A watercolor painting depicting a dog with canine hip dysplasia lounging on the floor.

Canine Hip Dysplasia

What is it?

Canine Hip Dysplasia is a condition in which the hip joint of a dog does not develop correctly. This can happen as a result of genetics, growth rate, or nutrition. It can cause pain, decreased mobility, and other related complications.

How is it Treated?

It’s usually treated with medications, physical therapy, and weight control. In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary to treat the condition.

Breed Predispositions

Labrador Retrievers
German shepherds
Golder retrievers
Doberman pinscher


Ever since adopting her lovable Great Dane, Jasper, Sophie had been enamored with his gentle nature and incredible size. As Jasper grew, however, she noticed that he appeared to have difficulty moving his hind legs, often showing signs of discomfort when getting up from a lying position. Concerned about her gentle giant’s well-being, Sophie consulted her veterinarian, who diagnosed Jasper with canine hip dysplasia—a common but potentially debilitating condition in dogs.

Hip dysplasia, often referred to as HD, is a health condition where the dog’s hip joint becomes dislocated due to abnormal hip socket formation and irregular bone growth around the hip joint, typically a ball and socket structure. It ranks as one of the dogs’ most widespread orthopedic ailments, impacting their hip function.

While hip dysplasia can affect any dog, it is notably more common in larger breeds such as German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Boxers, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, and Pit Bulls. However, it’s worth noting that the condition also appears in smaller breeds, with French Bulldogs being one of them. Golden Retrievers, in particular, have been frequently diagnosed with this condition. As a result of hip dysplasia, many dogs can develop hip arthritis over time, causing pain and reduced mobility.Types of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

There are two types of hip dysplasia: degenerative and juvenile hip dysplasia.

Degenerative Hip Dysplasia

This condition variant arises when the cartilage cushions the ball and socket of the hip joint and wears away, leading to hip joint laxity. This degeneration is a joint disease that often becomes noticeable in many dogs once they reach their senior years, typically beyond the age of ten. However, signs of hip dysplasia can occur at birth, with most puppies demonstrating some degree of this condition, but only about 1% develop severe symptoms.

Degenerative hip dysplasia is prevalent in large-breed dogs. It is frequently seen in breeds such as Great Danes, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Saint Bernards, Mastiffs, Bullmastiffs, Boxers, Pit Bulls, and American Staffordshire Terriers. Large and giant breed dogs are particularly prone to this condition due to their size and weight.

Juvenile Hip Dysplasia

This condition occurs earlier in life and affects the young dog’s hip joint development. The hip socket, or acetabulum, is inadequately deep to allow the head of the thighbone (femoral head) to fit properly. This mismatch results in varying degrees of hip laxity, from mild to severe, causing looseness in one or both hip joints. This variant of hip dysplasia often becomes evident in adult dogs as they age and the condition progresses.

Causes of Canine Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a hereditary and developmental condition in dogs, marking the abnormal formation of the hip joint, commonly referred to as hip dysplasia in the dog’s hip. As dog’s age, this can develop into degenerative joint disease, such as arthritis, leading to discomfort and mobility challenges. Several factors contribute to hip dysplasia, including:

  • Genetic Predisposition: Genetics plays a significant role in hip dysplasia, with some breeds being more susceptible. Larger dog breeds, such as the Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, German Shepherd, Great Dane, and Rottweiler, are at higher risk. However, it’s important to note that even smaller breeds can succumb to this condition.
  • Rapid Growth: Puppies that experience swift growth may have an elevated risk of hip dysplasia. Diets that promote speedy growth or excessive weight gain can exert extra pressure on the developing joints, leading to the abnormal development known as hip dysplasia.
  • Nutrition: Unbalanced nutrition, especially during the critical growth phase of a puppy, can lead to hip dysplasia. Diets too rich in calories, calcium, or phosphorus can contribute to atypical bone development and joint behavior.
  • Obesity: Overweight dogs are more likely to develop hip dysplasia due to the excess weight bearing down on the joints, leading to abnormal wear and tear and, ultimately, degenerative joint disease.
  • Exercise: While moderate exercise contributes positively to a dog’s overall health, strenuous or high-impact exercise during a puppy’s growth phase can enhance the risk of hip dysplasia. Running on hard surfaces or jumping from heights can impose excessive stress on a dog’s joints, resulting in joint abnormalities.
  • Environmental Factors: Conditions such as cold and damp environments can intensify joint pain in dogs with hip dysplasia, potentially aggravating the condition.
canine hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is an abnormal development strongly linked to genetic factors. However, responsible breeding practices, proper nutrition, weight management, and appropriate exercise can assist in minimizing the risk of young and mature dogs developing this debilitating condition.

