How to Relieve Hip Pain in Dogs
Hip pain is a common problem in dogs that are arthritic or that suffer from hip dysplasia. The condition often becomes worse when the dog stops using the leg, resulting in muscle wastage. This means that the dog has less muscle to support the joint, which starts a vicious circle of lameness leading to further lameness. There are a number of techniques that can help to make your dog more comfortable, including physiotherapy, non-medicinal pain relief, and painkillers. Learn about these techniques so that you can help relieve your dog’s hip pain.
Learn about dog massage.Giving your dog a massage may help to provide stress relief, better circulation, and pain relief. It is also a great way to bond with your dog and it may even help you to detect injuries or other health conditions that may require treatment.
- Massage is a recognized therapy with beneficial effects that is advocated and practiced by veterinary physiotherapists.
Know when massageshould notbe done.A massage is not always the answer to your dog’s pain. In some cases, a massage may make your dog feel worse. You should not massage your dog if he has:
- a broken or dislocated hip
- an infection in the joint
- a skin infection
- If you suspect any of these conditions, take your dog to visit your veterinarian right away. These are ailments that need immediate medical treatment by a professional.
Get your dog on his side with the bad hip exposed.This shouldn't be too hard as he'll likely lay on this side anyway in an effort to keep weight off the affected hip. When you touch the area, you may notice that it's stiff and tense even when it's not being used. This is a good sign that massage can be effective.
- As long as the skin or bone isn't broken, massage can help alleviate your pup's pain. However, if you notice any skin issues or if your dog is audibly in pain, skip the massage and go straight to your vet for a physical assessment.
Massage your dog's hip with the flat of your palm.In a rocking motion, apply pressure with the heel of your hand, working upwards towards the heart. Slow and gentle movements are soothing; hard and fast movement stimulates. For pain relief, 1 motion every 5 seconds is ideal. Massage the affected limb for 10 to 20 minutes, two to three times a day.
- An animal with hip pain will have tense, stiff muscles. The tension in the muscles compresses the joint, making inflamed surfaces rub together, causing further pain. Massage not only helps the muscles to relax, but it also stimulates the release of endorphins – a natural painkiller with a similar chemical composition to morphine.
Work upwards from the extremity.To make sure you're massaging the hip correctly, imagine massaging fluid back towards the heart. Working the opposite direction forces blood to pool which can lead to swelling and reduced mobility. It also feels better for your dog to stretch the muscles up instead of forcing them down.
Using Passive Mobilization
Consider using passive mobilization.Passive mobilization is similar to stretching. Passive mobilization of a hip joint involves gently stretching the affected hind leg backwards, away from the head. Passive mobilization uses gentle limb extensions with the aim of keeping muscles conditioned and joints mobile.
- The theory behind passive mobilization is that pain restricts the movement of the leg, but then the hip joint becomes stiff, and this leads to a further loss of movement, and the vicious cycle continues until the joint becomes chronically painful and stiff.
Decide how to position your dog.You can use passive mobilization with the dog in a standing or lying down position. If both hips are sore it is better to have the dog lie down since he will be uncomfortable taking extra weight on the opposite hip when one leg is raised.
- Try placing a small pillow between your dog’s legs to make him even more comfortable.
Lay your dog on his good side.To use passive mobilization to stretch the left hip, lay the dog on his right side, with the left leg uppermost. For the right hip, lay the dog on his left side, with his right leg uppermost.
- This will likely be the position he's most comfortable in anyway. Laying on the opposite side takes the weight and pressure off the bad hip.
Begin pushing the thigh backwards.Slide your left hand in front of the thigh halfway down the thigh bone, and cup the cranial muscles in your left palm. Apply gentle but firm pressure so as to push the thigh backwards so that the dog's paws moves backwards, too.
- Do not force the movement, and stop if the dog gets uncomfortable. You're not trying to improve his flexibility, you're trying to stretch the already taut, stiff muscle.
Hold this extended position for around 40 seconds and then release.Try to do this for two ten minute sessions a day. This helps keep the joint supple and relieves pain.
- Mobilization is the action of passively extending a limb with the aim of keeping the muscle conditioned and the joint mobile. The theory behind mobilization is that pain restricts the movement of the leg, but then the hip joint becomes stiff, and this leads to a further loss of movement, and a downward cycle of under-use established.
Using Medical Therapy
Start your dog on NSAIDs.Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are prescription painkillers that reduce inflammation. They work by inhibiting the "bad" COX-2 enzymes that mediate joint inflammation, whilst they have smaller effects on the "good" COX-1 enzymes that maintain blood flow to the kidney and stomach lining. In short, they can reduce your dog's pain and inflammation.
- These drugs have a high safety margin when used correctly and are less likely to cause unpleasant side effects such as gastric ulceration and bleeding disorders when compared to other painkillers. NSAIDs that are often prescribed by veterinarians are meloxicam (Metacam), carprofen (Rimadyl), and robenacoxib (Onsior).
- The maintenance dose of metacam is 0.05mg/kg by mouth, with or after food, once daily. The oral suspension contains 1.5mg/ml; a typical 30kg Labrador requires 1ml daily on his food.
