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Hip Pain in Dogs

The hip joint in dogs is what allows them to do the most basic things such as walk, jump, run, stand, lay down, etc. When there is any kind of hip pain in dogs or any discomfort, it’s noticed almost immediately due to the hip joint being used in pretty much all actions.

Common Symptoms:

  • Limps or one-sided walks
  • Slower movement
  • Limited movements
  • Loss of balance
  • Swaying while walking
  • Leaning in one direction over the other
  • Slow or difficulty moving when sitting, lying down or standing
  • Reluctance to go on walks
  • Reduction of muscle tissue in hind legs

Causes of Hip Pain

A common skeletal condition, hip dysplasia affects the ball and hip socket in the hip joint, causing deterioration and eventual loss of function. Essentially, this condition prohibits the natural movement of the joint which causes the ball and socket to rub and grind instead of sliding smoothly. Genetics play a factor in what can cause hip dysplasia with several large breeds like the Great Dane, Saint Bernard, German Shepherd, and Labrador Retriever having an increased chance at developing the condition. Other factors include excessive growth rate, specific types of exercises, as well as improper weight (obesity), and nutrition. Some dogs can develop signs of hip dysplasia at four months of age while others start showing signs as they develop osteoarthritis. Depending on severity and level of inflammation, clinical signs include a decreased range of motion, decrease in activity, a swinging gait (“bunny hopping”), lameness in the hind end, reluctance to jumping, rising, or climbing stairs, as well as grating in the joint during movement. Diagnosing includes a physical exam, blood work, and radiographs of the dog’s hips to determine the rate and severity of the condition. 

Treatment:

  • Weight loss for obese dogs.
  • Physical therapy.
  • Joint fluid modifiers.
  • Joint supplements.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications.
  • Surgery which can include:
    • Double or triple pelvic osteotomy (DPO/TPO)- Performed in young dogs less than 10 months old. The function of the ball and socket joint is improved by selectively cutting the pelvic bone and rotating the segments.
    • Femoral head ostectomy (FHO)- Performed on young and mature dogs. Involves cutting off the femoral head, or “ball,” of the hip joint. This results in the body creating a “false” joint that reduces the discomfort associated with hip dysplasia. 
    • Total hip replacement (THR)- Most effective surgical treatment for hip dysplasia in dogs is a total hip replacement. The surgeon replaces the entire joint with metal and plastic implants. 

Hip luxation is the dislocation of the hip joint which displaces the head of the femur from the acetabular socket. Essentially, a dislocated hip disrupts the joint capsule and the surrounding structures of the hip (ligaments and bone). Painful in nature, hip luxation is usually caused by trauma and affects a dog’s movement. The affected leg will be tucked, outwardly/inwardly rotated, or shortened. Other signs that a dog may be suffering from hip luxation is lameness, having a hard time getting up, going up stairs and jumping, having pain with motion of the hip as well as muscle mass loss in the affected limb. In most cases, the femoral head is displaced forward and above the hip socket. A dislocated hip requires severe force to occur so many times the injury can impact the lungs, heart, urinary system, and other body organs. Diagnosing involves a physical exam, additional blood work, and radiographs to view the extent of trauma. 

Treatment: 

  • Supporting the hip with a sling.
  • Femoral head ostectomy where a false joint is produced
  • Replacing the hip and restore structures
  • Total hip replacement.

Iliopsoas muscle tears commonly happen when fetching a tennis ball or through extensive stretching (participating in agility training). Anatomically, the psoas muscle attaches along the underside of the backbones, and the iliacus attaches on the inner side of the pelvis. These two muscles join and form a tendon that attaches onto the femur. It’s function is to externally rotate and flex the hip joint. When an injury occurs at or near the muscle-tendon junction, many dogs experience pain when stretching the hip as well as lameness. Most dogs get injured through roughhousing with other pets, jumping from elevated surfaces, strenuous training, and slipping into a splay-legged position. Clinical exams help diagnose an Iliopsoas strain as well as ultrasounds, MRIs, and CT scans. 