Signs of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

There are several manifestations of hip dysplasia in dogs, including juvenile and mature forms. These two forms share some similarities, and they can appear at any stage of a dog’s life but also present unique characteristics. Here’s a closer look at the symptoms of hip dysplasia in both forms:

Juvenile Form

  • A ‘bunny hopping’ gait
  • Lameness in the rear leg or legs
  • Challenges in rising from a resting position
  • A noticeable clicking sound from the hips when the dog is walking or standing
  • A shift of weight to the front limbs
  • A limited ability to exercise for extended periods

It’s essential to note that young dogs rarely show overt signs of hip dysfunction, and many can recover from mild hip dysplasia. This improvement occurs because the body produces fibrotic tissue to stabilize the loose joints. While approximately 30 percent of dogs might require additional treatment later in life due to severe hip dysplasia, many dogs can manage without further intervention.

Mature Form

  • Progressive lameness in the rear limbs
  • A ‘bunny hopping’ gait
  • Lameness following exercise
  • Loss of muscle mass in one or both rear limbs
  • Challenges in performing activities such as jumping or climbing stairs

These clinical signs vary in their degree of hip laxity and indicate that the dog is experiencing a painful condition, often secondary to severe hip dysplasia. Therefore, recognizing these symptoms of hip dysplasia is essential for initiating timely intervention and providing relief from the pain from hip dysplasia that dogs must endure.

Diagnosis of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Identifying hip dysplasia in dogs entails a comprehensive approach, combining medical history analysis, physical assessment, and imaging techniques to determine the condition’s severity. The typical procedure for diagnosing hip dysplasia in dogs involves the following stages:

Medical History

The veterinarian will gather information about the dog’s breed, age, and any observed symptoms like discomfort or mobility difficulties. This data enables the veterinarian to establish if the dog is vulnerable to hip dysplasia and gauge the severity of the potential condition.

Physical Examination

The veterinarian conducts A thorough physical examination and checks for indications of pain, stiffness, or a diminished range of motion in the dog’s hips. They may also carry out specific evaluations, such as the Ortolani or the Bardens test, designed to check for joint laxity and hip dysplasia.

Radiographs (X-rays)

Employing imaging techniques is critical in diagnosing hip dysplasia since it enables the veterinarian to visually examine the hip joint and assess its extent. For accurate results, X-rays are taken while the dog is sedated or anesthetized to ensure the proper positioning. These images assist the veterinarian in determining the degree of joint laxity, the presence of arthritis, and any alterations to the bone structure of the hip joint.

OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) Evaluation

In some instances, mainly when it concerns breeding, the dog’s X-rays may be forwarded to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for a professional assessment and grading of hip dysplasia. The OFA employs a standardized grading system to ascertain the severity of hip dysplasia and provides certification for dogs with normal hip function.

PennHIP Evaluation

An alternative method to assess hip dysplasia is the PennHIP evaluation, which measures joint laxity more accurately than traditional X-rays. This technique uses three different radiographic views and a specialized device called a distractor to measure the degree of joint laxity. The results are expressed as a distraction index (DI), with a lower DI indicating a tighter and healthier hip joint.

Early diagnosis and intervention are crucial in managing hip dysplasia in dogs, as timely treatment can help to slow down the progression of the condition and improve the dog’s quality of life.

