Everything You Need to Know About Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Everything You Need to Know About Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

  • Kirsten Thornhill - 09.03.2020

If you have a large breed dog, you’ve most likely heard about hip dysplasia. This disease is prevalent in larger dogs, causing them a hefty amount of pain in the hip joint. This can be just as heart-wrenching for a paw parent to watch.

Canine hip dysplasia (CHD) is most commonly seen in breeds such as Labrador Retrievers, St. Bernards, German Shepherds, and Great Danes. However, small breeds are still susceptible to the disease. 

Fortunately, there are ways to prevent the condition from developing. There are things you can look for to ensure that it doesn’t worsen or progress over time. The more information that paw parents know regarding CHD, the better equipped they can be at making sure their four-legged best friend lives a long, healthy life. 

Time to get hip!


What is Hip Dysplasia

Dysplasia, coming from the Greek word dys-, meaning “difficult” or “bad” and -plasis, meaning “formation”. The term is commonly used in pathology when referring to an abnormality in development. 

Well, hip dysplasia is an orthopedic disease that affects a dog's coxofemoral or hip joint. In order to better understand how hip dysplasia develops in dogs, paw parents should have a basic understanding of hip anatomy. 

The hip joint is a ball-and-socket joint. In a healthy hip joint, the ball and socket move in synchrony, sliding smoothly. The round end of the femur fits inside the joint and moves without friction (in a normal hip joint). In doggos with hip dysplasia, the joint doesn’t develop properly and the ball-and-socket rub and grind against one another. Eventually, over time, the constant grinding causes an overall deterioration, ultimately leading to a loss of joint function. 

While hip dysplasia may sound like a disease that affects elder canines, it is totally possible that dogs can show symptoms of the disease early on in their years. In other instances, dogs develop problems later in life as a result of chronic inflammation of the hip joint, known as osteoarthritis or arthritis. 

What Causes Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Research studies have shown that there are numerous factors that may lead to development of hip dysplasia in dogs. The most common cause of CHD is based solely on genetics. Large breed dogs, such as Labrador Retrievers, Great Danes, and German Shepherds, are among those who are genetically predispositioned for developing the disease. 

In addition, improper nutrition, environmental factors, as well as too little or too much exercise, are factors when it comes to the potential development of hip dysplasia. Dogs that struggle with weight issues and may be obese are at a higher risk for preexisting hip dysplasia rapidly worsening and may even be responsible for the development of hip dysplasia in some instances. 

Hip dysplasia can affect smaller dog breeds, like we mentioned above. Both females and males as well as dogs of all ages can develop it. Because no dog is completely immune from getting the disease, it is super important that dog owners are well aware of the clinical signs so that they can act accordingly in making sure it doesn’t worsen over time. 

The Symptoms of Dog Hip Dysplasia

The clinical signs may vary from doggo to doggo. Many symptoms will depend on whether or not the dog suffers from acute or chronic hip dysplasia. Other associated symptoms involve the age of the dog for when they were diagnosed as well as how long the dog has been continuing to put pressure onto their joints. 

Acute hip dysplasia is typically seen in younger dogs. It can cause them to experience severe hip pain and even lameness. Even when the hip pain isn’t very intense, it is still present and may cause the dog discomfort. The varying stages of acute hip dysplasia can cause symptoms that stick around for months on end. 

Within a year’s time, an acute stage of hip dysplasia can become a chronic stage. The process can also develop slowly over time and take numerous years to fully develop. When the hip dysplasia becomes chronic, the varying degrees of pain continue and the range of motion in the hip joint becomes significantly reduced. Here, the arthritis will develop and continue to worsen as time progresses. 

All dogs will experience CHD differently as it develops. It is possible for some doggos with sever hip dysplasia and arthritis to exhibit little to no signs of the disease. Wait, what? Other dogs may have horrible symptoms that greatly decrease their quality of life. 

As the disease progresses, you will likely see the dog begin to favor one side of their body versus the other. They do this in order to compensate for the instability of the hip. Some dogs move in ways to put less pressure on the painful hip socket, such as running with both hips simultaneously moving together. 


Symptoms of dog hip dysplasia include: 



  • Pain, weakness, stiffness
  • Hesitation
  • Resistance to movement
  • Significantly reduced energy levels
  • Trouble standing, jumping, running, or climbing stairs
  • Lameness of back limbs
  • Loss of muscle mass in the thighs



Do note, dogs are infamous for hiding pain. Thus, if your dog is showing signs of distress or discomfort, they are probably in severe pain and whatever they are suffering from has significantly worsened. 