Treatment:

  • Muscle relaxant medications.
  • NSAIDs.
  • Applying a cold compress to the groin.
  • Rehabilitation in the form of heat therapy, deep penetrating ultrasound, cold laser therapy, and massage.

Polyarthritis is the inflammation and swelling of joints making them painful and swollen that may cause dogs difficulty walking. Immune-mediated Polyarthritis refers to arthritis that’s a direct result of abnormal immune response by the body directed at the joints. This can come from either an auto-immune disorder or infection. Signs include overall joint pain, fever, loss of appetite, swelling of multiple joints, lameness. To diagnose this, a thorough physical examination and a variety of laboratory examinations, including blood and urine tests and urine culture, are common tests used to identify a possible origin of an internal infection.

Treatment:

  • Generally treated with immunosuppressive medications until the lowest dose is found that still manages the disease.

Insect bites in pets are a common problem and while can sometimes be harmless, certain insects can cause serious health complications and pain. It’s important to note the three categories of insects that sting: Vespidae (yellow jackets, and wasps, hornets), Formicidae (i.e. fire ants), and Apidae (i.e. honeybees, African killer bees). While it can take 20 stings from one of these to be lethal in mammals, it can happen quickly if a pet disturbs a hive or colony. Clinical signs that your dog has been bit or stung by an insect include swelling and redness at the site of the bite, hives, swollen face or muzzle, localized pain at the site of the bite (can vary from mild to severe), puncture wound, and itchiness. Dogs experiencing anaphylaxis may have diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, seizures, respiratory distress, cardiovascular arrest, and collapsing. Initial diagnosis is based on the clinical signs being presented. Blood samples might also be taken to help determine an allergic reaction.

Treatment:

  • Treatment is based on type of bite, how many, and severity of clinical signs.
  • Removal of stinger or other insect parts (if applicable).
  • Antihistamines and anti-inflammatory agents such as corticosteroids.
  • Treatment for anaphylactic shock includes supportive measures such as intravenous fluids, corticosteroids, oxygen therapy, and epinephrine.

Lumbosacral stenosis (also referred to as sacral stenosis) is a disease that directly affects the structures of the spinal cord in the lumbar and sacral regions of the spine. Lumbosacral stenosis is caused by the narrowing of the spinal canal which then imposes compression on the spinal nerve roots (the nerves that directly exit the spine). This compression can be caused by intervertebral disc herniation, congenital malformation, arthritis, or a spinal tumor. More commonly, this condition is caused by arthritis or an intervertebral disc herniation. Signs of lumbosacral stenosis include pain in the hind end, unable to rise or wag their tail, difficulty rising after sitting or lying down, gnawing on paws or tail, or urinary/fecal incontinence. These signs indicate inflammation of nerves and muscles to the aggravated spinal cord and the affected area. As the disease progresses, the disc located between the last lumbar vertebrae and sacrum may erupt, causing uncoordinated movement or paralysis of the rear legs. X-rays can indicate arthritic changes but diagnosing the condition consists of a myelogram (injection of contrast to highlight any pressure put on the spinal cord) or MRI and CT scans.

Treatment:

Lyme disease is not directly a joint-related disease but causes pain. Lyme disease is the most common disease transmitted from ticks although it only shows symptoms in 5-10% of infected dogs. The most notable signs of Lyme disease are recurrent lameness from inflammation of the joints, general discomfortness and a fever. Lameness from lyme disease usually only lasts about 3-4 days but often recurs in the same legs or other legs days or even weeks later. Only your veterinarian can diagnose lyme disease through blood tests, urinalysis, fecal examination, complete blood cell count, x-rays, and possibly fluid drawn from the joints.

