German shepherds are smart, loyal and agile dogs who make great pets. But sadly, they are quite prone to hip problems such as hip dysplasia and arthritis, especially in old age. You can help your pal cope and adjust in a number of ways.
A few small changes to the home can make your dog’s life a lot easier. If you have polished or tiled floors, lay down some rugs so he doesn’t slip. Trying to grip onto a slick surface is particularly difficult for dogs with bad hips and it can cause pain and anxiety. Remove any unnecessary obstacles, such as furniture, so your pet has easy access around the house. Put his basket near the door, so he doesn’t have to travel far to get to the garden when he needs to go to the bathroom.
If your dog is in pain or discomfort, he’ll avoid rushing around and will naturally temper his own mobility, unless instinctively motivated otherwise. German shepherds are natural guard dogs. Ask visitors to call in advance to let you know they’re near, then shut your dog in a room before their arrival. This stops your dog rushing to the door to to check out who is arriving. Once your visitors are settled, let him out to say hi.
Obesity compounds hip problems, so it’s essential to keep your dog at a healthy weight. If your dog is currently obese, reduce his portion sizes by a quarter and monitor his progress. Older dogs are less active, so need less energy. Feed a diet rich in protein and calcium, but low in fat and carbs.
Omega 3 fatty acids are great for supple joints. Oily fish are a great Omega 3 fatty acid source. Flax seeds and olive oil and are also beneficial.
German shepherds are naturals at agility work and thrive on the challenge. Although high-impact agility training is not suitable for a German shepherd with hip problems, you can still appeal to his love of agility during exercise sessions by leashing him and walking him through a few simple drills, such as weaving through markers and up and down small ramps. Observe his energy levels and look out for signs of discomfort.
You shouldn’t mate your German shepherd if he has hip problems for two reasons. First, the act of mating may be painful, especially for males as they have to mount the female. Second, it’s essential not to pass on the hip problems to subsequent generations of the breed.
Visit the Vet
Your vet may suggest surgery, medicine or just hip support for your dog, depending on the severity of the condition and the impact on quality of life.
Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.