Hip pain is a common problem in dogs that have arthritis or have hip dysplasia. The condition usually worsens when the animal stops using its leg, which leads to muscle atrophy. With atrophy, there is less muscle to support the joints and, thus, a vicious circle of lameness begins, which becomes more and more intense. There are several techniques that can help your dog become more comfortable, including physical therapy, pain relief without medication, and pain relievers. Learn more about these techniques so you can help your pet suffer less from hip pain.
Method 1 of 4: Performing Massage
Step 1. Learn to massage dogs
A massage can help ease tension, improve circulation, and relieve the dog's pain. This is also a great way to strengthen your bond with your pet and can even help detect injuries or other health problems that need treatment.
Massage is a recognized therapy that has beneficial effects and is advocated and practiced in veterinary physiotherapy
Step 2. Know when a massage should not be done
This is not always the best solution for your pet's pain. In some cases, it can make the dog worse. You shouldn't have a massage if he has:
- The broken or dislocated hip
- A joint infection
- a skin infection
If you suspect any of these conditions, take him to the vet right away. Such illnesses need immediate medical care
Step 3. Lay the dog down with the problematic side of the hips facing up
It won't be too difficult to do this, as he will likely lie on his side in an attempt to lighten the weight of his affected hip. When touching the region, you can notice that the spot is stiff and tense even when not in use. This is a good sign that a massage can be effective.
If neither his skin nor his bones are damaged, massage will help relieve the pain. However, if you notice any skin problems or the dog is visibly in pain, skip this step and go directly to the vet for a physical evaluation
Step 4. Massage the dog's hips with the palms of your hands
In a back-and-forth motion, apply pressure with the heel of your hand, moving toward the heart. Slow, smooth movements are comforting, fast, strong ones are stimulating. For pain relief, one movement every five seconds is ideal. Massage the affected limb for a period of 10 to 20 minutes, two or three times a day.
The muscles of an animal with hip pain become tense and stiff. This tension compresses the joints, causing the inflamed surfaces to rub together, which causes even more pain. Massage, in addition to relaxing the muscles, also stimulates the production of endorphins, a natural pain reliever with a chemical composition similar to morphine
Step 5. Make upward movements starting from the extremities
To know if you're massaging your hips correctly, imagine massaging the blood back into your heart. Movements that go in the opposite direction of blood flow force the accumulated blood which causes swelling and reduced mobility to flow. Also, it is better for the dog to stretch the musculature upward, rather than forcing it downward.
Method 2 of 4: Using Passive Mobilization
Step 1. Consider the idea of employing passive mobilization
Passive mobilization is similar to stretching. This technique, when applied to a hip joint, involves carefully stretching the affected hind leg backwards away from the head. Passive mobilization uses gentle stretching of the limbs in order to keep muscles conditioned and joints with mobility.
The theory behind passive mobilization is that pain restricts the movement of the paws and then the hip becomes stiff, which causes increased loss of movement. This vicious circle continues until the pain and tension in the joints becomes chronic
Step 2. Decide on the best position for the dog
You can use passive mobilization with the dog standing or lying down. If both hips are sore, it is best to lie him down as he will be uncomfortable standing up with the added weight on the opposite hip when one leg is raised.
Try putting a small pillow between your dog's legs for even more comfort
Step 3. Lay him down on the side that is not injured
When using passive mobilization to stretch your left hip, lie it on your right side with your left leg up. In the case of the right hip, lie the dog on the left side with the right paw up.
Either way, the position chosen should be the most comfortable for him. By laying him down on the opposite side of the pain, the weight and pressure of the injured hip are removed
Step 4. Start by pushing the thigh back
Place your left hand in front of the thigh, halfway down the bone, and cup your palm around his knee. Apply pressure gently but firmly so as to push the thigh back, causing the dog's paws to move back as well.
Do not force the movement and stop if he feels pain. The intention is not to increase the dog's flexibility, but to try to stretch the tight, rigid muscle
Step 5. Hold it in this extended position for about 40 seconds and then release
Try repeating this procedure for two 10-minute sessions daily. This helps to keep the joints flexible and relieve pain.
