Our quest for an effective hip dysplasia treatment


We are big animal lovers here at my house.  We have had lots of pets over the years, of pretty much every imaginable description, and they are family members to us, not just pets.  None of them are outside pets, they all live in the house with us.

We have a big dog – a Rottweiler / German Shepherd mix – named Napoleon.  We should have named him Bear, because in reality, he kind of looks like a bear since he has a huge body, and a much smaller head with a pointy snout, LOL.

We got Napoleon in an unusual way, in that he chose us.  We had gone to eat at a local restaurant which had karaoke, because at the time my son was dating a girl who aspired to become a singer, and we thought it would be good practice for her to sing in front of an audience of strangers.  When hubby went out onto the patio to get some fresh air (and a break from some of the horrendously bad singing, LOL), he found that a couple of employees were out there with a puppy on a leash.

As the story was told to us, this puppy had been owned by some people out in the holler whose house got busted for making meth.  When the cops burst into the house, the puppy ran like crazy, out into the woods.  The owners went to jail, and the neighbors started looking for the puppy, since there are some wildcats and bears in that area, which meant the poor puppy was in danger.  They eventually found him days later, half starved, and this young couple (relatives of the folks who found him) took him in, only to find that their landlord would not allow them to have any pets.  It was obvious even then that he was going to be huge, after all.

So, they took him to work in the hope that someone there would take him in, and they would not have to take him to the pound.

As soon as Napoleon laid eyes on hubby, he ignored everybody else and headed his way.  Hubby is a bit of an animal whisperer, you see, and critters of every imaginable description are automatically attracted to him.  At that time we had a cat and two very elderly dogs with serious health problems – a 17-year-old beagle and a 19-year-old cocker spaniel / pit bull mix – and were not really looking to add to the family, because of concern about stressing the elderly dogs.

This puppy was not about to take no for an answer though, so he really laid on the charm.  Before I knew it, hubby was in love with this dog and was asking if I wanted to adopt him.  Of course, after seeing those expressive eyes and realizing he had chosen us as his new owners, I could not say no.

Now, in all truthfulness Napoleon is not the smartest dog on earth, probably due to having been exposed to meth fumes from the time he was a tiny puppy, but he is extremely sweet.  He is also extremely spoiled, as are all our pets, and sometimes we laughingly say that he does not even know that he is a dog, LOL.  Other times, it is obvious that he has no idea how big he is, because he wants to be a lap dog though he outweighs me.  He will actually hug us by getting up close and leaning into us, and his giant tongue is always ready to cover our faces in doggie kisses.  Needless to say, we absolutely adore him.

Napoleon is now seven years old, and we have never regretted for even one minute taking him in and making him part of the family.  He had been diagnosed with elbow and shoulder dysplasia years ago, when he was limping on and off on one front leg.  Okay, we thought, we will treat that and move on, and thus we did.  He takes a glucosamine/chondroitin supplement, and is treated with Tramadol for pain.  He cannot take Rimadyl or other NSAIDS, however, because it caused him to develop a hemorrhagic condition of the intestines which landed him in the ICU for days, and nearly killed him.

Last week, it became obvious that he was in severe pain, but this time, for the first time, it was in his rear legs.  First it seemed to be one, then the other, so we began to worry that he had injured his spine.  Even just lying down, he would whine in obvious distress, though he was already on Tramadol for his other pain, so we took him to our veterinarian immediately.

We were quite surprised by the entire situation, because as far as we were aware, he had suffered no injury.  Napoleon is an inside dog, who goes outside just to potty or nap in the sunshine, but we have a fenced backyard and nothing out there which could hurt him.  So we just thought that perhaps he had sprained a muscle while running up and down the fenceline, which he does sometimes when he sees other dogs outside.

The vet did x-rays of his rear legs and his spine, and we were shocked to be told that in addition to the shoulder and elbow dysplasia, he has severe bilateral hip dysplasia as well.  They doubled his dosage of Tramadol, as well as his dosage of supplements, but he is still in tremendous pain.

They said that they do not recommend hip replacement surgery due to his age and the fact that he has multiple dysplasias.  They did recommend that we consider starting laser treatments in a couple of weeks, when we have his pain more under control, and said they have had some good results with it in treating hip dysplasia.  However, I had never even heard of that treatment before, so I still have to do some more research on it.

One thing is for sure, and that is that we are not giving up on Napoleon, anymore than we would give up on any other family member.  Some people, as we all know, simply euthanize dogs with a diagnosis of severe hip dysplasia.  However, other than being in pain which restricts his movements quite a bit – but which we hope will become more manageable as we try different treatments – he has a good quality of life.  He is spoiled rotten, gets lots of love and attention, still enjoys that love and attention, and the truth is, he was never a very active dog anyway (and now we know why).

Until and unless the vet tells us that there is nothing which can be done to alleviate his suffering, we will continue looking for treatments, and we will spend whatever is necessary to help him.  We are not at all interested in any of the various scam treatments seen on the internet, though.   We want (and need) to find proven treatments used by experienced veterinarians for this particular condition, and of course, it is possible that there are treatments out there with which our vet (who we love and trust) is not familiar.

That brings me to the point of this blog post.  If anyone out there has dealt with severe hip dysplasia in their dog, what worked and what did not work?  Can you share your experiences?