Treatment:

Osteoarthritis, also known as Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD), affects both dogs and humans alike and is the most common form of arthritis affecting nearly a quarter of a million dogs worldwide at any given time. It is a progressive, chronic joint condition marked by the weakening of joint cartilage, thickening of the joint capsule, and the forming of new bone around the joint (osteophytosis), both of which contribute to pain and limb dysfunction. The majority of OA in dogs is caused by developmental orthopedic diseases including cranial cruciate ligament disease, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, OCD, and patella (knee cap) dislocation. In a small percentage of dogs, OA develops for no apparent reason and is linked to genetics and age. Bodyweight, obesity, exercise, and diet are all factors that contribute to osteoarthritis. Symptoms of osteoarthritis itis in dogs are fairly noticeable and include stiffness, limping, difficulty standing, not wanting to run or jump, weakness, muscle atrophy irritability, weight gain, vocalizing when touched, and incontinence. Unfortunately, the damage caused by OA is irreversible but treatment plans help reduce pain and improve quality of life. 

Treatments: 

  • Weight loss for overweight dogs can help take pressure off affected joints.
  • Regular moderate exercise helps keep joints healthy.
  • Physical medicine including acupuncture, chiropractic, laser therapy, regenerative medicine, medicinal massage, and physical rehabilitation. 

Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD) is a painful abnormality that disrupts the healthy development of bone from cartilage. When OCD happens, a flap of cartilage develops within joints which then causes lameness and joint pain. The most commonly affected joint is the shoulder but also can commonly affect the knee, elbow and hips.. Dogs with OCD in the shoulder also tend to be male. Factors such as diet, genetics, hormonal imbalance, trauma, growth rate, and joint architecture, can increase the likelihood of developing OCD. Due to its nature, OCD tends to affect larger breeds like Golden Retrievers, Mastiffs, Old English Sheepdogs, Labrador Retrievers, Chow Chows, German Shepherds, Newfoundlands, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Rottweilers, and Standard Poodles. With genetics playing a big role, many vets recommend affected dogs be withheld from breeding. Dogs will start showing signs around 4-7 months of age with many displaying lameness after heavy exercise or long periods of rest. Clinical signs of OCD include limping and lameness in affected legs, vocalization of pain when the affected joint is touched. The affected joint will also be swollen and warm to the touch. Depending on the severity and pain level, dogs may avoid putting any pressure on the affected leg. OCD can affect both legs so determining if one leg is experiencing greater impact can be difficult. Diagnosing this condition primarily includes X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs. 

Treatment:

Osteochondrosis is a disorder that affects the development of cartilage and bones in both medium and large-sized dogs that grow quickly. The premature joint cartilage fractures and splits from the underlying bone in this state in which cysts will develop under the cartilage if fluid occupies the room. Cartilage fragments may come loose from the end of a bone and float about in the joint cavity which causes inflammation in the infected joint and may progress to arthritis and cartilage breakdown, restricting joint motion. Signs that a dog may be suffering osteochondrosis include lameness, fluid buildup within the joint, and joint stiffness. To determine the extent of the damage, a veterinarian might take an x-ray but endoscope surgery can also be done to further identify the damage. Another option is a CT scan.

Treatment:

Osteogenesis Imperfecta is also known as brittle bone disease. Osteogenesis Imperfecta is essentially the inability of the body to produce the collagen protein which provides elasticity to the bones. Because of this, affected dogs’ bones lack the ability to withstand impact and pressure causing them to easily break and fracture. Signs of Osteogenesis Imperfecta have reduced bone density, severe joint pain as well as bone and teeth fractures as affected dogs don’t have the Type 1 collagen needed. Other symptoms include difficulty walking, loose joints, stunted growth, weak tendons and muscles, and malformation of bones. They also present joint pain. There’s, unfortunately, no treatment for this condition but vets may prescribe pain medication to help. The occurrence of multiple bone breaks as well as x-rays can give a definitive diagnosis of osteogenesis imperfecta. Blood tests may also be run to see if the levels of vitamin D, phosphorus, calcium, and parathormone are abnormal. 

Treatment:

  • There is no true treatment that heals this disease.
  • Corrective orthopedic surgery may be done for mild cases.

