How to Treat Hip Dysplasia in Dogs With Acupressure?

Hip dysplasia is a common condition in dogs. It is a hereditary disease that is also associated with rapid growth and high energy diet. However, hip dysplasia could be seen on rare occasions in smaller breeds too. At the end of this article, you will find a point prescription to treat hip dysplasia with acupressure.

What is Hip Dysplasia?

Dysplasia is the Latin term for ‘abnormal growth’. In this manner, hip dysplasia refers to abnormal development and growth of the hips.

Essentially the ball-shaped head of the femur bone doesn’t fit the sockets of the pelvis on one or both sides. In this condition, the joint doesn’t function smoothly. The ball doesn’t sit tightly in the flattened socket and tends to slip aside. Hip dysplasia occurs during the growing phase when your dog is still a puppy. As the body tries to stabilize the joint the unfortunate outcome is arthritis.

Large pure bred dogs tend to be affected by hip dysplasia. Examples are:

  • German Shepherds
  • Mastiffs
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Rottweilers
  • Newfoundlands

Signs of Hip Dysplasia

Signs tend to show up in dogs between 4 months and 2 years of age. They often present with the following symptoms: 

  • decreased activity 
  • limited range of motion
  • limping
  • loss of muscle mass on the thighs
  • enlargement of the shoulder muscles 
  • stiffness 
  • reluctance to running, climbing and jumping

Depending on the severity of the condition these symptoms can vary between individual dogs. Many dogs show the first signs of hip dysplasia between 1.5-2 years of age in conjunction with already developed arthritis.

How Hip Dysplasia is Diagnosed

A simple physical exam is sometimes enough for your vet to suspect hip dysplasia. It includes manipulating the hind legs and testing the range of motion and looseness of the joint. During this check-up, the vet will acknowledge if the dog experiences pain or discomfort.

In some cases, blood work might come in helpful to rule out other similar conditions. The complete history of your dog’s symptoms, overall health, and possible injuries can help narrow the number of differential diagnoses.

The final confirmation of the condition comes with radiography. Since the dog needs to be radiographed lying on its back with both of the hind legs positioned straight sedation is required to assure maximum comfort for your dog. 

Treatment of Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia can be treated both surgically and conservatively. Conservative or non-surgical treatment is indicated when the condition isn’t too severe or surgery is not an option for whatever reason. Your vet will prescribe anti-inflammatory medications and joint supplements to alleviate the symptoms. Reducing the dog’s weight, physical therapy such as hydrotherapy or acupuncture, and restricting exercises can help dogs feel better.

If the dog is a good candidate for surgery there are a few surgical strategies that veterinarians use to correct hip dysplasia. Double (or Triple) Pelvic Osteotomy is performed in puppies younger than 10 months of age. Femoral Head Osteotomy is performed by cutting the femoral head off. It can be done in older and younger patients, and while it doesn’t recreate a normal hip function it reduces the discomfort greatly. Total Hip Replacement is the most effective and most expensive surgical treatment. The vet replaces the entire joint using plastic or metal implants returning the hip to normal function.

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Hip Arthritis

Unfortunately, many dogs will develop osteoarthritis despite surgical intervention. Some studies even come to the conclusion that the development of arthritic changes do not differ between surgical and non-surgical cases.

Osteoarthritis is one of the most commonly diagnosed medical conditions in our canine companions. The disease which is also known as degenerative joint disease (DJD) leads to restricted movement and mobility issues. When a dog is diagnosed with osteoarthritis, it means that the affected joint is in a state of chronic inflammation and pain.

Complementary Therapies for Hip Arthritis

Osteoarthritis is a progressive disorder. Even until today no cure has been found to stop the disease process entirely. As arthritis can’t be cured we have to learn how to manage it to make our dog’s life as comfortable as possible.

Here is what we can do to alleviate the symptoms of hip arthritis:

  • Weight loss is the easiest and most powerful ways to treat arthritis. A 9% reduction in body mass will significantly improve mobility in a overweigh dog.
  • Omega 3 fatty acids have been proven to have an anti-inflammatory effect and should be given long-term.
  • Acupuncture helps to bring down the inflammation and reduces the pain level.
  • Physiotherapy and Hydrotherapy help to improve joint mobility.
  • Home and Exercise Modifications are essential to avoid re-injury and give your dog the best possible quality of life.

Pressure Points for Hip Arthritis and Hip Dysplasia

Pressure points have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for thousands of years. Pressure point treatment, or Acupressure, is a form of manual stimulation used to promote healing processesrelax tense muscles and to alleviate pain.

Do not underestimate the beneficial effect of this simple technique! When the dog is treated regularly acupressure can play an important role in supporting treatments & medications prescribed by your vet & acupuncturist.

Massage the folowing pressure points 2-3 minutes per day to soothe your dog’s pain from hip dysplasia or arthritic changes of the hip joint.

  • BL 54 – dorsal to the head of the femur.
  • LIV 03 – between the 2nd & 3rd toe.
pressure points to treat hip pain in dogs
LIV 03

Do you want to learn more about acupressure and more points that help hip pain? Have a look at my illustrated Guide on Acupressure.


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– Felix