10 thoughts on “Our quest for an effective hip dysplasia treatment

  1. Heartbreaking to read. I don’t have first hand experience with natural therapies for Napoleon’s condition but a coworker battled it when I worked in the Vitamin Industry. First thing she did was start making his dog food, it had plenty of carrots, whole grains, good meats, and other veggies. Sometimes it was a raw combination but more often the cooked method. Commercial dog foods just don’t have the much needed enzymes and antioxidants for any canine much less an ailing one. Like you, she also used glucosamine/chondroitin products. What I can suggest is that you try to obtain expired or short-dated supplements from a local source. They can’t be sold and typically are still viable products with no or minimal breakdown of active ingredients. The company I worked for gave them away by the pallets just for asking and send them by UPS if the recipient paid for shipping. Good luck to you, I know what it’s like to try and give some relief to an ailing pup. We lost ours a few years ago and life just isn’t the same.

    • Thanks very much! I am very sorry you lost your sweet, and I do understand that life just is not the same without them since we lost two elderly dogs in the past few years. They really are family members, after all.

  2. i am so sorry to read this story, your poor baby. i have a 9 yr old bichon friese named bella and she has hip dysplasia and i give her an 81 mg aspirin in a vienna sausage every morning after she eats breakfast and it has completely changed her! she races around like a puppy and my vet said swimming was good for her and she likes to swim so i take her in the pool every day and she will start “paddling” before she even touches water and she swims back and forth between my spouse and myself. it’s like i have a youngster again! i wish you all the best. katie

    • Thank you very much! We do not have a swimming pool, but thanks to your recommenation, we are going to install a sizable 4-foot above-ground pool for him next weekend. Hubby is in construction, and he has already sketched out an interior and exterior ramp which he will build, to ensure Napoleon can get in and out of the pool very easily and safely (he is waaaay too big for me to pick up and put into the pool, since he weighs more than me). If he likes that and it helps, we will build a nice inground pool in the spring for him. Hopefully water exercise will help him as much as it helps your sweet, and I am going to ask my vet about the aspirin at our next appointment later this week. Thanks a million! 🙂

  3. This may or not be something that you would consider but I have a friend whose slightly dysplastic dog goes to a chiropractor. I have actually brought my dogs for adjustments when they pull muscles etc. She swears by it. It may be worth consideration. I give all of my dog food derived vitamin c supplements which is believed (in alternative medicine circles) to prevent and possibly relieve the symptoms of active dysplasia. I also feed a totally raw prey model diet which I believe helps and you can do it at low cost with butcher scraps.

  4. Hello, we had a beautiful, spoiled, loving Golden Labrador named Zoe. We just lost her a couple weeks ago to cancer of the stomach. We are heartbroken and will always miss her very much. Zoe, like Napoleon had dysplasia. Hers were in both of her back hips. She limped and was uncomfortable. We took her to our Veterinarian. They were using a machine to do electrical stimulus on her spine and hips. I was with her, during a treatment and saw what they were doing. I thought if I messaged her it would bring blood circulation to the areas, just like they were doing. We started to message her daily, usually at night when she was settling down. Zoe’s muscles were tight, but as we messaged the area we could feel her muscle loosen up. After about a month she stopped limping and was moving around great! For years we did this for Zoe. She did fine and was not on any medication. I hope this helps and works as well for Napoleon as it did Zoe! On another note, I was born in Fairmont, WVa and lived in a small mining town of Everettsville WVa when I was small. We went back a few years ago and the mining was gone, but the land was beautiful!

  5. Our 6 month old Mastiff/Lab mix has just been diagnosed with very severe bilateral hip dysplasia and has what we thought was a prior injury but turns out is L shoulder and elbow dysplasia. Very sad. He is in pain even on both rimadyl and tramadol. We are looking into hip surgeries but the cost is very high. He is too big for anything less than a Total Hip but the vet school is concerned that he has too little hip bone for the Total hip. We may have less options but are in the early stages of investigating.

  6. Check to see if there is a Certified Canine Rehab Therapist in your area. It’s like a physical therapist, but for dogs. I’ve been a physical therapist for 16 years now, and have recently received my degree as a CCRT. There are strength and training exercises that can be done to enhance the musculature around the hip joint with positive results. I’ve seen really good results in several dogs that have been diagnosed with hip dysplagia. The laser therapy that your vet recommended is a cold light laser that is used for pain management. Also a good option that a Canine Rehab Therapist should also have available. I wish you all the best!

  7. Hi, there are a few things you might be able to do for your dog, if you can find a practitioner in your area. None of them are cheap. Here in Texas I’ve heard of people getting hip replacements for their dogs with hip dispasia. I did have a vet tell me that if successful, this can be a total cure for the dog. Very expensive, and requires major efforts in keeping the dog very quiet and with no running or jumping – for weeks or months during recovery.

    To alleviate symptoms and suffering, but not really a cure – the degeneration will continue over the long term, but hopefully quality of life will be much improved due to the alleviation of pain:

    1. Laser treatments for arthritis pain can be amazingly effective to improve quality of life. Google the recent stories about John Unger and his dog Schoep. Very touching, and also pretty amazing to see how this old dog has an entirely new lease on life as a result of his (regular and ongoing) laser treatments.

    2. Prolotherapy. Can be difficult to find a practitioner. Used by “human” doctors since the 30’s in Eurpoe but still considered alternative therapy in the US. Evidently More and more vets are investigating this therapy which involves injecting dextrose into the tissue to produce inflammation which in turn promotes healing. I myself have had it done – for me it was like a miracle cure for my pain and ultimately healing of a long term soft injury. I am having some arthritis pain and if it gets more constant, I won’t hesitate to try Prolotherapy for relief. I had it done by an osteopath so you might contact the WV Schoolf of Osteopathic Medicine in Lewisburg to see if they know of any human or animal practitioners in WV.

    Good luck.

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