Mobilization is the act of passively stretching a limb, in order to keep the muscles conditioned and the joints with mobility. This method is based on the theory that pain restricts the movements of the paws, which stiffens the hip joint, causing an intensification of loss of movement and a cycle of decline initiated by the lack of use of the limb
Method 3 of 4: Applying Drug Therapy
Step 1. Start medicating the dog with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are doctor-prescribed pain relievers that reduce inflammation. They act by inhibiting the "bad" COX-2 enzymes, which mediate joint inflammation, while acting less on the "good" COX-1 enzymes, which maintain blood flow in the lining of the kidneys and stomach. In short, they can reduce the dog's pain and inflammation.
- These drugs have a high safety margin if used correctly and tend to cause fewer annoying side effects, such as gastric ulcers and clotting problems, compared to other pain relievers. The nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs most commonly prescribed by veterinarians are meloxicam, carpoflan (Rimadyl) and robenacoxib (Onsior).
- The maintenance dose of oral meloxicam is 0.05 mg per kg, with or after a meal, once daily. The oral suspension contains 1.5mg/ml. A typical 30 kg Labrador needs 1 ml, once a day, with a meal.
Step 2. Give the dog aspirin
Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) can provide relief from mild to moderate pain. If you don't have any other pain relievers on hand, a healthy dog can take a dose of 10mg/kg of aspirin, twice a day, with food or right after. Aspirin usually comes in packs of 100 or 500 mg tablets, and the recommended dose for a 30 kg Labrador retriever is 300 mg, twice a day, along with a meal.
- However, in the long term, its use is associated with gastric ulcers, especially if it is given on an empty stomach. This is because aspirin decreases blood flow to the intestinal lining, stomach and kidneys. Buffered aspirin can help with this problem, but it should still be used sparingly in dogs.
- If your dog needs frequent doses to control pain, ask your veterinarian to examine you and prescribe one of the safe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
- Aspirin should never be taken with an NSAID. When combined, these drugs are more likely to cause gastric ulcers with serious consequences, including sudden death.
Step 3. Assess giving acetaminophen
Acetaminophen, or acetaminophen, can be given to dogs. However, be careful not to exceed the recommended dose, so as not to overload the liver with the toxic metabolite called N-acetyl-p-benzo-quinoneimine, which can cause organ damage and even, ultimately, liver failure.
- The correct dose is 10 mg/kg orally, twice a day, with or after meals. Most pills come in 500 mg doses, so the maximum dose that can be given to a 30 kg Labrador retriever is 3/5 a tablet twice a day. When in doubt, always give a smaller dose.
- For smaller dogs, use only the infant suspension and avoid giving them a larger dose.
Method 4 of 4: Using Physical Therapy
Step 1. Use heat
Applying heat helps to dilate blood vessels and stimulate circulation in the hip. Circulation in turn helps remove harmful toxins that irritate pain receptor nerves. Just be careful not to burn the dog. Always try it on your own skin first to see if the temperature is safe.
A simple method to use is a thermal seed bag, the kind that heats up in the microwave. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for warming the bag and lay the dog on its side with the injured hip up. Then place the heated seed bag in place. Leave it for 10 or 15 minutes and then do some passive movement exercises
Step 2. Ask your veterinarian about transcutaneous electrical neurostimulation (TENS)
This treatment involves applying a small electrical current to the skin to numb the sensory nerves and block pain transmission. This happens by stimulating delta fibers that release enkephalin into the spinal cord, which in turn reduces pain sensitivity.
Veterinarians often administer this type of treatment to control pain after surgery, but the effects only last for an hour
Step 3. See a veterinarian experienced in the application of laser acupuncture
Veterinarians trained in traditional Chinese medicine can perform laser acupuncture treatments on the dog that help reduce pain in the hips. The laser stimulates the release of chemical substances produced in the animal's own body for pain relief. Ask your veterinarian for a referral if you are interested in this treatment option.