Degenerative diseases

Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: May 27, 2020
Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

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Hip dysplasia is a bone disease that affects many dogs around the world. It is hereditary and usually doesn't develop until 5-6 months of age, or sometimes adult stage. It is a degenerative disease that can become so painful for the dog that even in the advanced stage it can completely incapacitate them.
It affects large dog breeds, especially if they have not received adequate doses of calcium and minerals they need for their rapid growth. Poor nutrition, extreme physical exercise, being overweight and hormonal alterations can also cause the disease to develop. However, it can also occur from genetic and random causes.

If you suspect that your pet may be suffering from this disease, keep reading. We will discuss hip dysplasia in dogs, along with the symptoms and treatment indicated for the disease.

You also may be interested in: Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs

You may also be interested in: Exercises to Help Dogs With Hip Dysplasia


  1. What is hip dysplasia in dogs?
  2. Dogs prone to hip dysplasia
  3. Causes and risk factors of hip dysplasia
  4. Symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs
  5. Diagnosis of hip dysplasia
  6. Treatment of hip dysplasia
  7. Medical forecast of hip dysplasia
  8. Prevention of hip dysplasia
  9. Caring for a dog with hip dysplasia

What is hip dysplasia in dogs?

The name Dysplasia is of Greek origin and means difficulty to form. That is why hip dysplasia in dogs consists of a malformation of the coxofemoral joint. This is the hip joint that joins the femur (thigh bone) with the pelvic bone. The head of the femur is ball-shaped and moves into a concave cavity of the pelvic bone, called the acetabulum.

During the growing stage, the hip does not develop normally, which causes friction. This malformation prevents a smooth movement that aggravates with time.

As a result of this, the dog suffers pain and even a limp, causing them to struggle with routine activities such as sitting or climbing stairs.

Although there are many dogs that can carry this in their genes, the disease does not always develop.

Hip Dysplasia in Dogs - What is hip dysplasia in dogs?

Dogs prone to hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia can affect all types of dogs, although it is more common to develop in large or giant breeds. We should try to prevent it by informing ourselves of our pet's needs at every stage of life. Some breeds of dogs prone to hip dysplasia are:

  • German Shepherd
  • Malinois
  • Belgian Shepherd
  • Pyrenean Mastiff
  • Spanish Mastiff
  • Neapolitan Mastiff
  • Saint Bernard
  • Bernese Mountain Dog
  • Greyhound
  • Whippet
  • Golden Retriever
  • Rottweiler
  • Siberian Husky
  • Border terrier
  • American Bulldog
  • English Bulldog
  • French Bulldog
Hip Dysplasia in Dogs - Dogs prone to hip dysplasia

Causes and risk factors of hip dysplasia

Coxofemoral dysplasia is a complex disease because it is caused by many factors, both genetic and environmental. Although it is hereditary, it is not congenital, since it does not occur from birth but the dog develops it as it grows.

The factors that influence the appearance of hip dysplasia in dogs are:

  • Genetic predisposition: although the genes involved in dysplasia have not yet been identified, there is strong evidence that it is a polygenic disease. That is, it is caused by two or more different genes.
  • Rapid growth and / or obesity: an inadequate diet may favor the development of the disease. Giving your puppy lots of high-calorie food can lead to rapid growth that predisposes them to hip dysplasia. Obesity in dogs can also favor the development of the disease, either in adult dogs or in puppies.
  • Inappropriate exercise: Growing dogs should play and exercise to release their energies. Or develop their coordination and socialize. But, exercises that impact the joints can cause damage, especially in the growth stage. Thus, jumps are inadvisable in dogs that have not yet completed their development. It is also the same for elderly dogs who need to exercise without resenting their bones. An excess of activity may lead to the onset of this disease.

While rapid growth, obesity, and inappropriate exercise may favor the development of the disease, the critical factor is genetic.

Because of this, the disease is more common in some large and giant breeds. Breeds such as, St. Bernard, Neapolitan mastiff, German shepherd, labrador, golden retriever and rottweiler.

With this said, some races of medium and small size are also very prone to this disease. Among these breeds are the English bulldog (one of the breeds most likely to develop hip dysplasia), as well as pug and spaniel. In greyhounds, however, the disease is almost non-existent.

Yet, it must be taken into account that as a hereditary disease but influenced by the environment, the incidence of it can vary greatly. Of course, hip dysplasia also occurs in mongrel dogs.

Symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs

The symptoms of hip dysplasia are usually less obvious when the disease begins to develop and become more intense and evident as the dog ages and his hips deteriorate.

