Exercising Dogs with Hip Dysplasia: How to Help & Top Activities

This article will look at exercising dogs with hip dysplasia

Unfortunately, this condition is quite common. Many people think scientific evidence links this disorder to larger dogs like the German Shepherd and Rottweiler, and it’s true giant breeds are more susceptible, but many dogs, both big and small, develop hip dysplasia.

The condition can sometimes be managed with painkillers and physiotherapy, or surgery may be required in some cases. Either way, two of the most important things to consider if your dog suffers from HD are weight management, as this puts more pressure on the joints and a good exercise routine to strengthen your dog’s muscles and reduce pain in the affected area.

Keep reading to find out what hip dysplasia is, how a pet owner can tell if their dog is suffering from the condition and some good exercises that can be incorporated into your daily routine.

What is Canine Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a complex inherited disorder where the hip joints do not develop correctly. As a dog ages, the joint is put under significant pressure and deteriorates, leading to a loss of joint mobility. This can cause severe pain, discomfort and, in time, lameness and arthritis.

Although it is an inherited condition, environmental factors such as excess weight and the type of exercise your dog gets can turn mild dysplasia in dogs into something much more severe.

How to tell if your dog is suffering from hip dysplasia

Weakness or pain in the hind legs when walking are the usual signs of HD. Pet owners may notice their four-legged friend seems a bit wobbly or finds it hard to get up; some may be reluctant to climb stairs or jump onto the sofa like they used to

These signs can sometimes be seen in puppies but are more commonly noticed in dogs between one to two years old

It can affect dogs differently; some dogs with mild hip dysplasia can develop arthritis in their hip joints without showing any clinical signs until they are older. It can take years of gradual bone deterioration before symptoms start to show.

Breeds prone to hip joint problems

Hip dysplasia can affect any breed of dog, although it is more common in larger breeds like the ones below:

  • German Shepherds
  • Labradors
  • Rottweilers
  • Old English Sheepdogs
  • Great Pyrenees
  • French Bulldogs
  • Dogue De Bordeaux
  • Mastiffs
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Great Danes
  • Pugs

Should you Exercise a Dog with Hip Dysplasia?

It’s perfectly natural to worry that exercise will make the condition worse. However, along with a good diet low impact hip dysplasia exercises can improve the condition of your dog by building core strength, strengthening muscles, increasing blood flow, and improving your pet’s range of motion. Mild hip dysplasia in dogs can be improved with exercise!

Dog walking with hip dysplasia

Typically walking is suitable for canine hip dysplasia as long as you don’t overdo it or walk on hard surfaces like concrete that can jar your dog’s joints. You should also avoid any uneven ground and slippery surfaces. It’s a good idea to use a harness with a handle for dogs suffering from this condition as you can then assist them up steps, over tree roots and even into the car on the way home. Here is a list of steps for dogs that would help a lot by reducing the pressure on the body.

5 Gentle Exercises for Dogs with Hip Dysplasia

If your dog’s pain is such that he can’t walk for long periods, you may see rapid weight gain, which is something to be avoided as the extra weight puts tremendous strain on sore joints. Dogs with hip dysplasia also need different exercises to strengthen muscles, improve their core strength and increase their range of movement. Below are some exercises for hip dysplasia that can be done before or after surgery during rehabilitation

Stretching – Stretching exercises are important to maintain your dog’s flexibility. All it takes is a few minutes every day to help your dog improve his mobility and joint range of motion.

To stretch the hip, have your dog in a standing position and grasp the back leg just above the knee. Very gently move the leg backwards and hold it in place for 10 to 30 seconds. Repeat this two or three times with each back leg. This will give greater flexibility and condition the lower back and spine.

Other stretches you could try are doggy bows and “sit and stands” at the end of the session; give your pup a sacrum rub. The sacrum is the area just before the base of the tail; gently rubbing in a circular motion will increase spinal fluid flow, help maintain balance, and enhance mobility in the spine and hips.

Swimming – A fantastic addition to any exercise programme for dogs with joint problems and is often used for physical therapy. If you have a hydrotherapy centre nearby, they may have an underwater treadmill you could use; alternatively, if you have a smaller breed, you can fill up a warm bath for some pain relief for the hind limbs.

Swimming is an excellent low impact exercise for hip dysplasia as it builds up the gluteal muscles taking pressure off the hip area and back legs, loosens tight ligaments, soothes pain.

Balance Boards – Some of the best exercises for hip dysplasia in dogs can be done with balance boards as these condition your dog’s core muscles much more than dog walks. Introducing a newbie dog to the boards may take some patience, but the benefits are huge; they improve muscle mass, sure-footedness and balance and are available relatively cheaply online. You can even mix it up with a few different ones, like peanut balls.

Cavaletti – One of the other methods you can use to give your pet some mental stimulation and improve their joints. Cavaletti poles are an excellent dog hip dysplasia exercise. Simply place some wooden poles on the ground in various patterns and offer words of encouragement for your dog to step over them. As they get used to it, the poles can be raised a couple of inches; doing this for a few minutes a day will increase your dog’s proprioception, balance and joint flexibility in a fun way.

Agility Training – It’s essential to keep your dog busy and occupied if they are not walking as far as they used to. While full agility is not recommended for a dog with hip dysplasia, some range of motion exercises can be adapted to suit dogs with issues with their joints. Weave poles, for example, will improve your dog’s balance and low obstacles used on a soft surface can encourage your pooch to pick their feet up and strengthen the front legs. You could even practice some sit and stands or add a wobble board. Just be sure to avoid slippery floors.


What exercises are bad for hip dysplasia?

Any exercises involving jumping are bad for canines that suffer from joint pain, especially if it’s on a hard surface; running and climbing stairs should be avoided.

How long should I walk my dog with hip dysplasia?

It depends on the dog really, how active they normally are and how severe the condition is. Short walks are better combined with some of the low impact exercises above.

The Last Word

Hip dysplasia is a painful affliction that unfortunately means your dog will require lifelong treatment.

Some respond very well to daily management, things like keeping them at a healthy weight, introducing joint supplements and medication for the pain, perhaps a daily relaxing massage and most important of all, gentle exercises that strengthen their core. Find out what dog breed exercise your pup needs and if your dog improves, it can live a long, happy life, but in some cases, your dog may need surgery.

John Devlin

Blogger and owner of George and Henry. Two gorgeous goldens that couldn’t be more different. One is a dream loving and caring, and his sibling is as naughty as can be. When I am not blogging about dogs, I love watching sport and travelling with the family.
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