Dog owners have many questions around hips and gait (walk).

For example, what is normal and what indicates something’s afoot (excuse the pun). Are we looking at an attractive wiggle, weak hind area or hip dysplasia? Slim hips or poor muscle development? Big strong rear end or overweight? “My dog’s not overweight, she’s just big boned?!”, unique walk or is something wrong?

What’s normal hip movement for a puppy or an older dog?

Common things we notice are:

  • A big wiggle, lots of hip swaying
  • Dogs bunny hopping (using 2 back legs together as they run) Looking lopsided
  • An overly rounded bottom area
  • 2 hind legs very close together, and
  • An unusual way of sitting.

All of the above could be normal, breed specific or could indicate a problem with hips, usually hip dysplasia (any age) or arthritis (usually older dogs). Working through the above points:

  • A wiggle might be just your dog’s walk or it could be too much movement in the lumbar spine, to compensate for not powering through the hips properly
  • 2 legs held closely together might be conformation ( your dog’s natural shape) but often a sign of hip dysplasia – a VERY basic description of Hip dysplasia = poorly formed hip joints.
  • Lopsided, uneven muscle development on one side, indicates your dog has been weight-bearing LESS on the smaller side… pain, old injury, habit?
  • Overly rounded bottom… could indicate overdevelopment of some muscles in the back because hip muscles are not working well
  • Unusual or uneven sit… often tightness, pain, old injury, sometimes habit, and
  • A rounded lower back (“roached”) often indicates pain and muscle spasm.

Signs That Something is Wrong With Your Dog’s Hips

Common complaints are… ”my dog is not as energetic, not so keen for his walk, can’t jump up onto the sofa, into the car, not so happy, doesn’t like to be touched so much, especially around the rear end, he’s not the same since that accident, fall, slip, collision in the park with other dog etc etc…”

How do you treat canine hips?

Get a diagnosis from your vet.

Determine if it’s a hip problem, if it’s serious, requiring surgery or conservative management. What type of surgery? Talk to your vet, specialist vet, get a few opinions.

Conservative treatment involves medication, supplements, weight management and appropriate exercise, physiotherapy, massage, stretching, acupuncture, adjustments to the home environment. Sounds a lot but quite simple. You don’t have to do all of these things but there is a wide selection of therapies to choose a few from, what best suits you and your dog.

Usually a combination of physio, exercise, supplements and pain control works wonders. For example, we stretch all the muscles around the hip and back area, and teach exercises for strengthening the back, hamstring and hip muscles… easy!