still have to pay rent at Mom's's actually not saving me very much).

So I put him on glucosamine and bought a bottle of Metacam and tried very hard to get him to love to swim (very unsuccessfully). For a couple months while we settled into our new place and a new town I just adjusted to his diagnosis.


So I went to see a vet here, who told me something different from the previous vet regarding exercise. This vet said that I could let Stinky run as much as he wants, and let him play with other dogs. Stinky doesn't seem to be in a whole lot of pain on a day by day basis (and is no longer on Metacam), and the vet thinks he will just stop when he hurts. This is so different from what the first vet told me (and a much more appealing path), but I feel nervous because their opinions vary so much. So the first question coming out of this is which vet should I listen to? How much should I let Stinky run around and play? I've been letting him run off leash a little more and play with a couple dog friends he's made.

The Surgery

I've decided that I want to do whatever it takes to get him the surgery. I want us to be able to hike and snowshoe and run around together. I hate going on outdoor adventures without him.

My second question is about fundraising for the surgery. I've already decided to start a dog walking business, since I try to take Stinky around the pond twice a day anyways. He also doesn't have many friends here, and so a couple walking pals would be nice for him. Finally it will motivate me on days I'm feeling lethargic/stressed to make sure Stinky gets his walk in. I'm going to use all the revenue generated from this towards his surgery. I'm debating whether to charge a fee or ask people to just donate. That's my third question: Should I ask people to pay an hourly rate or just take donations? Donations would mean people could pay what they can afford, and some would maybe pay more than an hourly rate. If I do ask for donations, should I suggest a range? What's a reasonable price for an hour of dog walking?

Kay I know I've asked a million questions already but I just feel like there's so much to think about. So to pay for the surgery I've also thought about, and could use help with
other fundraising options?

I was thinking of doing a bottle drive, making Christmas cards with Stinky on them, and setting up some kind of online account where people can donate. Does anyone have any other fundraising suggestions, or especially, does anyone know of any online programs or anything that would let me set it up so that the money goes directly to the vet, or to an account dedicated to his surgery?

To anyone who has survived this far, thanks so much for reading. I'm overwhelmed by everything and hate not having what I need to make him better. I'd love to be able to get the surgery done over Christmas break so that Stinky could recover while I'm still living at my mom's house (recovery involves crate rest for at least six weeks!).

Also, if anyone else has been through the hip replacement surgery, or who has a dog with hip dysplasia and wants to exchange stories, memail me!
posted by whalebreath to Pets & Animals (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
On what to charge for dogwalking, this varies massively with location. Do a little googling of other dogwalkers in your area and charge what they're charging. Keep in mind that starting a dogwalking business is not as simple as just walking outside with people's dogs and cashing a check. You'll need a business license and insurance, and to pay taxes and all that. Don't ask for donations. When I hire a dogwalker, its because I have a problem I need solved (my dog needs to go out, I'm not home,) not because I want to get wrapped up in someone else's sob story. Just be responsible, provide a good service, and people will pay you.
posted by juliapangolin at 12:15 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just want to say I love that you named your dog "Stinky" I did dog walking and charged $5 a day, $20 a week for a neighbor’s dog. I am in Western PA.

I just don’t know how willing people would be to donate for a young otherwise healthy dog in what some people’s eyes may seem an expensive un-necessary surgery when that $5,000 could be used to neuter/feed/save several dogs at the local shelter. I personally think its not the way to go. If I were in your shoes, I would sell un-necessary items, work as a waiter/waitress or whatever, participate in research studies, save money hardcore and not rely on anyone else.

Good luck! Dogs are awesome.
posted by amazingstill at 12:20 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

As far as letting him run around as much as he likes, I would side with the first vet. Obviously you know your dog best, but I have seen dogs in pain do stuff that hurts themselves when they're excited. Hell, I've seen dogs chase a ball into the water until the point where they were going to drown. When they're excited, they don't stop. You need to be the responsible one.

For the fundraising, I agree with juliapangolin about not asking for donations. But! The holidays are coming up, and if it's anything like when I was a dogwalker, people are generous with tips around the holidays.

