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Aging, large breed dogs are especially susceptible to suffering the devastating affects of hip dysplasia. If your dog's hind legs seem sore or stiff, there's a good chance that hip dysplasia is to blame. Though often debilitating in nature, a diagnosis of hip dysplasia doesn't mean the end of the world for your dog. In fact, there are many steps you can take to help your pet adjust to his new lifestyle and keep him functioning at his best.

What is it?
Hip dysplasia is an inherited condition in which the hip joint doesn't fit together as tightly as it should. Over years, this can cause painful wear and tear on joints and often, lead to other conditions like arthritis. Cats are rarely diagnosed with hip dysplasia, and it's most common victim is found in large breed dogs. In extreme cases, surgery can be performed, but more commonly, dogs are introduced to a new form of exercise, and adjustments to the home are made.

Symptoms
Tenderness in back legs
Difficulty rising from a laying or sitting position.
Pain when getting up in the morning or after a long slumber.
Struggling when attempting to climb stairs or jump up.
Limping on either back leg.
Walking slower than usual.
Less eager to engage in playtime activities.

The Diagnosis
Hip dysplasia is easily diagnosed with a standard x-ray. If you feel your pet is suffering needlessly, begin with a trip to your Veterinarian.

How you can help
The best thing you can do for your newly diagnosed friend is to help strengthen the muscles that support your pet's hips. In doing this, you'll help to alleviate some of the pressure and tenderness placed on the hip area. Two, twenty minute walks a day are recommended, although longer walks are fine, if your pet is willing. It's important to allow your dog to set the pace. The "no pain, no gain" theory holds no weight with animals and can actually do more harm than good. Don't overdue. Moderation is key.

Swimming
One of the greatest ways to strengthen your dog's back muscles is with a dip in the lake. Swimming is perfect for dysplastic dogs because it keeps the muscles around the joints toned without adding wear and tear. Your dog will be weightless in water, so odds are he'll enjoy a good swim and will find this almost pain free. The more you can get your pet into the water, the quicker you'll help him adjust.

Heat
Sore hips function better when it's warm. If your dysplastic dog is an outside pet, you may want to consider bringing him indoors at night or providing a pet warming bed. Pain naturally increases in chilly, damp weather.

Put him to bed
Follow your dog for a day and see where he lays down to sleep. Is it on the bed or couch? If so, your pet may be in need of an orthopedic bed. Specially made beds help to distribute your pet's weight evenly, taking pressure off painful joints. You can make your own pet bed by stuffing a measured piece of foam inside an old sheet or blanket. Most pets will revel in the opportunity to sleep in their own special place.

Try more heat
You can apply hot water bottles to your dog's hips for fifteen minutes, twice daily, if he'll allow it. Added heat can go a long way at relieving aching muscles and stiff joints.

Try a massage
Massaging hip joints and lower back muscles can help to relax spasms and ease pain, too. Start slow and work in a circular motion from your pet's hips to his back, using your fingertips or the palm of your hand to apply mild pressure. If your dog shows signs of discomfort, stop. You may be using too much pressure. Try again another day with less force. If your pet seems to enjoy a good rub down, make a practise of doing it for ten minutes, once daily. Not all pets will enjoy a massage, so don't worry if yours is unwilling to give it a try.

Ramp it
Climbing stairs or jumping into a vehicle will become increasingly difficult for your dog. You can make the journey easier by making a ramp for your pet to use. An old board with traction controls works perfect to help your pet climb into cars and reach higher ground.

Check the floors
Floors which have the tendency to be slippery are dangerous for dysplastic dogs. They create more wear and tear on already painful joints and make your pet uneasy and nervous when walking. Consider applying some traction to entrances the dog may use or a rug to a slippery linoleum kitchen floor.

Medicine
Your dog may suffer bouts of extreme pain. During these times, Veterinarians recommend giving aspirin. You can safely administer one-quarter of a 325-milligram tablet per ten pounds of dog twice daily. Whenever possible, reach for the buffered aspirin, which is less likely to irritate your pet's stomach.

Osteo-Arthritis medicines, commonly sold in pet food stores, can also help a dog in pain. Read and follow the label instructions.