Yes, German Shepherd hip dysplasia is a common orthopedic problem. Nearly 20% of German Shepherds suffer from the condition. This implies that the chances of your German Shepherd developing hip dysplasia are 1 in 5. This probability is even higher for dogs whose parents had the disease.
As you may know, hip dysplasia mostly affects large breed dogs like Labrador Retrievers, Great Danes, German Shepherds, and Saint Bernard. Large breed dogs are prone to the condition because of their increased body weight.
When upright, the joints are tasked with the job of supporting the body. The heavier the body, the more pressure the joints have to support. The application of extra pressure on the joints increases the risk of developing joint diseases one of which is hip dysplasia.
In addition to large body size, genetics also play a role in increasing the risk of hip dysplasia in dogs. Canine hip dysplasia (CHD) can be passed down from a dog to its puppies. This further contributes to its higher prevalence in certain breeds such as the German Shepherd.
Table of Contents
How to Tell if a German Shepherd has Hip Dysplasia
Here are some of the signs you can expect if suspecting a German Shepherd hip dysplasia issue:
- Limping or lameness
- Bunny hopping gait. You may notice your dog use her front legs more as she moves to give her a bunny hop-like movement
- A lazy sit or puppy sit. Dogs with hip dysplasia tend to sit with their legs on one side. A dog sitting normally usually has each leg bent close to its corresponding side of the body.
- Trouble moving particularly getting onto higher surfaces like stairs and the car.
- Reduced interest in physical exercise
- Popping sound at the hip joint when the dog moves
- Difficulty getting up from a sleeping or sitting position
- Increased aggression
- Rapid weight gain due to a reduction in movement
- Loss of thigh muscle mass due to lack of muscle activation in the affected limbs.
It is extremely important to take note of the signs and symptoms of canine hip dysplasia. This is because the condition is degenerative, meaning that it gets worse if not treated.
Early detection is one of the most important factors in how much your dog’s quality of life is affected by hip dysplasia.
Preventing German Shepherd Hip Dysplasia
While it is true that genetics play a big role in hip dysplasia, your dog’s environment can also greatly influence your dog’s joint health. There is so much you can do as a dog owner for your German Shepherd to lower its risk of developing the condition.
Pick a Responsible German Shepherd Breeder
It is standard practice not to breed dogs affected by hip dysplasia. Since hip dysplasia is genetic, breeding a dog with hip dysplasia would produce puppies that have a higher than normal risk for the condition. However, not all breeders follow this practice going ahead to breed German Shepherds with hip dysplasia. When choosing a German Shepherd, ensure to use a responsible or certified breeder.
Good breeders try to reduce the prevalence of hip dysplasia in German Shepherds by not breeding affected dogs. On the other hand, breeders that are seeking maximum profit ignore this practice and go ahead to breed sick or at-risk dogs. To reduce the risk of hip dysplasia, get your German Shepherd from a reputable breeder that certifies their stock.
Hip certification is a practice where a breeder examines the hips of a dog before breeding. During hip certification, the breeder takes specialized x-rays of a dog’s hips at around two years to determine the state of their hips.
At two years of age, a dog that will develop hip dysplasia in the future shows certain signs. If a German Shepherd is found to show any of these signs, it is not bred. If one is found to have healthy hips, it is bred. This helps to reduce the risk of hip dysplasia in the dogs’ offspring.
The tests are not 100% accurate. Some dogs may still develop canine hip dysplasia even when they did not show any prior signs. Hip certification has however been proven as an effective strategy as a means of reducing the risk of hip dysplasia in dogs.
Diet is a very important factor in determining your dog’s risk of hip dysplasia for 2 reasons: weight control and bone strength. We have established that the large size of German Shepherds puts them at an increased risk of hip dysplasia. An overweight German Shepherd has an even higher risk of getting the condition.
Avoid overfeeding your dog with calorie-dense food. Some large-breed owners are under the false impression that their dogs need excess amounts of calories for optimal growth. This is not true. Feed your dog just enough food to allow growth and good health. Being overweight not only puts your German Shepherd at an added risk of developing hip dysplasia but also increases her risk of getting other bone-related conditions like arthritis.
On top of eating enough calories, your dog also needs a diet that provides adequate amounts of bone-strengthening nutrients. In these terms, the two most important nutrients are vitamin D and calcium.
If your dog is already overweight, discuss putting her on a low-calorie diet with your veterinarian or a qualified veterinary nutritionist. Simply put, German Shepherd hip dysplasia is a condition that benefits from maintaining optimal body weight.
Another important aspect of bone strength is physical exercise. During the early years, a dog’s bones undergo rapid growth by depositing more calcium and other minerals. If a dog is physically active, more calcium is deposited resulting in stronger bones.
Encourage your dog to engage in physical activity like running and walking. You can take your dog along with you on your runs or walks or play fun active games at home.
However, keep in mind that too much exercise can be as harmful as inadequate exercise. For this reason, try not to overwork your dog during physical activity. Cease any physical activity if you notice your dog getting tired.
Start Supplements Early
It can be a challenge to meet all the nutrient targets of a dog, particularly a large one like a German Shepherd. This is where supplements come in. Supplements for joint health can be grouped into two: natural supplements and nutritional supplements.
Nutritional supplements are the common nutrient supplements like vitamin D and calcium. Natural supplements are made from natural foods in nature that contain high amounts of nutrients and compounds that support hip joint health. Some of the best natural supplements that can help your dog’s chances with hip dysplasia are reviewed below.
Glucosamine is a sugar amino acid that is a key component in connective tissue and cartilage. Cartilage is the soft rubbery tissue that surrounds bones at the joint to prevent them from rubbing against each other.