As a final suggestion, for really bad days, or if you need to take Stinky up and down stairs a lot, you might look into getting a rear support sling like this one.

I hope Stinky feels better!
posted by emyd at 12:23 PM on October 6, 2011

Our dog has hip dysplasia, and the answer from the orthopedic surgeon at the well-known animal hospital was exactly the same as the second one you got. We were told to let him get as much exercise, especially long walks, as he seemed to tolerate. The vet said that the more the muscles were built up, the more they would hold the hip joint together and reduce pain and instability.

We were also given a anti-inflammatory pain med that he takes a couple days every few months if he seems sore.

The take away was that if the dog wasn't in pain and didn't show any limp or other sign of deterioration, we could just let it be.

(This was after an X-ray and other evaluation, and may not apply to all cases, but just wanted to give you another perspective. FWIW, he was diagnosed with relatively severe hip dysplasia "hip sockets like saucers" and three years out only has a few sore days every couple of months.)
posted by mercredi at 1:12 PM on October 6, 2011

So our 13 year old Shepherd has hip dysplasia. He has been very active most of his life. He used to love to go running with my wife, and he is completely a "fetch" motivated dog. He takes rimadyl(?) and glucosamine. Unfortunately, he also has wheat allergies and if you look at the contents of you glucosamine pills, you'll see they use it as a filler. So, to treat his hip displaysia we basically have to repeatedly treat a waxy build-up in his ears that drive him crazy. I should also note, he's had periods of deafness - the vets believe it is from the wax buildup.

Periodically, we'll opt to to stop giving him the glucosamine - as the allergies are really bad, and that way his ears can heal. Honestly, the rimadyl is more effective - but as you'll find out that slowly eats their liver or their kidneys - I can't remember which. He's supposed to be able to get up to two a day. We limit it to one.

So we limit activity - not eliminate it, but limit it. He gets a three mile walk in the morning. We'll play catch for a while in the afternoon, but he will never do an eight mile hike in the mountains. During the winter, he'll chase snowballs for hours - and he will gladly freeze before he'll come in without coersion.

About two years ago he started having problems getting into the car, so when he travels I have to pick up his hind quarters and help him in the car. He hops up stairs - think of the back legs as a single leg. You can visibly see him slightly drag his leg when he walks now. He's 13. His life isn't exactly what I'd want it to be, as we know he hurts, and he doesn't get to get out as much as he'd like (plus we live in a relatively small place - so its not easy for him.) If our other dog or our son barrel into him, his rear legs will go out from under him now - that's new...

But, realistically, he's 13. The average age for his breed is ~10 years. There will be a day when he'll stop being able to make it up the stairs, he won't be able to get up after he gets knocked over, and/or he won't be able to stand while pooping. That date is getting closer - but it isn't today.
posted by Nanukthedog at 1:29 PM on October 6, 2011

We have a 3 1/2 year old Newfoundland (Glory) whose hips were bad at birth, confirmed by screening xrays done when she was spayed at 6 months old. We knew that we'd choose hip replacement surgery, but we had to wait until Glory was fully-grown to do it. In the meantime, we put her on glucosamine, fish oil, and Metacam. Glory had total hip replacement surgery on her left side at 1 1/2 years of age, then on the right side just before her third birthday. She is now completely recovered and is the lively, playful, active, and STRONG dog she was meant to be!

We are grateful that we could give Glory the surgery she needed. But not everyone can do that for their pets -- and we learned that there are many options. Medication is one. There can be some serious health consequences to long-term use of these medications, but they arguably improve the pet's quality of life. We know of someone who could not afford surgery on both hips, and chose hip replacement only on their dog's worse side. That gave them great improvement.

I suggest you ask your vet for a referral to a specialist/surgeon, who can then discuss your options with you in greater detail. Please note that medications can be expensive, but they're less costly than surgery. You may find that surgery would be ideal for your dog, but that with medication and closely monitored activity levels, you can wait a few years.

Also please understand that recovery from surgery involves more than 6 to 8 weeks of crate rest. Glory felt so much better after a week that she wanted to be up and moving. Doggie sedatives (recommended and prescribed by the surgeon) were our best friend! You should make sure that you're prepared for the entire recovery process, and that you're capable of following the surgeon's instructions to the letter, before you choose the surgery.

