It’s upsetting to realize your precious pet is in pain. Typically, the causes of hip pain are arthritis or hip dysplasia. While neither condition is curable, the good news is that you can do a lot to relieve the dog’s discomfort that will complement the medication your veterinarian provides.
This might seem obvious, but most dogs suffering from arthritis are elderly, although hip dysplasia can affect a dog at any age. Your older dog is often less active, too, which contributes to being overweight. Excess weight directly affects the amount of strain placed on the dog’s joints, and this can make her hip pain worse. Speak with your veterinarian about weight loss options including a specialized diet and low-impact exercise, such as swimming and hydrotherapy.
Hip pain worsens during cold weather, so it’s important to keep your dog’s joints warm and her coat dry. Make sure her bed is soft enough to provide some cushioning, but not so much cushioning that it makes it hard for the dog to maneuver on and get up from the cushion. If you live in a cold region, consider investing in a heated dog bed. As a short-term measure, prepare a hot water bottle wrapped in a thick towel to prevent the dog from burning herself, and place it under the top layer of bedding at one side of her bed. Alternatively, apply the hot water bottle to the painful hip for short bursts of 15 minutes at a time.
Keeping the muscles loose around the joint helps relieve your dog’s hip pain. Gently massage the area around the joint, using your fingertips in a circular motion for up to 10 minutes at a time. Watch your dog carefully to see how she reacts to the massage, and stop if it appears to hurt or irritate the hip further.
Your elderly dog might not be as agile on her feet any longer, and if she has hip pain, it could be difficult for her to walk on hard or slippery surfaces. Muscle stiffness caused by the effort to walk or by bruising from a fall will only make her pain worse. Help her regain traction and reduce the hardness of the floor by laying carpeting or rubber matting on areas where she walks regularly. If your dog often travels in the car, buy or make a carpeted dog ramp to help her get in and out without jarring her painful hips.
Dogs with hip pain may benefit from nutritional supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin combined with manganese. Check with your veterinarian to see if it is safe to give your dog these supplements, because glucosamine can be dangerous for dogs with certain medical conditions. If the vet agrees that it will be beneficial, ask him to recommend medicinal-strength products that are more therapeutic than the supplements commonly found in pet stores. The dog's cartilage cells absorb the ingredients, which help to synthesize the fluid found in the joints and to reduce stress. You might also consult a holistic veterinarian, who can help you determine whether some herbal medicines will provide relief.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Tracey Sandilands has written professionally since 1990, covering business, home ownership and pets. She holds a professional business management qualification, a bachelor's degree in communications and a diploma in public relations and journalism. Sandilands is the former editor of an international property news portal and an experienced dog breeder and trainer.