Pet Hip Dysplasia & Animal Arthritis

A considerable part of my Honolulu veterinary practice addresses orthopedic conditions from chronic arthritis to acute, complex fracture repair and spinal surgery.

One such condition that most folks are familiar with is Hip Dysplasia and Hip Arthritis. However, the awareness of the presence of pain is often not well thought through or perceived. I want to dwell on this and try to provide guidelines for you to evaluate your pet for hip pain. Remember, whining and crying are far too crude an assessment of pain and we must never make this a guide to judge the existence of chronic pain. Consider Grandma or Auntie with hip pain. They don’t cry out when they are slow to get up from their favorite chair. Similarly, the signs for animal hip arthritis are typically subtle.

Knowing the Signs

As with ourselves and others, we must be aware, in tune and sensitive to our pet’s body language. One such observation is a simple thing such as a look in your pet’s eyes. You can quickly become aware when they are happy, excited, anticipating, anxious, etc. Those same eyes convey discomfort and sadness, especially when carrying the burden of chronic pain. Then come changes in attitude with activity. Slower to get up from lying down, especially first thing in the morning. Slowing up on walks, perhaps just sitting down, not wanting to go further. All these observations become more clear when looking back and considering activity as a puppy, a year ago, 6 months ago, and so on. Does your pet not jump in your vehicle as readily as before or not at all anymore? Do you find yourself sleeping alone more often because your furry companion cannot jump on the bed as easily? You may notice they sit down or even lay down to eat after a few bites of their dinner.

Perhaps you notice your dog swaying back and forth as they walk when you’re watching from behind, or notice they are taking shorter steps with their hind legs. That is because it is so much easier and so much more comfortable to shift the whole back leg forward when walking rather than rotate that the top of the thigh bone in a painful joint. Both of these changes are tricks that pets quickly learn to limit the pain that they feel. You won’t believe how many responsible pet owners come to me having noticed these changes but say, “He doesn’t hurt Doc, he just walks funny.” I have to quickly explain, “No, he walks ‘funny’ because he hurts.”

Fortunately, your pet doesn’t have to hurt — Kahala Pet Hospital has over 30 years of experience with Honolulu pet hip dysplasia and animal arthritis treatment in Hawaii!