Give your dog aspirin.Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) can provide mild to moderate pain relief. If no other pain relief is available, a healthy dog may take aspirin at the dose of 10mg/kg twice a day, with or after food. Aspirin commonly comes in 300mg tablets, so a typical dose for a 66lb Labrador would be one tablet twice a day with food.
- However, long-term use is associated with gastric ulceration, especially when given on an empty stomach. This happens because aspirin reduces blood flow to the gut lining, stomach, and kidney. Buffered aspirin may help with this problem, but aspirin should still be used sparingly in a dog.
- If your dog requires frequent doses to control its pain, ask your veterinarian to examine your dog and prescribe one of the safer NSAID’s.
- Aspirin should never be given in addition to an NSAID medication. When combined, both drugs are even more likely to cause gastric ulceration with serious consequences, including sudden death.
Consider acetaminophen.Acetaminophen, or Tylenol can be given to dogs. However, take care when dosing because exceeding the recommended dose overloads the liver with a toxic metabolite called N-acetyl-p-aminobenzoquinonimine, which can cause liver damage, and ultimately liver failure.
- The dose is 10mg/kg by mouth, twice a day, with or after food. Most tablets are 500mg and so a 66 pound Labrador can take a maximum of 3/5 of a tablet twice daily. If in doubt, always give a lower dose.
- For small dogs, only use the children’s suspension to avoid overdosing the dog.
Use heat.The application of heat helps dilate blood vessels and stimulates circulation to the hip. In turn, this helps remove noxious toxins that irritate pain receptor nerves. Just be careful you don't burn your dog – always test it on your skin first to make sure it's a safe temperature.
- A simple method is to use a wheat bag – the sort you heat up in a microwave. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to heat the bag, and with the dog lying down so that the sore hip is accessible, rest the warmed wheat bag over the hip. Leave it there for 10 to 15 minutes, and then follow with some passive movement exercises.
Ask your veterinarian about Transcutaneous Nerve Stimulation (TNS).This treatment involves the application of a small electrical current to the skin in order to numb sensory nerves and block pain transmission. It does this by stimulating delta fibers that release enkephalin in the spinal cord, which in turn reduces sensitivity to pain.
- Veterinarians often administer this type of treatment after surgery to help with the pain, but the effects only last for about an hour.
Find a veterinarian trained to provide laser acupuncture.Veterinarians who are trained in traditional Chinese veterinary medicine (TCVM) can provide laser acupuncture treatments to your dog to help relieve hip pain. The laser stimulates the release of your dog’s body’s own pain relieving chemicals. Ask your veterinarian for a referral if you are interested in this treatment option.
QuestionWhat can cause a dog to have swollen bumps on both sides of its hips?
Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsVeterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsExpert AnswerIn a heavy dog if the bumps are symmetrical, equal in size, and not painful, then there's a distinct possibility they could be fat pads.Thanks!
QuestionShould a pet undergo knee surgery if the vet also found a hip problem?
Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsVeterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsExpert AnswerThis depends on the type of hip problem. Sometimes having a bad knee places an extra strain on the hip as the dog shifts its weight differently. If the hip is sprained because of this, then correcting the knee problem also helps the hip. Also, altered weight bearing can put extra pressure on the hip and, under certain circumstances, potentially causes early arthritis as a secondary problem in the hip, so corrective knee surgery is of benefit.Thanks!
QuestionCan a dog have a dislocated hip?
Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsVeterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsExpert AnswerYes, dogs can dislocate their hips. This is intensely painful and the dog will be very lame. Always see a vet if you suspect a dislocation.Thanks!
QuestionCan you give a dog Tylenol?
Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsVeterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsExpert AnswerTylenol (acetaminophen) can be given to dogs, provided they aren't on other medication and have healthy kidneys. The dose is 10 mg per 1 kg body weight, given twice a day with food.Thanks!
QuestionHow can I help my dog with arthritis pain?
Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsVeterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsExpert AnswerThere are several options for pain relief for arthritis. Because anti-inflammatories are cleared through the dog's kidneys, it's best to work with your vet to find the safest drug for the dog. A food supplement containing chondroitin and glucosamine can help condition the joints and slow deterioration.Thanks!
QuestionWhat can you give a dog for hip pain?
Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsVeterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsExpert AnswerFor long term use, the safest medications are the non-steroidal anti-inflammatories supplied by your vet. Also, let the dog take things easy so they don't cause further inflammation.Thanks!
QuestionCan I give a 50 pound dog Ibuprofen?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIbuprofen is not safe for dogs. Many human medications do not work the same for animals. You should talk to your veterinarian to figure out what will be safe for your dog to take.Thanks!
QuestionShould I use a massager on the arthritic hip of my dog?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerI would check with a veterinary physiotherapist to learn the proper way to give your dog a massage with both your hands and a massager.Thanks!
- Ask your veterinarian for suggestions on how to make your dog comfortable and relieve some of his pain. Your veterinarian may be willing to demonstrate techniques that you can use to comfort your dog, such as massage.
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