Treatment Options for Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Different therapeutic strategies are employed to manage hip dysplasia in dogs, mainly depending on the disease’s severity, age, body weight, and overall health status. In most cases, veterinarians may propose a blend of medical treatment, weight regulation, physical therapy, and surgical intervention to alleviate symptoms and enhance the dog’s quality of life. Below are the standard treatment methods for hip dysplasia in dogs:

hip dysplasia treatment in dogs

Surgical Intervention

Surgical intervention may be recommended in more severe cases of hip dysplasia or when conservative management is insufficient. If successful, only 30% of young dogs treated this way will need advanced therapies later in life. There are several surgical options for hip dysplasia in dogs, including:

  • Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (TPO): This surgical option benefits young dogs with minimal joint damage. The veterinary surgeon realigns the hip joint by making three incisions in the pelvis and rotating the acetabulum to provide better coverage for the femoral head.
  • Femoral Head Osteotomy (FHO): This procedure, also known as FHO surgery, involves the removal of the femoral head, the ball-like part of the femur that connects to the hip joint. The body consequently forms a “pseudo-joint” composed of scar tissue, which can alleviate pain and improve mobility. 
  • Total hip replacement (THR): This hip dysplasia surgery replaces the damaged hip joint with an artificial one, much like hip replacement surgery in humans. This surgical option provides the best long-term outcome for dogs with severe hip dysplasia, though it’s also the most invasive and expensive.
  • Juvenile Pubic Symphysiodesis (JPS): This procedure is typically performed on young puppies up to 5 months old, which allows their hips to develop more normally and circumvent potential complications later in life. This surgery prematurely fuses the symphysis, leading to the rotation of the developing hip sockets into a more aligned position.

Prompt intervention and a holistic treatment plan are vital for managing dog hip dysplasia and preserving their quality of life. Working closely with a veterinarian is crucial to determine the most suitable treatment options for each dog.

Conservative Treatment

  • Physical therapy comprises strengthening exercises to bolster weak muscles and improve the range of motion. Additionally, this form of exercise aids in averting future complications associated with hip dysplasia.
  • Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medical practice used to treat various conditions for centuries. Recently, it has been gaining popularity as a treatment for canine hip dysplasia.

Some scientific evidence supports using acupuncture for treating hip dysplasia in dogs. For example, a study published in the Journal of Veterinary Medicine found that acupuncture effectively reduced pain and improved mobility in dogs with hip dysplasia.

If you are considering acupuncture to treat your dog’s hip dysplasia, consult a qualified veterinarian or acupuncturist.

  • Medication can alleviate symptoms, particularly when the dog suffers extreme pain. Medications range from pain relievers, NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), joint supplements, and corticosteroids to opioids. However, some drugs can cause side effects like vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and drowsiness.
  • Supplemental feeding is another option for dogs suffering from hip dysplasia. Supplemental feeding aims to reduce weight gain and bone density loss. Supplemental feedings should only be considered after consulting with a veterinarian.

Many diets are available for dogs with hip dysplasia, including grain-free, gluten-free, and hypoallergenic diets. Grain-free diets contain fewer carbohydrates than regular diets, making them better choices for dogs who experience gastrointestinal issues. Gluten-free diets are typically made from rice, corn, potato starch, soy protein, and tapioca. Hypoallergenic diets contain wheat, barley, rye, oats, milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, and sesame seeds.

  • Joint supplements are beneficial as they supply essential nutrients (typically glucosamine and chondroitin) that support healthy joint function and alleviate inflammation and pain associated with hip dysplasia. Joint supplements present a safe and effective way to manage canine hip dysplasia.

Prevention of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Prevention of hip dysplasia in dogs is a multifaceted process encompassing genetic, nutritional, and lifestyle aspects. While not every instance of hip dysplasia can be forestalled, dog owners can undertake specific steps to mitigate the risk and foster the healthy development of the hip joint, which is a ball and socket structure. Here’s how to potentially prevent hip dysplasia, which is notably common in large-breed dogs:

Prudent Breeding Practices

One of the most impactful methods to prevent hip dysplasia is breeding dogs with robust hip health. Breeders should conduct hip evaluations like those offered by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or PennHIP tests. This ensures only dogs with good hip conformation are chosen for breeding. In addition, steer clear of buying puppies from breeders who fail to provide proof of hip evaluations for both parental dogs.

Appropriate Nutrition

A balanced, age-suitable diet is vital for a dog’s healthy hip development. Overfeeding can result in rapid growth and obesity, escalating the risk of developing hip dysplasia. It’s recommended to consult your veterinarian to determine the best options for your dog’s diet and portion sizes based on breed, age, and activity level.

