Sitting Pretty. The Best Positions For Dogs With Hip Dysplasia

What is Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?

what is hip dysplasia in dogs

Hip dysplasia is a genetic condition where a dog’s hip joint does not develop properly, leading to looseness and instability in the joint. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), it is one of the most common skeletal diseases in dogs[1]. Hip dysplasia causes pain, inflammation, lameness, and arthritis as the dog ages.

The hip is a ball and socket joint. In dogs with hip dysplasia, the socket is too shallow and does not provide enough coverage for the ball part of the joint. This allows excessive movement and instability in the joint, which causes wear and tear over time[2]. The body tries to stabilize the joint by producing scar tissue, but this only leads to further joint damage.

Certain breeds like German Shepherds, St. Bernards, and Labrador Retrievers are genetically predisposed to hip dysplasia. However, it can occur in any breed. Other risk factors include rapid growth rate, nutritional factors, and trauma to the joint.

Early signs of hip dysplasia include bunny hopping while running, difficulty standing up or climbing stairs, decreased range of motion, and pain or stiffness after resting. More severe symptoms include swaying while walking, reluctance to exercise or play, and limping or dragging of the hind legs.

How Sitting Positions Affect Hip Dysplasia

how sitting positions affect hip dysplasia

Certain sitting positions can put additional stress on a dog’s hips, especially for dogs with hip dysplasia. When dogs sit, their hips and rear legs rotate outward in order to lower the rear end to the ground. Dogs with healthy hips and joints can sit in a tucked position, with the hips and knees close to the body. However, dogs with hip dysplasia may sit in an abnormal “lazy sit” or “sloppy sit” position with the hips splayed outward and legs extended to the sides in order to minimize discomfort. This sitting position causes the hip joint to rotate outward, increasing stress and wear on the already abnormal hip socket.

Some problematic sitting positions that may indicate hip dysplasia include:

  • Sitting with legs splayed out to the side instead of tucked under the body (Source)
  • Sitting with one or both back legs extended out behind in a “bunny sitting” position (Source)
  • Sitting with the hips lowered all the way to the ground, also called a “frog sit” (Source)

These altered sitting positions reduce painful pressure on the hip joints but can also accelerate joint degeneration over time. Understanding how sitting postures affect hip dysplasia is an important part of managing the condition.

Recommended Sitting Positions

recommended sitting positions for dogs with hip dysplasia

When dogs with hip dysplasia sit, it’s important to have them sit in a position that keeps their hips properly aligned and avoids stressing their joints. The ideal sitting position for a dog with hip dysplasia is:

  • Hips, knees, and ankles stacked directly below one another
  • Spine upright, not slouched or hunched
  • Hind legs tucked under the hips
  • Knees and ankles flexed at 90 degree angles
  • Hips open at a 45 degree angle, not collapsed inward or rotated outward
  • Front legs positioned straight and under shoulders
  • Even weight distribution between both hind legs

This type of symmetrical sitting aligns the joints and bones, taking pressure off the hips. It prevents torsion and rotation of the joints that can aggravate arthritis and pain. Proper sitting alignment also strengthens the core and leg muscles that support healthy hips.

Teaching dogs to sit squarely instead of splayed or hunched is an important part of managing hip dysplasia. Consult with your veterinarian on the optimal angles and positions for your dog’s hips. They can recommend exercise and training to reinforce proper sitting posture.

Using Support Devices

Support devices like slings, harnesses and ramps can help dogs with hip dysplasia get around and stay active. Slings help take pressure off their hips and provide stability and balance when walking or standing. Some popular sling options include:

The Help ‘Em Up Dog Harness which is adjustable and padded to provide customizable support (

The Walkin’ Lift Comfort Dog Sling, designed for larger dogs up to 150 lbs (

Ramps and stairs can make it easier for dogs to get up on furniture or into cars without having to jump and put pressure on their hips. Look for ramps with a gentle incline and non-slip surfaces. Harnesses specially designed for hip dysplasia like the Leash Boss Hip Harness can help redistribute weight away from the hips while walking.

Training Dogs to Sit Properly

Dogs with hip dysplasia can be trained to sit properly and avoid straining their joints. The key is using positive reinforcement techniques and establishing a routine through repetition and consistency.

Start by luring your dog into a sit position using a treat. Hold the treat at their nose level, then slowly move it back over their head so they tilt their bottom down. Once in position, say “sit” and give lots of praise and the treat. Practice this daily, rewarding with treats and affection each time they sit properly.

Gradually phase out the food lure and just use the verbal “sit” command. If your dog struggles, gently help guide them into a sit using their collar. Be patient – it takes time and consistency before they will respond reliably to just the voice command.

In addition to regular training sessions, practice sit stays during their normal routine. For example, have them sit before meals, before going outside, or while getting their leash put on. The more you reinforce sitting properly throughout the day, the quicker they will learn this new habit.

While training, avoid letting your dog sit in improper positions like the “lazy sit.” If they start to slouch, say “ah ah!” and lure them back into a straight sit. Maintaining good posture will be easier if they build muscle memory sitting correctly.