Osteosarcoma is a bone tumor that is malignant and resembles human pediatric osteosarcoma. Limbs are the most often affected but it can still affect other bones like the jaw, hips, pelvis, ribcage, and skull. It's even possible for it to arise in non-bony tissue like mammary glands and muscles. It’s more often found in large and giant breed dogs such as Great Danes, Rottweilers, and Irish wolfhounds. This disease can be quite painful in the joints and lameness is often presented in affected dogs. Pain medication may be given to help with joints and lameness but may only work for about one to two weeks. Swelling of the bone at the tumor site can be observed at this point and is sometimes sore, swollen, and hot to the touch. Amputation is often the recommended treatment to prevent the cancer from spreading but seeing an oncologist is recommended since it can still spread.

Treatments:

  • Amputation of the affected limb to maintain control of the spread of the cancer.
  • Chemotherapy.
  • Radiation therapy.
  • Pain Medication for temporary relief.

Rheumatoid arthritis in dogs is very similar to that in humans and the diagnosis criteria is very similar, just adapted for dogs. It’s an immune-related arthritis targeting the cartilage in the joints. Multiple joints are often affected at once and dog pain presents lameness from the pain. Symptoms may include recurrent UTIs, lameness, joint swelling, fever limb atrophy, joint pain, tonsillitis, and inability to walk. The causes of Rheumatoid arthritis aren’t exact but since it’s immune-related, some possible causes could be a genetic predisposition, digestive disease, or cancer. Because Rheumatoid arthritis is not common for dogs and the symptoms can vary greatly, it can be difficult to diagnose. The most common symptoms, such as lameness, is a common symptom in many other disorders and they can come and go. Radiographs are usually the most effective way to determine a diagnosis to see the swelling and trouble in the joints. The vet may also opt to do a biopsy of the tissue to test for inflammation.

Treatment:

  • Generally treated with immunosuppressive medications until the lowest dose is found that still manages the disease.

Septic arthritis is a painful disorder caused by the introduction of bacteria or another infectious agent into one or more joints, resulting in debilitating inflammation. Male, large, and giant breed dogs are the most frequently affected, and although septic arthritis may affect dogs of any age, it is most commonly seen in dogs aged 3 to 11 years. Pressure, swelling, and discomfort in one or more joints are all symptoms of septic arthritis. Reduced range of motion in the affected joint(s), as well as fever, lethargy, and a loss of appetite often accompany those prior symptoms. To diagnose, a vet will look at the dog’s complete medical history as well as any injuries that could have caused wounds leading to septic arthritis. They will do a blood test, a physical examination, urinalysis, and a biochemistry profile. Imaging is also used to diagnose septic arthritis in dogs and the vet will test for bacterial infection by taking fluid from a joint which is the most important test during this process

Treatment:

  • IV and oral antibiotics.
  • Lavage (flush) the joint to minimize joint damage.
  • Surgical opening of the joint, removal of abnormal tissue, and copious lavage.
  • Flushing catheter for post-operative flushing.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an immune-mediated disease in which a dog’s immune system begins to attack its own tissue. Essentially, the dog’s body produces antibodies to antigens that are found in its body systems and tissues. Some breeds have a greater predisposition to SLE such as medium to large dogs that are over five years of age. This includes the Shetland sheepdog, Old English sheepdog, Beagle, German shepherd, Irish setter, Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever, Poodle, Collie, and Afghan hound. Signs of SLE can peak and slow over a period of time, with signs increasing as the disease progresses. These include lameness that moves from limb to limb, lethargy, fever, enlarged spleen, enlarged lymph nodes, ulcers at mucocutaneous joints (lips), muscle pain (or atrophy), skin abnormalities (such as thinning or loss of hair, ulcers, redness). Factors such as genetic, physiologic, and environmental elements can increase SLE development. 

Treatment: 

  • Dependent on which body system is affected:
    • Kidneys: modified prescription diet.
    • Joints: limited and restricted activity.