When should you euthanize a dog with hip dysplasia?

Losing a dog is the worst part of pet ownership, but they rely on us to ensure they have a good quality of life. Long-term physical conditions such as hip dysplasia will worsen over time. Sometimes, the most humane decision is to choose euthanasia, but when do you know it is the right time to put your dog down with hip dysplasia?

When to put a dog down with hip dysplasia

As dog owners, it is incredibly difficult to say goodbye, but our ability to let our pets go should not outweigh the pain they are suffering. Their quality of life should always be the priority.

When your dog is first diagnosed with hip dysplasia, your veterinarian will have a few options of treatment available, especially if the condition is new.

They may recommend a gentle exercise schedule and regular hydrotherapy or physiotherapy session, as well as a pain management plan using anti-inflammatory pain medication. Putting your dog on a calorie-controlled diet to reduce weight gain will also help to manage their condition.

In more severe cases, your dog may require surgery. This may involve a partial or full hip replacement or surgeries that alter the anatomy of the hip.

In the case that your dog has had surgery, his therapy sessions and/or pain medication are not effectively controlling his pain and he has severely limited movement, you should consider euthanizing your dog as an option. A dog who has difficulty with simple movement and is in obvious pain will have no quality of life.

What is hip dysplasia in dogs?

Hip dysplasia is a genetic condition that causes the dog’s hip joints to develop abnormally. In a healthy hip joint, the ball joint of the femur (thigh bone) fits snugly into the hip socket.

A dog with hip dysplasia may have a shallow hip socket, a deformed ball joint or both. This means the ball joint does not sit in the socket as it should. As they age, this begins to cause swelling and pain.

Large breed dogs are more susceptible to hip dysplasia, but any dog has the chance of developing the condition if either one or both of their parents also had it.

Responsible dog breeders will have their dogs screened for hip dysplasia and will not breed from dogs who have the condition, even if they are not displaying any signs of pain or walking difficulties.

What are the first signs of canine hip dysplasia?

Most cases of hip dysplasia are diagnosed between 6 and 12 months of age when a dog experiences the most growth. You may notice that your dog appears to be stiff when lying down or getting up and he may avoid exercise, have a noticeable limp and avoid climbing stairs.

Your veterinarian will observe your dog walking to determine if they have an abnormal gait, which is often displayed as a sway of the back end when your dog walks. They will also perform a full body examination looking for indications of stiffness or pain.

Finally, they will perform radiographs to get a better look at your dog’s hip joints. If your dog is diagnosed with hip dysplasia, they may be referred to an orthopedic surgeon.

Can a dog live comfortably with hip dysplasia?

While older dogs won’t be able to climb on the couch or run with the same speed as before, you shouldn’t expect them to go ‘limp’, either. Dogs also still enjoy chewing on bone and playing fetch if they are physically active.

Is hip dysplasia painful?

The short answer is yes. Hip dysplasia in dogs is painful, and dogs will take any measures necessary to avoid putting pressure on their hips, making pain a daily struggle.

How do you live with a dog with hip dysplasia?

Any dog with hip dysplasia can live a long life if it’s taken care of properly. As long as the dog is fed the right amount, it will be able to exercise sufficiently to maintain its weight.

How much does it cost to fix hip dysplasia in dogs?

THR (total hip replacement) is widely used to treat canine hip dysplasia. For most large breeds, the average costs are $3,500 to $7,000 per hip. Labradors and Golden Retrievers (the most popular breeds in the USA) usually cost between $4,500 to $7,000 per hip but can reach up to $10,000.


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Hannah Elizabeth is an English animal behavior author, having written for several online publications. With a degree in Animal Behaviour and over a decade of practical animal husbandry experience, Hannah's articles cover everything from pet care to wildlife conservation. When she isn't creating content for blog posts, Hannah enjoys long walks with her Rottweiler cross Senna, reading fantasy novels and breeding aquarium shrimp.

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