I was dealing with this issue w/ my now 17 month old English Lab almost exactly a year ago. We got him at 4 months and almost right away noticed that he had a problem with his hips. Our house is two stories so there are steps and he learned how to use them rather quickly but he would "bunny hop" up them, which is characteristic of hip dysplasia. When he would run, he would move his back legs in unison. He was still moving around OK so we didn't think too much of it as he was our first dog as well as our first lab, which I understand now is a breed that is prone to hip dysplasia. However, this was a condition that I had ZERO experience with prior to getting Zach and getting him diagnosed.
At about 6-7 months, we noticed more severe symptoms. When we took him out to walk, he didn't want to walk any more than a few hundred feet at a time. He would just stop and sit on the ground until he could be coaxed back up to continue home. He very quickly deteriorated and within days he was just not moving at all, except to go to the bathroom and drink/eat. We took him to the vet and got x-rays done that verified hip dysplasia in both rear legs. Severe
hip dysplasia, actually. At 6-7 months old.
Upon meeting us with his x-rays to give us the news, the vet opened with "this dog is full of badness." I knew right then that I wasn't going to listen to a word of recommendation from her. How unprofessional and uncaring. She then went on to tell us that he did not have much muscle tone in his hind area and should be put to sleep. I started to immediately cry and say that I could never do that to him. He is so full of life. I had only known him for a few months but had an instant connection with him. Heck, I didn't even like dogs before we got Zach. I knew in my heart that there was another solution. He had put his whole trust in me and I wasn't giving up on him. I knew there was a reason he had come to me, and it was to help him. She also told us that he was not a good candidate for surgery. She did not give us any advice other than that.
At our request, we were referred to a veterinary surgeon, who was much more considerate and knowledgable than the first vet. She told us that the surgeries available to him do not have great success rates but that before we make a decision to do surgery we should build up his back leg muscles through either walking (if he was able), swimming or physical therapy. We are priveleged to live in a place that is warm most of the year and also have our own pool so walking and swimming were the options we chose. I had already done research on hip dysplasia before consulting the vet surgeon and we started him on a glucosamine chondroitin tablet which, btw, is sold at, of all places, Wal-Mart. It is also carried by Trader Joe's and Target. http://www.walmart.com/catalog/produ...87#Ingredients
It is called ProPet Glucosamine Advanced Chronic Care
. Around $15 for 60 tablets and lasts us 2 weeks as Zach takes 4 tablets a day since he weighs over 75 lbs. (82 to be exact). The vet surgeon said that this was a good idea and also keeping his weight down would be most beneficial for him as there would be less weight on his joints.
After 1 week on the glucosamine, Zach was actually asking to go on walks. He was running around. I started him out slowly on his walks, only going 1/2 mile. He quickly let me know that he wanted to cross the big street and go to the big park near us, which we used to have to drive him to. Now he was walking to it. Very quickly he worked up to 2.5-4 mile walks EVERY DAY. I track his mileage (mapmyrun.com) in a google spreadsheet and this month he has averaged 2.55 miles daily. He would walk farther but he has these specific routes that he likes to take and some are shorter than others. Some days he walks in the morning and evening. He leaps up the steps 2 at a time. Nobody knows he has hip dysplasia until I tell them. He runs up and down the hills at the park. He even "rescued" a stray Yorkie mix that was abandoned by her owners this summer. She only came out of hiding for him on our 5 AM walks (the coolest time of day in the summer when temps reach 115). We were able to bring her to a local no kill shelter and she was first fostered and then quickly adopted.
I now take Zachary to a holistic vet and she looked at the glucosamine product we have been giving him since he was 7 months old and said that the ingredients are the same ones she would recommend. Her only other recommendation is salmon oil--1500 mg/day
, which we have now incorporated into his daily regimen. Her brand recommendation is Nordic Naturals but they are very expensive so for right now we are using the Trader Joe's brand of salmon oil. His new vet also has told us that we have done an amazing job with him. We showed her his x-rays and she looked at them in shock and said she would never have guessed that he has those hips. He shouldn't be able to walk. She also said that he has amazing muscle tone and it is such evenly distributed. I, of course, never doubted him and never doubted that we would not succeed to overcome this challenge. We take things day by day and the journey is just beginning, but Zach has an amazing spirit and is definitely a fighter.
As for your dog
, I would recommend the ProPet tablets as well as salmon oil. I may put Zach on liquid glucosamine in the future as I have read it is more readily absorbed than in tablet/pill form, but he is doing fine with what he is taking now. You might also want to try physical therapy, finances permitting. Keep her at a healthy weight and continue to exercise with her. I understand it is fall/winter now, but swimming is an ideal exercise. The most important thing to remember is that no matter what the bone structure is like, muscle is more important. Zach is able to walk/run because of the muscle he has built up but it is the glucosamine that has allowed him to walk/run. Even with perfect bone structure, it could become warped by lack of muscle. I'm not sure if this has helped him, but I also give him extra protein (chicken, turkey, salmon, etc.).
As an aside, recently we have been able to rescue both of Zach's parents from their owner (a family acquaintance). His father is 11 and has had untreated hip dysplasia for his entire life. His mother has perfect hips and is a very strong 8 year old English lab; however, 4 weeks ago I found out that she has had a cancerous growth protruding from her belly since the SUMMER! and her owner did NOTHING about it. Absolutely nothing. 3 weeks ago we adopted her and took her to a vet where she was diagnosed with mammary cancer and right now we have her on a vitamin/medicine regimen. The cancer has metastized to her right lung area but her left area is clear (so far). Chemo/surgery is not an option at this point because of that. We are giving her the best care she could ever have (infinitely better than her previous owner--he left her outside in 110 degree heat all summer because he was at work during the day) including lots of love and attention (something she has NEVER received). We also have his father on vitamins now but since he has very little muscle mass we are going to try physical therapy. We have had him for less than a week but he seems to be doing better. In the end, we may have to put him to sleep if the pain is too much. I wish I had gotten him sooner but I had no knowledge of his situation until recently.
If you have read all of this, good for you and thank you very much!
I am sorry for the length but I really think this story merits telling. I hope that one day Zach's (ongoing) journey and story helps other dogs, whether they have hip dysplasia or joint/injury issues. He is truly one of a kind (gorgeous to boot) and inspires me every day to never give up. Also, to not always accept things for what they are and to always be persistent.
If you have any questions for me, don't hesitate to ask.
Here are a few pics of Zach from this summer: