Hip Dysplasia in German Shepherds: Signs, Treatment, and Prevention

Hip Dysplasia in German Shepherds is not uncommon. German Shepherds and other large dog breeds are at a greater risk of this condition. About 19% of German Shepherds will develop hip dysplasia, according to the Orthopedic Foundation on Animals.

What is Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is a congenital disorder. This means that this condition is inherited from the parents. Affected dogs have malformed hip joints that may have loose hip sockets. Dogs with hip dysplasia have a much shallower socket, in which the ball of the femur doesn’t fit well. And as a dog with this condition moves, it can cause the cartilage to wear down. The friction between the head of the femur and the hip sockets then causes pain and further damage for the affected German Shepherds.

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How does Hip Dysplasia develop in German Shepherds?

German Shepherds can inherit this condition but its development on an individual dog depends on different factors including the environment, diet, training, and activity level.

Hip problems can develop as early as the dog reaches 4 months-old and this could get worse over time. Injuries in the hips can also start or speed up the development of hip dysplasia – even if the German Shepherd has no hereditary predisposition to it. This likeliness of the German Shepherd to develop Hip Dysplasia is believed to be because they are very active dogs.

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However, some German Shepherds who have normal hips as puppies may develop the condition as well. As these pups grow older, the surrounding muscles, ligaments, and connective tissue of the hip joint struggle to hold it together very well. This can unfortunately result in the separation of the joint – causing the cartilage and bones to wear and tear.

Warning Signs of Hip Dysplasia in German Shepherds

Hip dysplasia in German Shepherds can be detected by watching out for the following signs:

  • Struggle to stand up,
  • Limping,
  • Rapid weight gain,
  • Favoring one leg when walking,
  • Struggle to run properly and “bunny hops” instead,
  • Lethargy or refusal to get up and move,
  • Reduced activity,
  • Sudden aggression when the hip area is touched,
  • Hip injury.

If your German Shepherd shows one or more of these signs, please take him to the vet to have his hips examined and x-rayed.

How to prevent Hip Dysplasia in German Shepherds?

Choosing to pick a German Shepherd puppy from a reputable breeder is the first step. Responsible and reputable German Shepherd breeders do not breed dogs with poor hip grades to lessen the chance of occurrence of the condition in the offspring. But despite those considerations, there is still no guarantee that a pup will not develop hip dysplasia. So, to prevent hip dysplasia in German Shepherds, it is also important for owners to take note of the following:

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Control your German Shepherd puppy’s food content

Regular puppy food often contains too many calories and it can be bad for German Shepherd puppies. GS puppies grow rapidly, often by eating too many calories. But while their bodies are growing fast, their hips are less likely to develop at the same speed – and this can lead to dysplasia. Some veterinarians recommend giving German Shepherds adult food instead.

Watch your German Shepherd’s weight throughout his life

Obesity complicates a lot of health issues including hip dysplasia so it is a good idea to keep your German Shepherd’s weight in a healthy range.

Avoid straining your German Shepherd puppy during exercise

German Shepherds are high-energy dogs so the need to burn as much energy as they can is understandable. If your German Shepherd is still a pup, his hips are still developing so it’s a good idea to avoid too much exercise or any possible movements that can cause the wear and tear of the hips.

Consider walking your GS pup 1 to 2 times a day instead of giving him one long strenuous exercise. Not letting your GS pups climb up and down the stairs is also a good idea.

How is Hip Dysplasia in German Shepherds treated?

Depending on the severity of the condition, German Shepherds may need a combination treatments including supplements, pain relievers, moderate exercise, or surgery,

Hip dysplasia can get worse over time so veterinarians recommend treatments to try to slow the condition’s development, ease pain, or improve your German Shepherd’s mobility. Changing your German Shepherd’s diet into a low-calorie diet should help him lose weight and therefore put less strain on his joints. Experts also recommend short walks and swimming for dogs with hip dysplasia as these exercises has less impact on the joints and help develop muscles. Mind games with German Shepherds also make good exercises. Aside from those, the vet may also prescribe pain relievers to help your GS ease the pain.  If you have tiled, marbled, or slippery floors, then it is a good idea to put on toe grips on your German Shepherd to avoid slipping and re-injuring his hip.

In some cases, surgery is the best thing to do. Depending on the severity of the hip dysplasia, affected German Shepherd may need a simple corrective surgery, a hip replacement, or have the top of the femur removed.

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