With regular, positive training, you can teach your dog with hip dysplasia to sit in a way that protects their joints. This will make everyday activities less painful and improve their mobility and comfort.

Exercising Dogs with Hip Dysplasia

Regular exercise provides many benefits for dogs with hip dysplasia. According to The Best Exercises for Dogs with Hip Dysplasia (, exercise can help strengthen the muscles surrounding the hip joints, which provides extra support and stability. Exercise also helps dogs maintain a healthy body weight, which reduces stress on the joints. However, it’s important not to overdo exercise, as this could cause further joint damage.

Some great low-impact exercise options for dogs with hip dysplasia include:

  • Swimming – This allows dogs to strengthen muscles without putting pressure on joints.
  • Short walks – Start with short walks of 5-10 minutes and gradually increase over time.
  • Stretching and range of motion exercises – Gently move the legs through the full range of motion.
  • Sit and stand training – Help build muscle by assisting your dog in sitting and standing.

When exercising a dog with hip dysplasia, be sure to start slow and stop if you notice signs of pain or discomfort. Checking in regularly with your veterinarian can help determine safe exercise limits for your individual dog.

Massage and Stretching

Massage can provide several benefits for dogs with hip dysplasia. Proper massage techniques can help relax muscles, improve range of motion, and decrease pain and inflammation [1]. Gentle circular motions or strokes with your hand over the hips, thighs, and lower back area can help release muscle tension. Be sure to watch your dog’s reaction to find any sensitive areas. Start slowly and build up to longer massage sessions as your dog gets comfortable.

Certain stretches can also help improve mobility in dogs with hip dysplasia. Extending the rear legs back one at a time and holding for 15-30 seconds can stretch the hip flexors. Drawing the leg out to the side gently and holding can target the inner thigh. Bending the leg to bring the foot upwards underneath engages the hips. Always move slowly and stop if you see signs of discomfort. Over time, regular gentle stretches can maintain and even improve joint flexibility.

Managing Weight

Maintaining a lean body weight is crucial for dogs with hip dysplasia. Excess weight puts more strain on the hip joints, which can worsen arthritis and pain. According to research, preventing obesity reduces hip dysplasia prevalence in dogs (Marshall et al. 2009).

Portion control and an appropriate diet are key for weight management. Owners should feed their dog measured amounts of food once or twice daily rather than free-feeding. Low-calorie dog foods specially formulated for weight loss can help obese dogs slim down. Consulting with a veterinarian can help determine the ideal calorie intake and body condition score for an individual dog.

In a 1975 study, dogs with rapid weight gain from increased calories developed more severe and earlier onset hip dysplasia (Kasström 1975). Keeping dogs lean takes pressure off the hip joints and improves mobility and comfort.

When to See a Veterinarian

It’s important to consult your veterinarian if you notice any red flags that could indicate your dog’s hip dysplasia is worsening. Signs to watch out for include:

  • Increased difficulty standing up, walking, running, or climbing stairs
  • Lameness or stiffness that won’t go away with rest
  • Reluctance to exercise or play
  • Signs of pain like whimpering, yelping, or aggression

If your dog shows these signs, schedule an exam right away. Your vet will evaluate your dog’s joints and determine the best treatment options.

For mild cases, your vet may recommend nonsurgical treatments like weight management, joint supplements, anti-inflammatory medications, or physical therapy. But if the dysplasia is moderate or severe, surgery may be needed. There are a few different surgical options:

  • Total hip replacement – replaces the entire joint with an artificial one.
  • Triple pelvic osteotomy – realigns and reshapes the hip socket to improve coverage of the femoral head.
  • Femoral head ostectomy – removes the femoral head and neck to eliminate bone-on-bone arthritis.

Discuss the pros and cons of each with your veterinarian. With early intervention and proper treatment, many dogs with hip dysplasia can enjoy active lives.


Caring for Dogs with Hip Dysplasia

tips for caring for dogs with hip dysplasia

There are various ways to help improve quality of life and mobility for dogs with hip dysplasia. Focus on meeting your dog’s individual needs and keeping them comfortable. Some tips include:

Provide ramps, runners, or stairs to make it easier for your dog to climb onto furniture, in and out of cars, etc. This reduces stress on their hips and joints (1). Use harnesses instead of collars for walks to avoid putting pressure on the neck. Try mobility aids like wheelchairs, slings, or splints if recommended by your vet.

Keep your dog at a healthy weight to avoid excess strain on the joints. Feed multiple small meals instead of one large meal. Make sure bedding is thick and soft. Memory foam dog beds can help relieve pressure points (2). Give joint supplements and medications as prescribed by your vet.

Do gentle range of motion and massage exercises daily. Provide physical therapy if possible. Limit jumping and high-impact activities. Take short, frequent walks to build muscle while avoiding overexertion. Be patient and allow extra time for your dog to move around.

With the right care and management, dogs with hip dysplasia can still lead happy lives. Focus on keeping your dog active but comfortable. Work closely with your vet to find the ideal treatment plan.


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