One of the first signs that the hip dysplasia has worsened is weakness in the back legs. Staying aware of your dog’s normal daily habits is the first step in being able to recognize when something isn’t quite right. 

If hip dysplasia is caught early, there are various treatment options available in order to help prevent the disease from progressing and ensuring that your dog is in as little pain as possible. Noticing that there may be a problem with your dog’s hip joint early on is paramount in their recovery. 

Diagnosing Dog Hip Dysplasia

If you notice any of the clinical signs of hip dysplasia, we highly highly recommend making an appointment to see your veterinarian. Some dog owners may think that they can wait until their doggo’s next check-up appointment to bring it up, but by that time the disease may have progressed into a next stage, causing your pup to be in more pain. Addressing the problem early on is the best way to ensure a proper treatment plan can be set in place.

In order to properly diagnose hip dysplasia in dogs, your veterinarian will perform numerous tests. First, she or he will do a physical exam that involves manipulating the hind limbs to show the range (or lack) of motion with the hip joint. The vet will keep a lookout for any signs of grinding in the hip socket or pain or discomfort. 

Secondly, the vet will most likely do x-rays in order to make a final diagnosis to see the progression of the disease. Then, he or she will be able to develop a treatment plan accordingly. 

It’s common for the physical exam to include the following tests: 

  • Complete blood count
  • Electrolyte panel
  • Blood chemical profile
  • Urinalysis

These tests will allow the vet to accurately diagnose your pup’s condition and rule out any other lingering factors. 

Treating Hip Dysplasia

Once your vet has diagnosed your pup with hip dysplasia, a treatment plan can begin. Treating it will vary case by case and will depend on the severity of the disease. 

In some instances of mild hip dysplasia, a change in the dog’s exercise routine and diet may be all that is needed to keep the symptoms controlled and managed. In more severe instances, surgery may be highly recommended. 

Here are 7 nonsurgical treatment options that your vet may advise. 


1. Nutritional Supplements

We recommend looking into adding supplements to your dog’s diet, such as glucosamine. It can help reduce your dog’s overall stiffness and pain associated with hip dysplasia. 


2. Swimming

A common treatment for dogs with hip dysplasia is physical therapy, including swimming. It’s an effective way to take pressure off the dog’s joints while still encouraging muscle activity. 


3. Weight Loss

Reducing your dog’s weight is one of the most commonly recommended nonsurgical options, Doggos that are overweight have significant amounts of pressure placed on their hips. This excess weight can lead to the progression of the disease and cause your dog a large amount of pain. 


4. Reduce Inflammation

Your vet may prescribe NSAIDs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. 

The list of potential side effects associated with NSAIDs for dogs is horrific. To be honest. While they may help relieve pain temporarily, they also have the ability to cause a whole laundry list of issues, some being irreversible. 


5. Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO)

A FHO is a procedure that is performed on both young and old doggos. The procedure involves cutting down the femoral head of the hip joint and creating a new, false joint. This method aims to relieve the dog’s pain. 


6. Double or Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (DPO/TPO)

A DPO/TPO is typically done on puppies who are diagnosed with the disease early on. The procedure entails cutting the pelvic bone, fusing together part of the pelvis, and rotating the segments. This method aims to improve the function of the ball-and-socket joint. 


7. Total Hip Replacement (THR)

A THR involves removing and replacing the entire hip with an implant. Experts state that a THR is the best surgical option for giving a dog full and normal function of the joint. 

Alternative Medicinal Options

Some paw parents choose means of alternative treatment such as class 4 laser, stem cell treatments, acupuncture, and traditional Chinese medicine in order to help relieve their dog’s inflammation and pain associated with hip dysplasia. 

We encourage our readers to be open about the potential options within alternative medicine. If it means that your four-legged companion is out of pain and discomfort, isn’t it worth a go?


Hip Dysplasia in Dogs: Final Thoughts

When all is said and done, no one said that being a dog parent would be easy. Recognizing that your fur child is in distress can be extremely hard for paw parents. In many instances, hip dysplasia can’t be entirely prevented. But, by being able to recognize the early signs of the disease, dog parents can ensure that they are able to act appropriately in order to prevent the rapid progression of this disease. 

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