Just like glucosamine, chondroitin is also a component of cartilage and connective tissue. It is used in the treatment of joint diseases like osteoarthritis and hip dysplasia.
Supplementation of chondroitin and glucosamine may increase the production of collagen reducing the friction between the femur and hip bone.
It is beneficial to give both glucosamine and chondroitin together as they have a synergistic effect on each other. This means that they boost each other’s effect.
Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a sulfur-containing compound that is used for relieving joint pain. MSM achieves this by reducing inflammation levels at the joint.
Green-lipped mussels are a species of mussels that is native to the New Zealand coast. Green Lipped Mussel supplements contain omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, zinc, copper, iodine, protein, antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, glucosamine, and chondroitin.
Whether your dog is already having joint problems or you just want to protect your dog’s joints, try the Honest Paws Green Lipped Mussel Joint Powder. It is a high-quality joint supplement that contains glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, green-lipped mussels all in one product to help your dog develop healthy strong joints.
- This bacon popcorn flavored Honest Paws Joint Powder uses a blend of ingredients that focus on all-encompassing joint health and support.
- It works to maintain joint mobility, improve cartilage development, and enhance overall bone and joint health.
- Green lipped mussel extract contains a nutrient-rich blend of natural proteins, minerals and omega fatty acids.
German Shepherd Hip Dysplasia Treatment Options
There is currently no known cure for German Shepherd hip dysplasia. However, there are steps you can take to make your dog’s life as comfortable as possible. With early detection and good care, a German Shepherd can live a full healthy life.
After you get a hip dysplasia diagnosis, weigh your dog to check that they are not heavy for their age and body conformation. If she is above the recommended weight for her age, you have to put them on a weight management plan to release some pressure off their joints.
A good weight management schedule includes a calorie-restricted diet and physical exercise. Keep in mind that your dog’s physical ability may be compromised by her hip dysplasia and you should therefore not over-exercise your dog.
Physiotherapy or physical therapy is a type of treatment that uses touch and movement to provide relief to the body. Its main goal is to improve joint laxity and mobility.
Massage is a form of physical therapy and can also help relieve some signs and symptoms of hip dysplasia. You can massage your dog at home or take her dog to a trained masseur. It is however highly advisable to see a professional at least initially for some guidance.
Hydrotherapy, a form of physical therapy that involves performing movements and exercises underwater, is also great for joint mobility. There are different hydrotherapy forms, but when it comes to German Shepherd hip dysplasia, swimming is the number one option.
Hip Dysplasia Surgery
If natural methods prove ineffective, your dog may have to undergo surgery.
There are three main types of surgeries performed on dogs with hip dysplasia:
- Double or Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (DPO/TPO): This is performed on the pelvis to change its shape so it can fit the femur perfectly. Pelvic osteotomies are usually done in newly diagnosed young dogs.
- Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO): This surgery involves cutting or shaving the femoral head to make it fit the hip socket better. This can be done in both young and mature dogs.
- Total Hip Replacement (THR): Here, the entire hip is removed and replaced with an implant. This is the most effective treatment for hip dysplasia. It is usually done in older dogs.
Three of CBD’s best-studied benefits are pain relief, anxiety management, and inflammation reduction. All of these benefits are relevant to hip dysplasia as dogs with the condition tend to suffer from pain, anxiety, and increased inflammation.
However, for your dog to get the most out of CBD, you have to choose a high-quality CBD supplement. For example, the Honest Paws Mobility CBD Oil and Mobility Soft Chews are made from 100% organic full-spectrum hemp to boost your dog’s joint health by providing pain relief and calmness.
Other German Shepherd Hip Problems
German Shepherd hip dysplasia is a common and devastating condition. However, it is not the hip disorder in this breed. Here is a short overview of some other frequent hip diagnoses in German Shepherds.
This is a chronic and fatal disease that affects the spinal cord. Degenerative myelopathy commonly affects German Shepherds and is usually detected between 5 and 14 years of age. The exact cause of the disease is unknown but dogs that have it show a genetic predisposition due to a mutation on a particular gene.
From the spinal cord, the disease spreads to the rest of the body starting with the hind legs. When the hind legs get affected, your dog may display signs similar to those of hip problems like difficulty standing up and a bunny hopping gait.
Canine Myasthenia Gravis
This is a disorder that affects the transmission of impulses from the nerves to the muscles. Since all movement requires nerve transmission to the muscles, this disease greatly affects a dog’s mobility.
Unlike most mobility diseases, the signs of canine myasthenia gravis do not begin in the hind legs but rather in the face. Just like hip dysplasia, canine myasthenia gravis is irreversible.
A hock is to dogs what an ankle is to humans. When dogs are hock walking, they have their hock (ankle) on the ground instead of just their foot. This gait puts added stress on the hips resulting in other hip problems.
Osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease is a condition brought about by the wear of the cartilage surrounding the bones. The condition usually progresses with aging but can be triggered by other factors like poor diet, physical activity, and weight. Osteoarthritis also shares many signs and symptoms with hip dysplasia like limping and difficulty going up the stairs.
Panosteitis is a bone disease caused by severe inflammation on the outer surface of one of the long bones of a dog. The disease affects young dogs and usually resolves on its own at around two years. The cause for the disease is not fully understood but genetics play a role since it mostly affects large breed dogs.
Even among large breeds, German Shepherds are at a higher than average risk of developing panosteitis. Before your dog’s panosteitis resolves, you can provide painkillers and anti-inflammatories to help with the pain and bone inflammation.