While more common in some breeds than in others, hip dysplasia (HD) is a common and chronic disease that can affect any large dog. It’s extremely difficult to watch a dog suffer from the pain caused by hip dysplasia. If you have a dog at-risk or affected by HD, here’s what you need to know.
Over the last seven years, my husband has spent thousands of dollars to properly care for Ockee, our American Staffordshire Terrier (pit bull). When growing into adulthood, Ockee showed signs of discomfort in walking. Because she was likely bred for short-term use in a fighting ring, Ockee is large, even for her breed. Her breeders likely didn’t have much concern for the long-term health of Ockee and her littermates.
When Ockee started showing signs of pain, my husband took her to the vet. At that time, they’d just implemented a more comfortable laser surgery option, which of course cost more than the traditional surgical method.
This cost $900 per hip-and both hips were affected. Even with pet health insurance, such a surgery is expensive for any pet owner.
Veterinarians are constantly updating their techniques and equipment. While this can be costly in some cases, early detection methods may help you cut down treatment costs in the long run.
After surgery, Ockee had to rest. My husband encouraged her to stay off of her legs by providing her with her crate, a safe environment in which she was comfortable. Ockee also had to wear an Elizabethan collar (a cone-shaped collar that prevents a dog from licking injuries).
Though Ockee required surgery, there are multiple treatment options available for dogs with HD.
Good Days, Bad Days
Having the hip surgery has spared Ockee a great deal of pain and has allowed her to enjoy a much longer life. However, she has good days and bad days.
When it’s rainy or cold, Ockee doesn’t want to move around very much. She seems to experience more joint pain with the cold weather. Having sustained injuries from a car accident, I experience pain on many of the same days.
Although the stiffness hurts, I know that Ockee and I do require a minimal amount of exercise to make the bad days into good days, so we do a bit of indoor playing.
Since Ockee and I have similar issues which vary depending on the weather, I’ve found that some of the solutions to our aches and pains are similar. In the winter, I keep a humidifier in one of our rooms and instruct Ockee to rest at my feet.
In the past, Ockee’s veterinarian provided her with steroids to alleviate both her allergies and her hip pain. However, Ockee became slightly aggressive due to the medication and we no longer give it to her. Following our vet’s advice, we give her liquid children’s Tylenol. (Always check with a veterinary professional before medicating your dog.)
At times, I can tell that Ockee is hurting and that our other dog (Odin, a young and bouncy Boxer) is irritating her. When this occurs, I put Ockee in a different room or let her into her crate.
Dogs at play should always be supervised, and I have to pay special attention to ensure Ockee’s safety when our dogs play. If Odin jumps on her hips too much, she’ll get snappy. When this happens, I isolate the dogs from one another.
While Ockee’s ongoing hip dysplasia symptoms are currently manageable, it’s evident that her joint pain causes her to have a small to moderate amount of discomfort. As she’s aged, this discomfort has increased.
It’s very difficult to see the dog in pain, especially since she is in my care. When the pain becomes too great, my husband and I know that we are going to have to say goodbye to Ockee. We’ve prepared ourselves for this as best we can, knowing it will be a difficult decision but the best thing for our pet.
Until that time, we continue to manage Ockee’s pain and care for her. She requires some special attention and additional vet visits to ensure her comfort, but the joy that comes from sharing my home with pets is entirely worth the extra effort she requires.