Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in posts
Search in pages
canine health problems

Hip dysplasia in dogs, explained

Everything you need to know about identifying, managing, and treating canine hip dysplasia

Updated January 22, 2021

Created By

Lauren Cocking,
Brown Chesapeake Bay Retriever running in garden

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are one of the many breeds prone to hip dysplasia

The essentials

  • Canine hip dysplasia is common and treatable Non-invasive, medical, and surgical options are all available.
  • Certain breeds are more prone to developing canine hip dysplasia These include bulldogs, German shepherds, and golden retrievers.
  • You can address the environmental factors which contribute to canine hip dysplasia at home Supplements, a good diet, and a balanced exercise regime are all important.

What is canine hip dysplasia?

Canine hip dysplasia is a chronic condition that is common in larger breeds and older dogs. ‘Hip dysplasia’ is a fancy way of saying that the top of your pooch’s femur bone (the long bone in their hind leg) doesn’t fit neatly into the hip joint.

When the head of the femur bone and hip socket (acetabulum) don’t fit together correctly, it puts stress on the surrounding ligament. This, in turn, worsens the condition and allows the joint to further misalign. This misalignment causes pain and, in rare cases, leads to the development of osteoarthritis and more inflammation.

In a normal hip, the ball and socket joint should fit together neatly and allow for a greater range of motion.

👉 Dogs with hip dysplasia are also more prone to developing arthritis in the affected area.

Signs and symptoms of canine hip dysplasia

There are several tell-tale clinical signs of hip dysplasia in dogs, many of which you can look out for and monitor at home if you suspect your dog is suffering from this condition.

  • Visible discomfort when walking or exercising
  • Difficulty standing up or excessive stiffness when moving
  • Stiff back legs when walking
  • Limping
  • Running with a ‘bunny hopping’ motion
  • Loss of muscle mass or atrophy in the affected area
  • Reluctance to walk, play and run as usual
  • General lameness in the hind legs

👉 Hip dysplasia can be present in both hips at once, even in young dogs. Look out for these symptoms in one or both legs.

Why does my dog have canine hip dysplasia?

There are several reasons your dog might develop hip dysplasia, including genetics, breeding, and improper diet. Below, we’ve listed some of the most common causes of hip dysplasia in dogs.

Causes of hip dysplasia in dogs

  • Age. Like humans, older dogs begin to suffer more with their joints and ligaments as they get older. Hip dysplasia often goes hand-in-hand with osteoarthritis.
  • Size. The larger and heavier the dog the more likely they are to suffer from canine hip dysplasia. This is simply because their joints are supporting more weight and obesity can also be a contributing factor.
  • Diet. Feeding your puppy too much or providing overly calcium-rich food or supplements can contribute to hip dysplasia later in life. That’s because too much food (or too much calcium) may prompt speedy growth and excessive weight gain, especially in large breed dogs.
  • Injury. Repetitive movements, like jumping, or simply injury can lead to the development of canine hip dysplasia.
  • Genetics. Regardless of breed, some dogs are genetically-prone to hip dysplasia and may require corrective surgery as puppies. This is why it’s key to know their family history, where possible.
  • Breed. Hip dysplasia tends to be more common in certain breeds, including giant breeds, as listed below.
Portrait of a nice St. Bernard dog, female in the spring garden, best friend with sad eyes

Breeds more prone to canine hip dysplasia

  • Bulldogs
  • Basset hounds
  • Pugs
  • Golden retrievers
  • Labrador retrievers
  • Great Danes
  • Rottweilers
  • German shepherds
  • Saint Bernards

Diagnosis

If you notice several of the above signs or symptoms in your pooch over a prolonged period, make an appointment with your vet. They’ll likely do bloodwork and perform radiographs or x-rays to confirm the diagnosis of canine hip dysplasia before talking you through treatment options. You might also need to discuss your pooch’s family history, at-home symptoms, and medical history of accidents.

🚨 Canine hip dysplasia can be better treated when it’s caught and diagnosed early, so don’t delay your vet visit.

Treatments for canine hip dysplasia

If your pooch is diagnosed with canine hip dysplasia, don’t panic! Depending on the severity of your furry friend’s hip dysplasia at the time of diagnosis, there are several treatment options available that can help improve their quality of life.

  • Weight loss. Excess weight and obesity can worsen the symptoms of canine hip dysplasia, so your dog may be required to slim down in order to ease their symptoms.
  • Antiinflammatories. If hip dysplasia is already present, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or injections may be prescribed by your vet to help reduce the swelling in the area.
  • Pain medication. Often taken in conjunction with anti-inflammatories, pain relievers help ease your dog’s discomfort. These typically work best in mild or early-stage cases, or in cases where surgery isn’t an option either due to high cost or your pup’s advanced age.
  • Physical therapy. Water therapy, cold laser therapy, or acupuncture are non-invasive, gentle ways to help strengthen your furry friend’s back legs without the need to rely on a constant stream of medications. However, they can also work great in conjunction with prescribed medications.
  • Daily exercise. An easy way to help ease and improve your dog’s hip dysplasia is by taking daily, low-impact exercise. This means short walks on soft surfaces like grass or sand, rather than concrete or slippery flooring. However, it’s important not to overdo it. The aim is to strengthen the hip muscles, not overwork them!

👉 It’s key to stop your dog from jumping and straining their hind legs as much as possible. Investing in a portable step stool to help them get in and out of cars and onto sofas can be a good idea, or you can simply lift them up and down! 

  • Supplements. Joint supplements can help ease or improve the symptoms of canine hip dysplasia and joint laxity. Look out for supplements that contain fish oils, glucosamine, and MSM, as they help to reduce inflammation, as well as protect and keep the cartilage flexible.
  • Surgical procedures. These often come as a last resort and there are several surgical options available, including double or triple pelvic osteotomy, femoral head osteotomy, and a total hip replacement. These depend on the age of your dog and the severity of their symptoms. For example, juvenile pubic symphysiodesis (JPS) is done on very young puppies to help prevent their hips from worsening in the future.

Is canine hip dysplasia preventable?

While we’d all like to stop our furry friends from unnecessary suffering, unfortunately, there’s no way of entirely preventing canine hip dysplasia. However, there are steps you can take to improve your dog’s overall health, and therefore reduce their risk factors and chances of developing canine hip dysplasia.

🚨 Canine hip dysplasia is not always preventable. But with timely treatment and care, your pooch can maintain movement and comfort in the joints. 

  • Responsible breeding. If you have or want to have a pedigree pooch, make sure you source them from a responsible breeder. Improper breeding and genetics can increase the risk factors of canine hip dysplasia. Alternatively, consider adopting a dog breed that isn’t considered high-risk for hip dysplasia.

👉 If possible, it’s important to know about your dog’s family history. You can then be on the lookout for possible early symptoms and get them the treatment they need before the condition worsens. 

  • Diet and nutrition. Especially for larger breeds, diet and nutrition and crucial to help stave off hip dysplasia. Make sure you feed your dog high-quality food, in moderation, so they don’t grow too fast. And watch out for excess calcium content!
  • Appropriate exercise. As with most things in life, moderation is key when it comes to exercise too. Too much and you risk straining and overworking your dog’s hind legs; too little and they may grow weaker. In general, try to reduce the amount of weight-bearing and jumping your dog does and up their daily exercise if they’re overweight.
  • Supplements. Joint supplements are important for both prevention and treatment of hip dysplasia. Be proactive and introduce supplements containing glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega 3 fatty acids before they develop hip dysplasia symptoms.