Hip dysplasia (HD) in dogs is primarily an inherited condition, and so in certain cases it can't be prevented.
A growing body of research and evidence shows however that there are some things dog owners can do to help prevent it from becoming a debilitating condition, and one of those things is nutrition for (the prevention of the) development of HD, and as part of the conservative treatment of HD.
Top 5 Foods Formulated for Dogs with Hip Dysplasia
The best dog food for hip dysplasia is one that helps keep a dog's weight at a healthy level, as being overweight can make any joint issue worse, but it's not just about weight management.
Your pet dog needs proper nutrition from high-quality food and some added supplements for joint health, like fish oils, which help decrease inflammation, and glucosamine/chondroitin.
Veterinarians recommend going with name brands that provide complete and balanced diet and that are tailored to specific breeds or sizes.
To help you in your quest for the right food for your dog we've compiled this list of the 5 best dog food for hip dysplasia as judged by both our experience - or rather that of our canine testers, and the experiences of other pet parents who have tried them out.
Note: Always SLOWLY transition your dog to new food when changing his diet.
1. Blue Buffalo Healthy Weight Adult Chicken and Brown Rice Formula
As we've covered, keeping your pet dog at a healthy weight and restricting calorie-intake is a must, whether he already suffers from hip dysplasia or is a member of one of the breed families genetically predisposed to developing it. This holistic Blue Buffalo Healthy Weight Chicken and Brown Rice Formula is both low-calorie and low-protein AND is designed to do all of that and more.
The quality of the ingredients in any dog food is important, but even more so perhaps for pups with joint issues. Blue Buffalo foods, including this one, always make use of real meat, rather than a meal or by-products, as the main protein and in this case it's organic, farm raised chicken. Chicken is a high quality protein that's lower in fat than red meat, making it a perfect choice for dogs dealing with hip dysplasia who need protein, but not too much of it, and certainly do not need extra fat. It features 326 kcal/cup, 20.0% min. proteins (crude), 9% min. fat (crude), 400 mg/kg min. glucosamine, 300 mg/kg min chondroitin sulfate along with omega's 3 & 6 fatty acids.
Other essential nutrients are also provided by natural ingredients, including antioxidant superfood rich fruits and vegetables. Blue Buffalo foods also feature 'life bits', which are essentially vitamin supplements.
This dog food formula designed for adults (we'll cover a puppy food later) of all ages, and it contains no soy, corn or wheat so may be gentler on a sensitive stomach. The only downside reported by some pet parents is that their pup did not seem to like the taste as much as that of 'fuller fat' dog foods, but those reports were outnumbered by those stating that their pup did enjoy the taste.
2. Ollie Healthy Turkey Feast
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Human grade dog food is popular at the moment, but simply because something might be suitable for us to eat does not mean it's nutritious Big Macs are human grade food too, and we're sure you would not feed one of those to a pup who needs to watch their weight!
Fortunately Ollie Dog Food is nutritious, and they make it using fresh, natural ingredients. In terms of weight control their chicken recipe may be the best option. With a main ingredient of fresh, lean chicken, it also features blueberries, carrots, spinach and cod liver oil. That last ingredient is important for pups with hip dysplasia as cod liver oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids in their purest form.
Those who feed their pup Ollie Dog food say that their dogs love the taste - which is not surprising - and that it is an effective tool in the battle against doggie weight gain. On the downside, it is one of the more expensive ways you can choose to feed your dog but most pet parents who recommend the food say it's worth the extra investment.
3. Wellness Large Breed Complete Health Puppy Deboned Chicken, Brown Rice & Salmon Meal
Large-breed puppy formulas have a reduced caloric density and reduced calcium and phosphorus compared with other growth diets for dogs. This is to significantly decrease the chances of HD developing later in life if it is in their genetic make up.
Many of the breeds prone to hip dysplasia are large breeds; German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Dobermans and Newfoundlands, among others, all make that unfortunate list. This puppy food from Wellness, a respected name in canine nutrition for years, is designed to provide fast growing large breed puppies with appropriately controlled caloric density needed by these puppies to avoid rapid growth, and has the proper calcium (1.3% min), phosphorus (0.9% min) and vitamin D content, as well as calcium:phosphorus ratio (1.3:0.09).
It features 366 calories per cup, 29%
proteins (crude) and 13% fat (crude).
Deboned chicken is offered as the primary source of protein, and it is supplemented with chicken meal. This provides a lean source of measured protein without adding too many extra calories. In fact this formula is specifically designed to provide just the right amount of it, so that puppies are not given too much, which can be as bad for their growing bodies as too little.
Other nutrients are provided by a blend of fruits and vegetables and extra joint protective Omega-3 fatty acids are provided by the salmon meal. Most pet parents who have tried their puppy on this food say they seemed to enjoy the taste and tolerated it well. A handful did say it seemed too rich for their pup though, so if your puppy has a sensitive stomach it may not be the best choice.