Good luck, and thank you for taking such good care of your dog.
posted by Boogiechild at 2:11 PM on October 6, 2011

I have a 3.5 year old, 90 pound German Shepherd mix with significant hip dysplasia, which I just found out about when getting her diagnosed for what turned out to be a torn cranial cruciate ligament (an injury all large dogs are at some risk for). She is currently recovering from surgery for the CCL tear, but until that happened she was running around five miles with me every other day.

My primary vet and two surgical specialists all said that some dogs develop an equilibrium with their hip dysplasia and can go their entire lives without severe symptoms. Also, that exercise can help maintain that equilibrium.

She gets premium dog food, usually made from salmon, so she might be benefiting from the Omega 3 content in that.

I can see some signs of the dysplasia in her daily activities; she occasionally places her rear legs closer together. However, she leaps, bounds, rough houses, and corners sharply (the cause of the CCL tear) like any other active dog. Or, she will again after she recovers from the CCL repair. Otherwise, only subtle signs that I would not have recognized had I not researched hip dysplasia following her diagnosis.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 4:33 PM on October 6, 2011

Best answer: I wrote this question a few weeks back. My sweetie is a 16 month old English Setter with moderate hip dysplasia. Here is what both my vets said...

Exercise. Yes. Lots. Walks are fine, dog park is great. Even jogging with her is great so long as I build her up to it properly. As I said in my question and as others have noted, the idea is to build up her hip muscles enough that they support the hip securely so that the actual hip sockets don't have to do all the work.

Swimming is great, doing running drills up hill on soft grass is great too.

Start your pooch on glucosamine/chondroitin supplements now as well as fish oil (lots of good anti-inflammatory properties). Like yours, mine is off the pain meds - but keep them handy. If he plays harder/happier/longer with the meds, then use them on an as needed basis.

Also watch him the day after exercise, if he seems slower or creakier, dial back the intensity a bit. The vet also said that the little circle dance dogs do before they cozy up for a nap is a good pain barometer - if he seems like he can't get comfy, there is probably some pain. Vets can also do some pain tests in office that can give you an idea of what's going on.

Get a therapy ball/stability ball and lean some basic balance exercises (talk to your vet about proper sizing and getting started) - they're low/no impact and are great for strengthening and conditioning.

The orthopedic surgeon himself specifically recommended against any kind of surgery as the first line of treatment. Instead he suggested taking her to a physical therapist who can show me specific exercises that target the hips. I have my consult coming up shortly, memail me if you would like me to drop you a line with what I learned.

Both vets recommended against femoral head ostectomy surgery, the complication rates hover around 40%.

Also, don't worry too much about prognosis right now. My vets said that it is very hard to tell from x-rays what the trajectory of the condition will be - some dogs who look on film like they should be crippled do just fine.

Mostly though, just let the dog be a dog. Hope this helps.
posted by space_cookie at 5:09 PM on October 6, 2011

(No pictures?!)

IANYV. This isn't medical advice because I'm not your vet and I have never seen your pet.

The problem with getting anecdotal advice from other pet owners is that not every dysplastic hip looks the same. What works well for one dog might be damaging to another.

Go to a board certified orthopedic surgeon. Take your rads (the surgeon may want to do more films under sedation) and get a good consult about going forward. You'll need this anyway if you do the FHO, your normal vet isn't going to tackle cutting the top off the bone on her own. A regular vet may or may not be well informed about joint health, but you can be certain a hard tissue doc is going to know what they're talking about.

The first vet advised you to help the dog in and out of the car and avoid situations like rough housing with other dogs where the joint might be further damaged. This is good advice. Remember that he can't protect that joint if he isn't in control. None of us here can tell you if the rest of it is good advice, because we don't have all the parts of the puzzle.

Keep your dog thin. He should be on the very slender end of the spectrum, whatever that means for him. You can keep trying with the water, there exist warm water lap pools for rehab dogs. If you go forward with the FHO this may be a rehab requirement after the 2 months of strict kennel rest.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 9:10 PM on October 6, 2011

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