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Hip Dysplasia in German Shepherds: Signs, Causes & Treatments

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By Nicole Cosgrove

german shepherd with wheelchair

Hip dysplasia is a painful condition that is common in any large dog breeds, including German Shepherds. Although small dogs can get hip dysplasia too, the condition is more prevalent in large dogs simply because of their bigger stature.

Most German Shepherd owners dread hearing that their beloved dog has hip dysplasia because of how painful the condition is for the dog and to watch. However, your dog can live a long and comfortable life after a hip dysplasia diagnosis with the right treatment.

Learn all you need to know about hip dysplasia as a German Shepherd owner by reading below.

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What Is Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is a painful condition that can affect dogs of any size, but it is especially an issue for large dogs. Canine hip dysplasia is common for German Shepherds especially because of their active nature and large stature. To understand the condition, let’s talk about your dog’s hip.

Your German Shepherd’s hip has a joint that works like a ball and socket. In healthy dogs, the ball and socket fit properly together, allowing the dog to move happily and without pain. Whenever a dog experiences hip dysplasia, the ball and socket don’t fit together properly. As a result, they grind against one another.

Over time, this grinding motion causes the hip socket to deteriorate, which can cause the dog to lose entire function of the joint if left untreated.

Causes of Hip Dysplasia in German Shepherds

German Shepherds can experience hip dysplasia for several reasons. Unfortunately, this breed is considered at most risk for hip dysplasia because the condition is considered hereditary. German Shepherds are predisposed to hip dysplasia as a result.

Just because your dog has a predisposition does not mean it will get hip dysplasia, though. Factors such as your dog’s growth rate, exercise, weight, and nutrition can either magnify or reduce hip dysplasia.

On the one hand, obesity, poor nutrition, and poor exercise can all lead to hip dysplasia. On the other hand, lack of nutrition, anorexia, and excessive exercise can lead to hip dysplasia too.

Signs Your German Shepherd Has Hip Dysplasia

Signs that your German Shepherd has hip dysplasia can start whenever your dog is as young as four months old. In contrast, some German Shepherds don’t show any signs until they’re older as it only develops alongside canine osteoarthritis.

In either case, there are a few signs that are common among all dogs with hip dysplasia, regardless of age, gender, or breed.

Here are the most common signs to lookout for:
  • Decreased activity
  • Decreased motion range
  • Difficulty moving
  • Enlarges shoulder muscles
  • Grating joint
  • Lame hind end
  • Limping
  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Swaying
sick german shepherd dog unable to play
Image Credit: Ivor Ilic, Pixabay

How to Diagnose a German Shepherd with Hip Dysplasia

If you see any of the above-mentioned symptoms in your German Shepherd, it’s important to take your dog to the vet right away. You cannot get a formal diagnosis without consulting your veterinarian first.

Whenever you take your German Shepherd to the vet, the vet will perform a physical examination to determine if hip dysplasia is an issue. As usual, the vet will ask you if your dog has any symptoms, possible injuries, or other health related questions.

During this physical examination, the vet will likely move around the dog’s hind leg to check for any pain, grinding, or issues with motion. They may choose to have some blood work done too. In cases of hip dysplasia, inflammation will be an issue, and it can be seen in your dog’s blood count.

Often, the vet will confirm hip dysplasia using an X ray. The X ray will be able to see into your dog’s hips and determine the severity of the hip dysplasia. Although this may seem like an unnecessary step, the X ray is crucial for creating the best treatment method for your dog specifically.

vet checks the health of german shepherd dog
Image Credit: VP Photo Studio, Shutterstock

Treatments for German Shepherds with Hip Dysplasia

Even though hip dysplasia is a really frightening diagnosis to hear, your German Shepherd can live a happy and pain free life with the right care and treatment. Luckily, there are quite a few treatment options you have to choose from.

Examples of hip dysplasia treatments include:
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Exercise restriction
  • Joint fluid modifiers
  • Joint supplements
  • Physical therapy
  • Weight loss

If your dog qualifies for surgeries, you have even more options.

Here are some surgical procedures you might want to consider:

Work with your vet to create a treatment specific for your German Shepherd and the level of severity.

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Tips for Preventing Hip Dysplasia in German Shepherds

Although not all cases of hip dysplasia can be prevented, a good majority can. Even if hip dysplasia is not preventable in your dog, you can use these tips to minimize pain caused by hip dysplasia.

Only Trust Reputable Breeders

german shepherd puppy lying on a table in the yard
Image Credit: M J, Pixabay

If you are getting your German Shepherd from a breeder, make sure the breeder is trustworthy, ethical, and reputable. A reputable breeder can make a huge difference in whether or not your dog develops hip dysplasia.

Since the condition is hereditary, you can talk to the breeder about the parents’ conditions and likelihood of developing hip dysplasia.

The best reputable breeders will even provide a screening for their puppies. With the screening, you can know in advance if your dog is predisposed to hip dysplasia based on its genetics.

Right Diet

German Shepherd Eating
Image Credit: Monika Wisniewska, Shutterstock

Diet plays a large part in a German Shepherd getting hip dysplasia. From an early age, make sure to provide your German Shepherd high quality dog food specific for large breeds. Large breed dog food is specifically formulated with ingredients to help nourish your dog’s joints.

More so, select dog foods suitable for your dog’s phase in life. For example, get a puppy specific dog food whenever your dog is young, but switch to a mature dog food once the dog ages. Once again, age specific dog foods come with key nutrients based on your dog’s age.

Only provide your dog as much food as it needs, never under or over. Both malnutrition and obesity increase risk for hip dysplasia. If you are unsure how much to feed your dog, talk to your vet for recommendations.

Right Exercise

german shepherd running outside with tongue out
Image Credit: Vilve Roosioks, Pixabay

Exercise is another factor you need to consider carefully if you one to prevent hip dysplasia in your German Shepherd. You want the dog to exercise enough that it is healthy and happy, but there’s no need in overworking the dog.

Preventative Supplements

pills out of a bottle
Image Credit: photo_gonzo, Shutterstock

You can begin giving your dog preventative supplements to nourish its joints. One of the most popular is glucosamine. Glucosamine is a supplement prescribed to dogs with arthritis and hip dysplasia, but you can use it for preventative measures too. Of course, preventative supplements will have a lower glucosamine count than prescribed medications.

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Final Thoughts

If you suspect that your German Shepherd is experiencing hip dysplasia, take it to the vet right away. You’re vet can perform a thorough evaluation and create a game plan for managing your best friend’s pain.

Luckily, most German Shepherds with hip dysplasia live long and robust lives. Especially if you opt for a great treatment, you can expect your dog to be happy and carefree. By starting a preventative treatment from an early age, you can help your dog grow with minimal issues.

Featured Image Credit: makeitclear, Pixabay

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