4. Nulo Freeze Dried Raw Dog Food for All Ages & Breeds
Raw dog food is another product type making a lot of waves in the dog food industry right now. However, preparing raw dog food from scratch at home is a time-intensive process that some experts say can put pups and humans at risk for salmonella. Nulo Freestyle and other freeze dried raw dog foods offer an easier and safer alternative featuring 195 kcal/cup, 42.0% protein (crude) and 28.0% fat (crude).
The ingredients offered in this formula are simple. Lean beef, fresh apples, and plenty of green veggies. This is a great choice for dogs who need to be on a weight management food but are allergic to chicken, which some pups are. The formula also contains no soy, wheat or corn, which is also a plus for sensitive stomached pups. It's lower in calories (195 kcal/cup) than many other dog foods, but does still manage to offer the nutrition that adult dogs need.
The downside of this dog food formula for some pet parents is in its preparation. Although not as cumbersome as preparing raw dog food from scratch it still takes longer than feeding a more traditional dog food formula and some reviewers were put off by that fact.
5. Dr. Tim’s Metabolite Weight Management Dog Food
If your pet dog is already overweight, any hip dysplasia or other joint issues he suffers from will be worsened, and even if a pup has yet to be affected by the condition, but is genetically prone to it, extra weight can increase his chances of developing it. Therefore getting overweight pups back to a healthy weight is a must.
Dr. Tim’s Metabolite Weight Management Dog Food is about as close to 'diet' dog food as you can get in a prepared formula. Its ingredients were chosen to provide great nutritional value in a calorie reduced package and it was formulated by a Ph.D. canine nutritionist suitable for senior and adult dogs.
The primary source of protein is chicken meal, and rice is added to provide additional fiber. Other nutrients come from fruits and vegetables and Omega 3s to prevent inflammation are provided by the added natural fish oils. It features 268.6 kcal/cup, 30.0% protein and 10% fat.
On the whole, since obesity can speed up the onset of hip dysplasia, owners report good success in using this food to help their dogs get their weight under control. Some do say that it took some time for their pup to learn to like the taste, but isn't that often true of human diet foods as well?
Canine Hip Dysplasia FAQs
Hip dysplasia, and why and how dog food formulated to lessen the chances of developing hip dysplasia can be helpful are sometimes confusing issues to understand. Here's a look at some frequently asked questions to clear up some of that confusion.
Q. What is hip dysplasia?
Hip dysplasia is a condition where a pet’s hip socket has not properly formed resulting in joint damage and arthritis in dogs due to the ill fit. This leads to pain, inflammation, and irritation from the rubbing.
Signs of hip dysplasia in affected pets include change of behavior, limping or whimpering.
How to buy dog food for a dog with hip dysplasia?
Finding a dog food that will help - rather than worsen - the symptoms of hip dysplasia involves looking hard at those ingredient panels, but it is worth the effort. And you should keep the following in mind as you do:
Low calories: Being overweight can make the symptoms of hip dysplasia worse because of the pressure that those excess pounds put on already compromised joints.
Obesity is also dangerous in otherwise healthy dogs who are genetically prone to developing the condition, as it can make the likelihood that the joints will develop abnormally and your pup will get hip dysplasia greater.
A study showed significantly overweight Labradors coincided with severe OA (Osteoarthritis) in hips and elbows compared to the restricted fed and slim genetically related Labradors.
This does not mean that your pup should always be 'on a diet' or never enjoy treats, but the dog food you choose to feed him should be one that is lower in calories and fat.
Meal feeding rather than free feeding is also pivotal in controlling a dog's growth. This is the best way to regulate large- and giant-breed puppies’ caloric intake while they’re growing.
Low salt, sugar & additives: The pain and mobility issues caused by hip dysplasia often come from inflammation of the hip joint, and larger amounts of salt, sugar and artificial additives, flavors and coloring can increase inflammation.
Try to look for a dog food that has as many natural ingredients as possible. A good formula will still give him the flavors he craves without risking making any joint inflammation worse.
Watch calcium and Vitamin D levels: This may sound strange at first. We have always been told that calcium (Ca) and Vitamin D are great for bone health, so shouldn't that mean that a pup with hip dysplasia should be getting more of these nutrients than other pups?
According to recent scientific research, maybe not.
It's true that Ca and vitamin D are essential to bone health and pups with hip dysplasia, or who are more likely to develop it thanks to their genetics, and you should indeed give them a dog food that meets their daily requirements for them.
Data suggests that high calcium intake should be prevented.
Growing giant-breed dogs are more susceptible to developing skeletal disorders than small-breed dogs when raised on a diet with deficient or excessive calcium content.
However, a large study found that an excess of calcium and Vitamin D can be just as bad. If a dog food states it is 'formulated with extra calcium' you should probably not feed it to a pup with hip dysplasia.
The main takeaway is that the potential for harm in developing osteoporosis for large and giant breeds is in overnutrition from excess consumption and supplementation.
