Conservative Care for Canine Hip Dysplasia

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Canine hip dysplasia (CHD) is one of the most common orthopedic issues seen by veterinary professionals.  One study1  found that there was a 15.5% incidence level of hip dysplasia out of over 1 million dogs in the US and Canada.  Hip dysplasia is a genetic disease where there is poor congruency of the head of the femur and the acetabulum of the pelvis.  However, the degree to which it expresses itself is very multifactorial and can include nutrition, type, amount of exercise and the environment the puppy is raised in.  For instance, another study2 found that puppies allowed to walk up and down stairs before 3 months of age were at a higher risk for developing CHD than those kept off stairs, but that those allowed to have off leash access to slightly uneven terrain earlier on were at a lower risk for CHD.

It can be a devastating thing for an owner to hear that their dog has been diagnosed with hip dysplasia, but the majority of dogs can live a good- quality of life with conservative management. Even dogs diagnosed with severe hip dysplasia are not always in that much pain or even that symptomatic. 

There are many non-surgical options available to owners with dogs with hip dysplasia, including supplements and medications, physical rehabilitation, and hip garments/supports.  These options will be discussed in more detail below. The best results will be obtained when the plan is a multi-modal approach, meaning taking some action from each of the areas mentioned above.  The medications and supplements will keep the joint healthy and keep the pain level managed; physical rehabilitation can help with pain management and maintaining/improving muscle development; and the therapeutic garments/supports can help to minimize symptoms as the dog moves.


The first step in the conservative management of hip dysplasia should be for the owner to have a discussion with their pet’s veterinarian about appropriate supplements and (if needed) medications.  Joint supplements are varied in nature and it is beyond the scope of this article to go into depth on them, but in general, these are made from ingredients shown to have positive effects on the cartilage and in lubricating fluid found in joints.  These ingredients can help to “feed” the building blocks of the joint, to help slow down the degenerative changes that occur with hip dysplasia, and because of this, can help to decrease the pain and inflammation associated with these degenerative changes.  Medications prescribed for canine hip dysplasia generally fall into two categories: anti-inflammatories, which will decrease pain in a joint by decreasing the inflamed tissues, and pain medications.  It is very important that the dog’s pain be adequately controlled, as pain can lead to decreased activity levels and this can lead to muscle loss, which can then lead to more instability and inflammation in the joint.  It can become a vicious cycle if left untreated.

Physical Rehabilitation/Therapy

If the owner has access to a veterinary rehabilitation facility, this can be very helpful for educating the owner about management strategies for their pet and help develop an appropriate treatment plan.  Some of the strategies usually discussed include keeping the dog at a “healthy lean” weight; minimizing high-impact or explosive activities, which can aggravate hip pain; keeping the amount of slippery floors to a minimum to prevent slipping and falling; and keeping the dog’s activity level fairly consistent, to prevent flare ups.  In-clinic treatments can include manual therapy such as massage and chiropractic/joint mobilizations; therapeutic exercises for improvements in range of motion and strength; modalities such as laser therapy or acupuncture to help decrease pain and inflammation; hydrotherapy (swimming or walking in underwater treadmill); and recommendations on assistive devices such as support harnesses or therapeutic garments, ramps and booties/other traction devices to help prevent slipping.

Wearable Therapeutics

The K9 HipLign™ is a unique therapeutic garment that was developed to help dogs with hip dysplasia and other similar issues.  It is a breathable, lightweight garment that works by stimulating the dog’s proprioceptive system to help enhance more normal posture.  In addition, there are 4 elastic straps which provide a light balanced resistance to the dog’s hip muscles as they move.  Over time, with regular use, this will improve dynamic stability to the hips, which can help minimize symptoms.  The K9 HipLign™ is non-invasive, does not restrict normal movement, and treats both hips at the same time.  It can be used as part of a rehabilitation program, or can be used for treatment at home.

As you can see, there are many viable non-surgical options available to owners to help their dogs with hip dysplasia. Many owners will find a successful combination of these options to help their dogs live a high-quality life despite their diagnosis of hip dysplasia.

About K9 Align, Inc.

K9 Align, Inc. is a California company created to revolutionize the way we treat canine pathologies that affect mobility as dogs age, whether caused by a genetic predisposition, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, or injury. Our first product is the K9 HipLign™ for canine hip dysplasia and related arthritis. It is particularly effective in mild to moderate cases of hip dysplasia and also a good preventative tool for pre-symptomatic dogs in at-risk breeds.  Follow K9 Align here:  IG: @k9_alignFB Group: Assisting Dogs With Hip Dysplasia

Author: Lisa Bedenbaugh, PT, CCRP

An Original Vital Vet Publication


1Loder R, TodhunterR : The Demographics of Canine Hip Dysplasia in the US and Canada. .J ofVetMed, 2017.

2Krontveit R, et al: Housing-and exercise-related risk factors associated with the development of hip dysplasia as determined by radiographic evaluation in a prospective

    A Vital Vet Publication

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