Dr Daniel Adler

I regularly get asked what chiropractic care can do for a dog with hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia is a large cause for concern in many pet parents as it can greatly impact the quality of life and quality of movement of their dogs. There are benefits that chiropractic care can provide to help dogs with hip dysplasia.

What is hip dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is essentially poorly formed hip joints. The hip joint is a ball and socket type joint much like the shoulder. However, unlike the shoulder, the hip joint is a much deeper cup which provides stability to the joint. Often due to genetics, the hip joints do not form properly. This creates abnormal movement in the joint that can lead to early degenerative changes, movement problems and pain.

Symptoms of hip dysplasia can be quite varied but can include:

  • “Bunny hopping”
  • Reluctance to go up stairs
  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Decreased activity/early fatigue

How is it Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of hip dysplasia needs to be made by your veterinarian. There are in-office tests your veterinarian can do that will determine the presence of a problematic joint. These can include manipulating the joint to test laxity issues as well as perform x-rays. There are quite a number of treatment options to consider that your veterinarian should discuss with you. They can include surgery, physical rehab, nutritional supplementation and medications.

Chiropractic Care and Hip Dysplasia

For those that don’t want to pursue the surgical route, chiropractic care can help. While chiropractic care cannot alter the shape of the hips or fix the problem in this case, there are benefits it can offer to help improve your dog’s quality of life.

A major side effect of hip dysplasia that is often not discussed is that your dog will need to compensate elsewhere for the lack of hip mobility. This can lead to problems up the kinetic chain. Targeting and improving the secondary effects is the goal.

Dogs are supposed to be rear-wheel drive animals. When walking and running, they are supposed to push themselves forward with their hind legs and use their front legs to carry most of their weight. When the hips aren’t driving themselves forward like they are supposed to, the front legs take on the burden of pulling. Now the front legs are having to support most of the dog’s weight AND be the driving legs for forward motion. Quite often in a dog with hip dysplasia, you will see low muscle mass around the hips with thick muscles around the front legs. This type of movement puts a lot of stress through the shoulders and neck and can cause neck pain. Chiropractic care can deliver relief to soreness that will develop throughout the neck and shoulder complex.

As well, problems with hip movements often lead to issues in an area called the thoracolumbar junction (T/L junction). In the spine, the low back (lumbar spine) moves differently than the thoracic spine (mid-back). At one point, both those areas meet and subjects that one spot to multiple forces. It is an area that often becomes sore and tight as dogs try to compensate for lack of proper motion through the hips. Chiropractic care reduces tension through this area to help reduce their back pain.

So essentially, while not being a cure for hip dysplasia, chiropractic care is a great addition to help ease the discomfort and wear and tear it causes throughout the body.


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