Higher in Omega 3 fatty acids: Over the last decade Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids have been scientifically shown to have numerous health benefits for both humans and animals.
One of the biggest is their ability to help reduce inflammation, especially in the joints.
You do not have to look for an artificial supplement though, as the best of these fatty acids is found in food. Fatty fish like salmon, fish oil and flaxseed oil are all great natural sources of Omega 3 that is easily absorbed, so choosing a dog food with these ingredients will be helpful for any pup with hip dysplasia.
Added Glucosamine and Chondroitin: The top overall pick on our list, Blue Buffalo Healthy Weight, is supplemented with glucosamine and chondroitin, and that is a great thing for pups with all kinds of joint problems.
Not only can these minerals help relieve the symptoms of hip dysplasia but they have also been proven to be very effective in reducing the pain and inflammation of arthritis, a condition that dogs with hip dysplasia often develop as they get older.
When to switch from puppy to adult food in the case of large-breed puppies?
Switching a large breed puppy to an adult food in order to avoid excess Ca intake may actually result in your puppy receiving as much or more calcium!
Large-breed puppies grow until 18 months of age, so they should be on a growth diet designed for them until they’re 90 to 99 percent grown.
For growing large-breed puppies finding the right balance of calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D is key in order to avoid developmental orthopedic diseases. Remaining on a diet formulated for large-breed puppies until the optimum growth time is the best way of avoiding these issues and avoiding excess calories.
Does Grain Food Cause Hip Dysplasia?
Despite what you might have read there is no scientific evidence that grains cause hip dysplasia.
Because they really couldn't, as almost all cases are genetic in nature, and what a pup eats can't change his genes! Some pet parents and vets do think that a grain free diet has helped their dogs with hip dysplasia but this 'evidence' is purely anecdotal.
What is in less doubt however is that diet can affect a pup's chances of developing hip dysplasia in the first place.
Numerous studies have shown that if a puppy is not allowed to gain excess weight as they grow - hip dysplasia usually starts to manifest itself at around 18 months - they are less likely to develop the condition at all, even if they are from a breed prone to the condition.
How is hip dysplasia in dogs treated?
As far more is understood about hip dysplasia in dogs these days the treatment options available for the condition have increased. Just what works for a pup depends on their age, the severity of the disease, their size and more.
Mild cases can be managed alone by following a strict weight control and moderate exercise (little and often). Anti-inflammatory medication and steroids required in some cases as and when in needed. Physical therapy and hydrotherapy can be very effective as well.
For some dogs the level of discomfort and pain is not adequately controlled with these conservative management measures and so surgical intervention is then considered.
The number of surgical options for hip dysplasia have increased as well. Younger dogs can undergo smaller surgical techniques: Juvenile Pubic Symphysiodesis (JPS) surgery and/or double or triple pelvic osteotomy that reshapes the affected hip socket and allows for more natural movement.
In older dogs, total hip replacement is an option and has a very good success rate in dogs but it is also more expensive. Consider pet insurance especially in the case of large and extra large breeds as costs for HD surgery and medication can spiral quickly out of control and costs are the last thing you want to worry about when your fur-kid is suffering.
This highly informative video shows how a total hip replacement surgery is performed on dogs (note, there is not audio on this video).
These surgeries are most effective in younger dogs, so if you suspect your pup might develop hip dysplasia discuss it with your vet right away, as the earlier they are treated the better.
Do Diet Changes Help Dogs With Arthritis As Well?
If surgery is not an option, and a pup is treated for their hip dysplasia with more conservative treatment they may develop canine arthritis as they age. And dogs with healthy hip joints do too.
The good news is that the same dietary considerations that can help dogs with hip dysplasia also help dogs with arthritis, especially when it comes to reducing inflammation and maintaining a healthy weight.
Weight loss, dietary change (when necessary), regular but controlled exercise (including hydrotherapy), nutritional supplementation (omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine) causes dramatic improvement in case of degenerative joint disease (DJD) such as arthritis.
How do I transition my dog to a new diet?
Here is a sample schedule you can follow to make switching from one food to another easier on you both:
Sample Diet Transitioning Schedule
75% current food, 25% new food
Day #2 and Day #3
70% current food, 30% new food
Day #4 and Day #5
50% current food, 50% new food
25% old food, 75% new food
New food only!
You should follow this schedule any time you make a brand switch and as you do try to observe how your dog's stomach and digestive health changes.
Once you find a food that works well for your pet dog, stick with it. Changing types (kibble, raw, freeze-dried, canned) or brands of food can make your dog sick. If you do need to change his food, do it slowly over a few days. Give your dog a bit more of the new food and a bit less of the old food each day.
With the right care - and the right food - pups with hip dysplasia can live lives that are as long and happy as any other. We hope this piece has given you more insight into how you - and the right dog food for hip dysplasia - can help your fur kid.
Thank you for reading and we hope you have found the information useful. What are your own experiences with canine hip dysplasia? Share your tips below and please don’t forget to share with us if you found this content useful!