For many dog owners, their pet’s hip dysplasia diagnosis makes them feel helpless.
Without corrective surgery, affected dogs suffer from painful joint grinding and rubbing with every step, which results in chronic arthritis and an increased risk for other orthopedic injuries. But, lifelong pain medication isn’t the only option for these dogs.
While you won’t find a bag labeled “Dog food for hip dysplasia” at your local pet store, your dog’s bowl can be powerful for producing life-changing results. A well-crafted, targeted hip dysplasia diet can effectively help build strong hindleg muscles, decrease joint inflammation, support a lean body weight, and nourish bones and soft tissues for smooth and comfortable growth, repair, and movement.
We asked New Jersey-based veterinarian Dr. Judy Morgan to explain what foods and ingredients can help reduce hip dysplasia risk for vulnerable pups and effectively relieve and support dysplastic dogs.
Although hip dysplasia most commonly affects large- and giant-breed dogs, this debilitating, predominantly inherited condition can affect any dog breed or size, so all dog owners must understand how their pup’s food and lifestyle can create positive change.
Dr. Morgan explains the five components of a hip dysplasia diet that can minimize your dog’s risk of disease or relieve their suffering if they have the disease.
Dr. Morgan is a fan of omega-3 fatty acids for their anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce painful hip joint inflammation (i.e., a precursor to arthritis) and help lubricate joints. Omega-3 fatty acids naturally occur in fish oil and flaxseed oil, which can be given to dogs as a supplement (e.g., capsule or liquid), and fresh foods such as salmon and chia seeds.
High-calcium foods, such as yogurt, help strengthen bones and prevent additional joint damage. Adding supplemental calcium to an adult dog’s diet can alleviate joint-related discomfort and reduce arthritis risk, a known hip dysplasia complication that often increases with age.
As with other minerals, calcium must be dosed carefully to prevent excess intake, especially during puppyhood when bones are undergoing rapid growth. Calcium over-supplementation can encourage harmful overgrowth and result in serious limb complications.
Consult with your veterinarian before adding additional calcium to your puppy or dog’s diet.
Anemia, which results when the body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells, is a common, but little-known, autoimmune response to canine hip dysplasia.
Fortunately, you can combat this debilitating condition and help your pup’s body make additional red blood cells with an iron-rich diet. Beef and chicken are naturally high in digestible iron and protein to support your pup’s muscle development and repair. Leafy greens are also excellent iron sources, and kale and spinach are also packed with vitamin C, which helps rebuild connective tissues that hip dysplasia has destroyed.
Dog owners can strengthen and rebuild their pet’s damaged joint cartilage by adding naturally occurring glucosamine and chondroitin to their dog’s meals, Dr. Morgan says. “I love adding New Zealand deer antler velvet and green-lipped mussels, as these provide superb joint support,” she says. She also recommends readily available glucosamine and chondroitin sources, such as bone broth, cartilage, and finely ground bone.
Lifestyle is a critical factor in your dog’s hip and joint health. Aside from incorporating supportive ingredients into your dog’s diet, feeding your dog a measured portion that’s suitable for their size and activity level is extremely important.
Portion control is key at every life stage, but is critical during the growth phase, because early overfeeding can increase your puppy’s hip dysplasia risk, “Calorie and carbohydrate consumption should be controlled to keep body mass lean and to slow growth,” Dr. Morgan says.
If your dog has been diagnosed with hip dysplasia and is overweight, they need safe and controlled weight loss to help ease their joint-related discomfort, improve mobility, and reduce pressure on their hip joints. Ask your veterinarian to help you determine your dog’s ideal weight and to design an effective weight loss program that incorporates safe low-impact physical exercise, such as walking or swimming.
Nutrition is powerful for regulating hip dysplasia signs and discomfort. Improper or unbalanced ingredients can aggravate existing joint damage or contribute to poor body condition (i.e., obesity, poor muscle tone) and accelerate inherited disease.
Ingredients to avoid include:
Hip dysplasia causes chronic inflammation in the hip joint, surrounding tissues, and nearby joints, because your dog compensates to avoid pain and discomfort. Pro-inflammatory foods can trigger body-wide inflammation, worsen existing arthritis, and promote weight gain. Pro-inflammatory foods include:
Artificial fillers provide no nutritive value and can spark inflammation. Stick with natural, recognizable ingredients to ensure smooth non-irritating digestion and maximum nutrient absorption.
Nutrition can control the time a puppy takes to reach skeletal maturity. Improperly balanced calories, fat, and minerals (e.g., those in a high-energy or homemade diet) can accelerate bone growth and lead to permanent bone lesions and abnormalities. Look for a diet specifically designed for your puppy’s current life stage and predicted adult size and feed measured portions proportional to their growth to prevent undesirable weight gain.
You cannot cure your dog’s hip dysplasia, but you can keep the condition in check by modifying your pup’s lifestyle, providing regular low-impact exercise, and feeding a complete and balanced portion-controlled diet of healthy whole food ingredients. At Ollie, we make supporting your dog’s overall wellness and ensuring comfortable mobility easy with our fresh food recipes packed with human-grade protein, nutrient-dense superfoods such as kale and blueberries, and healthy balanced carbohydrates for steady energy. Each meal is customized to your dog’s caloric needs, so they get everything they need at each life stage.
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