Important Note: This article has been checked and verified by a professional veterinarian for accuracy. However, you should always seek advice from your own vet before making any decisions on euthanasia as there are never black and white answers for this decision.
Hip dysplasia is a common disease that mainly affects larger dog breeds, but it can also be an inherited condition in some smaller breeds such as French Bulldogs and Pugs. It can worsen as your dog gets older, with the inflamed hip joints becoming very painful and limiting their mobility.
If your dog approaches the final stages of hip dysplasia where even the slightest of movements is causing them pain, humane euthanasia needs to be a serious consideration. But when is it the exact time to put down a dog with hip dysplasia and what are the guidelines?
I feel I can offer a little advice here. My friend’s elderly German shepherd suffered immensely from hip dysplasia and he had to make the decision on when to put his pet down. The advice in this guide is based on what they have told me with a mix of their personal experience and that of vet of a professional vet I asked to help validate the details in this blog post.
When to euthanize a dog with hip dysplasia?
Any decision about euthanizing a dog with hip dysplasia needs to be made based on advice from your veterinarian, so please do consult with them before deciding. In the meantime, there are certain factors you should consider.
Factors that can affect the decision to euthanize
The most important factor when you decide on the time to euthanize a dog with hip dysplasia is your dog’s quality of life. But how do you know whether they have a good quality of life? Well, there are some obvious factors…
Dogs that cannot get up, cannot walk, or go to the toilet without assistance are not living any type of life at all – in my opinion, this is the time you put your dog down so that you can peacefully end their suffering.
The factors which affect your dog’s quality of life will include:
- If they can eat and drink properly without experiencing pain
If they can go to the toilet themselves without needing help
If they are incontinent (meaning they cannot hold their urine or their feces)
If they cannot pick themselves up off the floor without dragging their legs
If they are exhibiting other issues such as breathing problems and a reduction in their mental ability
If your dog is exhibiting any or all of these signs, this may be the time when you need to consider humane euthanasia, especially if it’s too late for surgical intervention and all treatment options have been exhausted.
As harsh as it sounds, the cost of treatment will often be a factor for people. The three most common surgeries for hip dysplasia include the following:
- Double or triple pelvic osteotomy (DPO/TPO): Can cost $1,000 to $3,000 per hip.
- Femoral head ostectomy (FHO): Can cost between $1,000 to $3,000.
- Total hip replacement (THR): Can cost between $5,000 and $6,500.
If you do not have insurance that will cover the cost of surgery and you cannot afford the example costs above, you may consider crowdfunding or applying for various grants or assistance programs that are available nationally. But if your dog’s suffering is too great, humane euthanasia is a kind option.
Should you let nature take its course?
I have seen some websites and forums where dog owners have recommended you simply let nature take its course as an alternative to putting the dog down. This is not recommended and should not be a consideration. If your dog were in the wild and was unable to move due to hip dysplasia, he could lie in pain for a long time or become a victim to a predator.
The fact is that you should never just let nature take its course. Not only can it be heart-breaking for you to watch, but it is also devastatingly painful for your canine companion. Your last memories of your furry friend should not be bad ones.
When do you put down a dog with hip dysplasia then?
I’d much rather put down a dog with hip dysplasia before it gets to the point where they are in pain and cannot function as a dog should without your help and intervention.
In other words, if they cannot get up off their feet or walk, then you need to make the tough decision on euthanasia. It won’t be black and white though, so consult with a vet to come to the best decision.
Can dogs live a normal life with hip dysplasia?
Hip dysplasia will get worse with age, and older dogs will often start to struggle with their mobility. This can include being unable to climb stairs, jump onto or off a couch, or run like they once did.
This level of hip dysplasia can be managed, though, with adjustments in lifestyle as your dog gets older. It needn’t be a death sentence, and whilst your dog won’t be able to do the things he used to, you should be able to make changes to adapt for his reduced mobility.
The bottom line is this: dogs can lead relatively normal lives with hip dysplasia. However, at the point they can no longer move or even get up is the time where you have to question what is “normal”.
This is what I would describe as “end stage” hip dysplasia, which is also when you should be having a serious discussion with your vet about when to put your dog down to save him from needless suffering.
