It is well documented that German Shepherds, and larger sized breeds of dogs in particular, might be more susceptible to joint related diseases, problems and pain than their smaller breed counterparts.
Some sources show that breeds over 60 pounds (27kgs) most commonly have Hip Dysplasia, and German Shepherds in particular have a 19% occurrence or frequency rate of the disease in their breed.
So, it’s worth knowing about Hip Dysplasia if you own a German Shepherd.
Let’s find out a bit more!
(NOTE: this is a general information guide only, and is not professional advice, or a substitute for professional advice. A qualified vet or animal expert is the only person qualified to give you expert advice in regards to your pet/s)
German Shepherd Hip Dysplasia, Arthritis, & Joint Problems
German Shepherd joint related diseases affect not only the hips (causing hip problems), but German Shepherds can have the leg problems (front and rear), elbow problems, back problems, knee problems and joint problems in general.
These diseases can lead to pain, inflammation and often arthritis/deterioration of the joint as your GSD ages.
Joint problems can be either developmental (joint doesn’t develop correctly in the early stages of life), or degenerative (a healthy joint degenerates over a GSD’s lifespan into old age).
The most common form of developmental joint related disease for German Shepherds is Hip and Elbow Dysplasia, and arthritis is probably the most common degenerative disease particularly in old German Shepherds.
What Are German Shepherd Hip Dysplasia, Arthritis and Joint Problems? What Causes Them?
German Shepherd Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
Hip and Elbow Dysplasia in German Shepherds is a genetic condition, caused in part by improper breeding over the years.
Hip and Elbow Dysplasia effects the joint directly, with a malformation in the joint leading to deterioration of the cartilage (according to assisianimalhealth.com)
Hip and Elbow Dysplasia is a genetic disease, that is made worse by daily use of the joint.
This causes inflammation along with pain, and sometimes arthritis and debilitation.
German Shepherd Arthritis
Contrary to popular belief, arthritis can effect any dog of any size and age, but mainly occurs in older dogs.
Arthritis is the deterioration of the joint tissues and can be a result of natural wear and tear, or even developmental diseases like dysplasia.
General German Shepherd Joint Problems
Generally caused by everyday issues like wear and tear – or from deterioration from injuries, or post surgery joint scarring.
An injury like say a torn piece of cartilage can wear further than the initial tear and cause more joint pain/less support and comfort.
Surgery can cause scarring which is irreversible and can cause pain in the joint.
Degenerative Myelopathy and Panosteitis are not joint problems, but can seem similar with their symptoms and signs.
Degenerative Myelopathy is the deterioration of the spinal cord (according to assisianimalhealth.com), leading to muscle weakness and eventually debilitation of movement. There is no pain.
Panosteitis is an inflammation of the leg bones (particularly in long boned bigger dogs) (according to assisianimalhealth.com), and leads to lameness for one or more weeks. There isn’t a lot that can be done about this, but there’s no lasting damage.
Differentiating Joint Problems and Hip Dysplasia in German Shepherds From Normal Puppy Development
It is important to highlight that sometimes it may look like a young GSD is experiencing a serious problem like Hip Dysplasia, when they are simply developing normally.
For example, a young GSD (generally 2-7 months) may have loose joints or have an awkward gait (suspected lameness), because they are still growing into their bodies.
Feeding your puppy foods with the correct nutrients and minerals, and ensuring it does not carry around excess weight which pressures the joints is a good prevention technique for serious joint diseases.
Symptoms and Early Signs Of Joint Problems and Hip Dysplasia in German Shepherds
The following might be early or late signs your GSD is suffering from hip pain, joint problems or joint disease:
Trouble moving – particular with common activities like walking, getting out of bed, climbing steps, getting in the car etc.
Slowness or stiffness in movement
Swelling at the joint
Limping during walking or running – abnormal moving posture
Favoring or protecting front or rear legs against pressure
cesarsway.com has a separate article about joint disease that may be worth reading
How Joint Problems and Hip Dysplasia In German Shepherd Might Be Managed Or Prevented
Before giving or doing anything to your GSD that will effect its heath, consult your vet and get it approved.
Also, understand that joint disorders and some joint damage can’t be ‘cured’ or reversed, only managed – for example decreasing pain and helping repair cartilage and other joint material.
The following are 8 measures that can have a positive preventative effect, or be used to manage joint pain and discomfort in German Shepherds (with consultation with a vet beforehand):
1) Proper Breeding/Genetic Guarantee
Whether you adopt an Alsatian, or buy from a breeder, make sure you ask for the genetic history of the parents and get a genetic guarantee on the dog to say it is free of disorders like hip or elbow dysplasia.
A vet certified check of the hips and other joints is a good indication the dog is in good health joint-wise.
2) Proper Bedding and Orthopedic Beds for Dogs With Hip Dysplasia
Giving your GSD a soft, comfortable and orthopedic bed to sleep will help decrease joint pain, as opposed to sleeping on hard ground, or bedding without the necessary support for joints and bones. This is especially true for old dogs, and large dogs like German Shepherds
Keeping your GSD in warm and dry sleeping areas can also help depending on how badly your GSD’s joint are affected.
Read more about the Best Orthopedic Beds For German Shepherds.
3) Diet and Regular Exercise for Weight Control
Balanced diet and exercise can help treat German Shepherd hip dysplasia and arthritis.
Along with getting the right nutrients into your GSD, not overfeeding them with high calorie foods can be a factor in minimising the risk of obesity (extra weight puts pressure on the joints).
Gentle regular exercise is recommended to keep weight down, but if your GSD finds normal exercise hard and painful, water therapy is a great alternative.
Talk to your vet about water therapy and other low stress types of physical therapy and exercise for dogs with hip dysplasia.
4) A Personalised Diet with Specific Nutrients and Minerals
A personalised diet for German Shepherds with Hip Dysplasia focuses on natural foods with calcium, Omega 3 and Vitamin E.
These nutrients possess natural anti-inflammatories and support bone and joint health by helping in the production of joint health compounds like glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate and MSM.
5) Joint Health Dog Neutraceuticals – German Shepherd Supplements and Vitamins
There are also added supplements you can give your GSD that help repair damaged tissue in the joint.
The best Joint support supplements for your German Shepherd should contain glucosamine, chondroitin sulphate and MSM. Glucosamine especially is found naturally in the joints and contributes to joint health.
These come in in the form of treat, pills and liquids, and larger dogs tend to respond well to them. Some don’t see any measurable results so you should test it for your dog and see the outcome.
Read more about the Best German Shepherd Supplements and Vitamins for joint problems.
6) Hip Dysplasia and Joint Problems Prescribed Medication
Painkillers and anti-inflammatories can help manage pain for your Alsatian and are quick to see results. But, some prefer not to use them long term due to their cost and side effects on the dog.
If you are wondering what to give a German Shepherd with hip pain or any joint pain, medication may be a short term solution if you’ve tried supplements, and you’ve consulted a vet.
A list of medications some vets prescribe to reduce pain and inflammation are:
Non steroidal anti-inflammatories
7) Hip Dysplasia Surgery
The most aggressive treatment for a GSD heavily affected by Hip or Elbow Dysplasia or other joint issues is surgery.
Hip Dysplasia surgery in particular is a specialized surgery that has a 6 week plus recovery time and can have a high cost.
Always approach your vet before considering surgery or medical procedure as a treatment option.
You can read more about surgeries such as a German Shepherd Hip Replacement at 2ndChance.info
8) Myleopathy Treatment
Once again, diet and maintaining a healthy weight for your GSD are important treatments.
Other treatments such as acupuncture, casts and braces, and physical therapy can also help.
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