My old dog suffers from hip dysplasia, and mornings are really tough for him. Are there any exercises we can do in the mornings that will help him?

Hip Dysplasia (or HD) is a painful condition which causes an instability in the hip joints, and often results in arthritis later on in the dog’s life. Most dogs with arthritis are particularly stiff and painful in the mornings, or in winter when the air is cooler. A helpful intervention that I give to my clients is to apply a heat pack wrapped in a towel to the hip area for 15 minutes. This will improve blood flow and aid in reducing joint and muscle stiffness. I would usually then prescribe some passive ranges of motion for the hindlimbs. These are slow, bicycling movements of the limbs and are aimed at preserving range and decreasing pain in certain joints by assisting in joint health and nutrition.

While your dog is lying on his side, place one hand over your dog’s stifle (I.e. knee) and grasp the area just above his paw with your other hand. Slowly move the limb forwards and backwards in a walking motion while ensuring that you get some hip flexion and extension. It is important to never force your dog into a position, however, so we usually advise that you stay outside of pain – if your dog is fighting you or seems uncomfortable then you have asked for too much range. It is also important to ensure that you keep the limb straight and do not abduct (move the limb away from the midline) or adduct (move the limb towards the midline) the limb.  I personally recommend doing 3 sets of 30 seconds (slow!) per limb.