How long can a dog live with hip dysplasia?
Hip dysplasia doesn’t have to shorten a dog’s life as long as the pain is managed, and the condition can take years to reach a point where there is poor quality of life and suffering.
Many dogs can life long and happy lives despite hip dysplasia, but they will need the support and care of their owners to manage the pain and discomfort.
Do I have to put down my dog if he has hip dysplasia?
This is often not the case! Many dogs can live a happy life with hip dysplasia, providing the condition is managed and treated.
What can I do to help my dog with hip dysplasia?
Before you reach a decision on euthanasia, there are things you can do to help with your dog’s quality of life and pain management. These include the following supplementary and alternative treatments to surgery.
- Help them lose weight to take stress away from the hips.
- Monitor their exercise to avoid high impact activities on hard surfaces.
- Use physical therapy such as a passive range of motion exercises and hydrotherapy.
- Buy joint supplements with glucosamine, other glycosaminoglycans, and omega 3 fatty acids (view on Amazon).
- Anti-inflammatory medications (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids) prescribed by the vet.
- Joint fluid modifiers prescribed by the vet.
Are there any effective home treatments for hip dysplasia?
Depending on how serious the hip dysplasia is, you can help to treat it and reduce your dog’s pain with home treatments and lifestyle changes. This can include:
- Physiotherapy session at home (seek professional guidance on how to do this).
- Cut out the snacks and put them on a lean diet to help with weight loss.
- Try Omega-3 fatty acids as these are said to help with joint pain relief (view a recommended dog supplement on Amazon).
- Give your dog a warm bath more regularly to combat the effects of cold weather on the hips and joints.
- Try hydrotherapy at home if you can. You can take your dog swimming or invest in a deep paddling pool if you don’t have access to a pool or water.
- Try heat packs on your dog’s painful hips.
Is walking good for a dog with hip dysplasia?
Before you decide to walk your dog, please do consult with your vet first for further recommendations. They will know your dog best and help you determine how far the hip dysplasia has progressed.
As a rule of thumb, walking is good for dogs with hip dysplasia. It should be in moderation and not on hard surfaces like asphalt or concrete. You should stick to dirt or grass which are softer underfoot.
Soft and uneven surfaces can help your dog to develop more strength in their core as they balance and shift weight from paw to paw. When walking, avoid running and jumping, so keep your dog on the leash around other dogs. Walking can help to improve the strength in your dog’s tendons and muscles, but just make sure that the walking is low impact.
What exercises are good for a dog with hip dysplasia?
Exercise is important for dogs with hip dysplasia. It can help minimize inflammation at the level of the joints, and it will also help with muscle mass, helping to strengthen support around the hips.
However, there are certain exercises you should avoid. Running will put pressure and pain on the hips. The best exercises will be low impact activities such as swimming or gentle walking.
If you can find a canine rehabilitation specialist near you, they might have an underwater treadmill for your dog to use. The warm water and motion help the joints without placing too much pressure on the hips because weight is minimized while floating in the water.
Another exercise to try is sit and stand. In this exercise, you get your dog to sit and then beckon them to come to you and reward themwith a treat afterward. You then ask them to sit again, step back 10 paces, and repeat the “come” command.
Continue to repeat this exercise for several more sittings. This type of repetitive low impact activity can help to keep the hip joints loose and flexible. However, if your dog has end stage hip dysplasia, exercise can be very painful, so talk with your vet first about pain medication and what’s right for your dog.
Choosing the decision to euthanize your dog will be one of the most heart-breaking decisions of your life. However, you are the advocate for your dog’s quality of life, and it is even more heart-breaking to watch a beloved dog experience suffering and pain.If your dog is being kept comfortable with medications but still cannot get up and walk or is in obvious constant pain, the decision to put them down will be a little easier to make.
Hip dysplasia and arthritis only tend to get worse, not better. Knowing when to consider euthanasia due to hip dysplasia will bring an end to painful suffering, particularly if your dog is in the end stages and the condition hasn’t been managed effectively. It is the kindest thing that you can do for your canine companion.