Weight Control

Ensuring your dog maintains a healthy weight throughout life is crucial to preventing undue stress on the hip joints. Obesity can worsen hip dysplasia and lead to other joint issues. Consequently, regular exercise and portion control become critical factors in managing your dog’s weight.

Appropriate Exercise

Regular, low-impact exercise can assist in strengthening your dog’s muscles and preserving joint health. Swimming, walking, and controlled leash play offer exercise without imposing excessive stress on the hip joints. High-impact activities such as jumping and running on hard surfaces should be avoided, especially for young, growing dogs.

Environmental Adjustments

Providing a comfortable, supportive sleeping area for your dog can lessen the stress on their joints. Orthopedic dog beds or cushioned surfaces can help relieve pressure on the hips. Additionally, reducing the use of stairs and providing ramps or steps for entry and exit from vehicles can minimize joint strain in dogs predisposed to hip dysplasia.

While entirely preventing hip dysplasia in dogs is not always feasible, adhering to these guidelines can help lower the risk and foster healthy hip development. Prompt detection and intervention are essential for managing hip dysplasia, so it’s vital to regularly consult your veterinarian and monitor your dog’s hip health throughout their life. It’s also essential to know about hip dysplasia and its symptoms to identify it in affected dogs as early as possible, helping keep your dog less prone to this painful hip condition. In addition, pain medication could be necessary for some dogs to manage the pain.

Frequently Asked Questions

The lifespan of a dog with hip dysplasia can vary depending on various factors, including the severity of the condition, the age of onset, and the management and treatment approach implemented. Dogs with mild hip dysplasia often live an average lifespan with appropriate management and care. In contrast, dogs with more severe hip dysplasia may experience a reduced lifespan due to the associated pain, reduced mobility, and secondary complications.

The average price of fixing hip Dysplasia in a dog varies depending on breed, age, and whether the dog was spayed/neutered. A dog under six months generally costs around $2,500 to $7,000. An older dog (over 12 years) typically costs more than $7,000.

Breed dramatically affects how much it costs to fix hip dysplasia in a dog. Some breeds, like German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers, are expensive because they are larger breed dogs. However, smaller breeds like Chihuahuas and Poodles are cheaper because their bones are thinner and easier to repair.

Excessive or inappropriate exercise in puppies with developing skeletal systems may contribute to the progression of hip dysplasia in genetically predisposed dogs. In addition, high-impact activities, repetitive jumping, and excessive running on hard surfaces during the critical growth stages can place excessive stress on the hip joints, exacerbating the underlying genetic factors.

It’s essential to provide puppies with controlled exercise appropriate for their age, breed, and individual needs to help promote proper musculoskeletal development. However, it’s worth noting that hip dysplasia is a multifactorial condition influenced by genetic and environmental factors, and excessive exercise alone is unlikely to be the sole cause.

Stairs alone do not cause hip dysplasia in dogs. Hip dysplasia is primarily a genetic condition resulting from an abnormal hip joint formation, leading to hip joint instability and, eventually, degeneration. However, excessive stair climbing or jumping can worsen hip dysplasia symptoms and increase the risk of joint injury, inflammation, and pain.

CBD oil has gained popularity as a potential supplement for managing pain and inflammation in dogs, including those with hip dysplasia. While some dog owners report positive effects, it’s important to note that the scientific research on CBD oil specifically for hip dysplasia in dogs is limited, and its effectiveness may vary among individuals.

Hip dysplasia in dogs does not typically occur suddenly. Instead, it is a developmental condition that generally manifests over time as the dog grows. The abnormal hip joint formation, the primary characteristic of hip dysplasia, is usually present from a young age. However, the symptoms and severity of hip dysplasia can vary among individual dogs.

Yes, a dog can have hip dysplasia in only one hip. While hip dysplasia commonly affects both hips, it can occur unilaterally, affecting only one hip joint. This means one hip joint may have standard structure and function while the other joint shows signs of dysplasia.

Unilateral hip dysplasia can present unique challenges as it can lead to asymmetrical gait, muscle development, and weight distribution. The severity of symptoms and the impact on the dog’s mobility will depend on the degree of dysplasia in the affected hip.

It’s worth noting that if a dog is diagnosed with hip dysplasia in one hip, there is an increased likelihood of developing dysplasia in the other hip, especially in breeds predisposed to the condition. Therefore, regular monitoring, appropriate management, and consultation with a veterinarian experienced in orthopedic conditions are essential to ensure the best possible care for a dog with unilateral hip dysplasia.

Hip dysplasia can occur in dogs of any breed or mix, but certain breeds are more prone to developing the condition due to genetic factors. Some dog breeds known to have a higher prevalence of hip dysplasia include:

  • Large and giant breeds: Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Newfoundlands, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Rottweilers, Mastiffs, and German Shepherds.
  • Retrievers: Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers.
  • Bulldogs: English Bulldogs and French Bulldogs.
  • Poodles: Standard Poodles.
  • Hound breeds: Bloodhounds and Basset Hounds.
  • Terriers: Staffordshire Bull Terriers and Scottish Terriers.
  • Other breeds: Boxers, Dalmatians, and Samoyeds.

It’s important to note that while these breeds have a higher prevalence of hip dysplasia, it does not mean that every dog of these breeds will develop the condition. Genetics, breeding practices, and environmental factors can influence the likelihood of hip dysplasia in individual dogs.

Hip dysplasia is a developmental condition characterized by an abnormal hip joint formation, and it does not typically heal on its own. The structural abnormalities that contribute to hip dysplasia, such as shallow hip sockets or improperly aligned bones, are generally present from a young age and do not spontaneously correct themselves.

Canine hip dysplasia (CHD) is a complex genetic trait influenced by multiple genes rather than being solely dominant or recessive. The inheritance pattern of CHD involves both genetic and environmental factors.

While the exact mode of inheritance for CHD is not fully understood, it is believed to be a polygenic trait, meaning multiple genes influence it. This polygenic nature suggests that multiple genes interact to contribute to the development of CHD, making it a more complex genetic condition.

Furthermore, environmental factors, such as rapid growth, excessive weight gain, nutrition, exercise levels, and injury, can also impact the expression and severity of CHD. These factors can modify the genetic predisposition and influence the development and progression of the condition.

Yes, puppies can develop hip dysplasia, as the condition primarily begins during their growth and maturation stages. In addition, genetic factors and environmental influences such as rapid growth and injury contribute to the development and severity of hip dysplasia in puppies.

Early detection and intervention through regular veterinary check-ups, monitoring for signs of discomfort, and appropriate management strategies are essential for minimizing the impact of hip dysplasia and improving the puppy’s quality of life. Consulting with a veterinarian experienced in orthopedic conditions is necessary for proper diagnosis and guidance.

Dogs with hip dysplasia may exhibit different sitting positions or behaviors to compensate for discomfort or reduced hip joint mobility. However, it’s important to note that how a dog sits can vary depending on the individual and the severity of their hip dysplasia. Here are a few common sitting positions that dogs with hip dysplasia may adopt:

  • Bunny Hopping: Some dogs with hip dysplasia may sit with their hind legs splayed out to the sides, resembling a bunny hop position. This position allows them to distribute weight more evenly and may help reduce discomfort.
  • Side Sits: Dogs with hip dysplasia may sit with one or both hind legs stretched out to the side. This posture helps relieve pressure on the hip joints and can provide more stability.
  • Front-Sitting: In some cases, dogs may prefer to sit more on their front end, with their hind legs positioned forward. This posture can help take the weight off the hip joints and reduce strain.

Observing your dog’s sitting posture and behavior is essential to understand their comfort level, adjusting their environment, or providing support. Suppose you notice any changes in their sitting habits, such as difficulty or reluctance to sit. In that case, it’s advisable to consult with a veterinarian experienced in orthopedic conditions for a thorough examination and guidance on appropriate management strategies for your dog’s specific situation.

Yes, dogs with hip dysplasia should exercise, but it should be low-impact and moderate. Consult a veterinarian for guidance and adjust the exercise routine to your dog’s needs. Avoid high-impact activities, gradually increase exercise intensity, and ensure a safe environment. Weight management is essential, and regular monitoring is necessary.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this veterinary website is intended for general educational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a licensed veterinarian for any concerns or questions regarding the health and well-being of your pet. This website does not claim to cover every possible situation or provide exhaustive knowledge on the subjects presented. The owners and contributors of this website are not responsible for any harm or loss that may result from the use or misuse of the information provided herein.

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