The symptoms are:

  • Inactivity
  • Refusing to play
  • Refusing to climb stairs
  • Refusing to run and to jump
  • Limp
  • Difficulty to move the hind legs
  • "Rabbit leap" movements
  • Swaying
  • Stiffness in the hip
  • Rigidity in the hind legs
  • Hip pain
  • Pelvic pain
  • Atrophy
  • Audible clicks of the hip
  • Difficulty getting up
  • Increase of shoulder muscles
  • Curved back

These symptoms may be constant or intermittent. Besides, they often get worse after the dog plays or exercises. If you detect any of these symptoms, we recommend you visit your veterinarian to have ultrasound scans. They will certify if the dog really has this disease.

Suffering from hip dysplasia does not mean the end of your dog's daily routines. It is true that you must follow some guidelines and advice that will change your daily routines.

But the truth is, using the medicines that your vet recommends or with homeopathy, your dog can improve their quality of life and continue to enjoy time with you.

Hip Dysplasia in Dogs - Symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs

Diagnosis of hip dysplasia

If your dog has some of the symptoms described, they may have hip dysplasia. So bring them to the vet to make the diagnosis. During the diagnosis, the veterinarian will palpate and manipulate the hips and pelvis, as well as request an x-ray of that area. Also, you can order blood and urine tests. The result of this diagnosis will show if the condition is hip dysplasia or other disease.

Keep in mind that pain and difficulty moving depend more on inflammation and damage to the joint than on the degree of dysplasia itself. Therefore, some dogs that present mild dysplasias in radiographic analysis can suffer much pain, while others with severe dysplasia may be less painful.

Treatment of hip dysplasia

Although hip dysplasia has no cure, there are treatments that can ease pain and improve the quality of life of the sick dog. These treatments may be medical (non-surgical) or surgical. To decide which treatment to follow, consider the age of the dog, their size, their general health and the degree of damage to the hip. Of course, your vet's opinion and the cost of the treatments also come into play in decision-making.

  • Medical treatment is generally advised for dogs with mild dysplasia and for which for different reasons can not be operated. It usually requires the administration of anti-inflammatory drugs and analgesics, administration of chondroprotective drugs (medicines that protect cartilage), exercise restriction, weight control and strict diet. It can also be supplemented with physiotherapy, hydrotherapy and massage, to relieve joint pain and strengthen muscles.

    The downside of medical treatment is that it must be followed throughout the dog's life. It also does not cure dysplasia, but simply delay or stop its development. However, often this is not very complicated and is enough for the dog to enjoy a good quality of life.

  • Surgical treatment is recommended when medical treatment does not work or when joint damage is severe. One of the advantages of surgical treatment is that once the postoperative care is over, it is not necessary to maintain a strict treatment for the rest of the dog's life. Yet, you also have to take into account that the surgery presents its own risks and that some dogs may have pain after it.

    Par excellence, the curative treatment is the triple pelvic osteotomy, that consists of the surgical remodeling of the bones. This process provides an artificial union - through a plaque - that correctly maintains the bones in place without allowing the femur to move.

There are other cases in which this type of work can not be done. We are talking about incurable cases. For these, we have palliative treatments such as arthroplasty due to the overexposure of the femoral head, which consists in removing the head of the femur, thus allowing the artificial formation of a new joint. It causes no pain but reduces the range of movements the dog can make. It can also generate abnormalities when walking although it grants the dog a dignified quality of life. In addition, there is also the option of replacing the hip joint with an artificial prosthesis.

Medical forecast of hip dysplasia

If hip dysplasia is not treated, the dog suffers a life of pain and disability. For dogs that reach very advanced degrees of hip dysplasia, life becomes a very long agony.
Even so, the medical prognosis for dogs receiving treatment on time is usually very good.

These dogs can live very happy and healthy lives, albeit with some restrictions on diet and exercise.

Prevention of hip dysplasia

Since hip dysplasia is predominantly caused by genetics, the only way to prevent and eradicate it, is to prevent dysplastic dogs from reproducing.
This is why pedigree dogs of certain breeds indicate whether the dog is free of the disease, or the degree of dysplasia that they have. For example, the International Cynological Federation (FCI) uses the following letter-based classification, from A to E:

  • A (Normal) Free of hip dysplasia.
  • B (Transition) There are small signs on the x-ray, but they are not enough to confirm the dysplasia.
  • C (Mild) Mild hip dysplasia.
  • D (Mean) The radiograph shows average hip dysplasia.
  • E (Severe) The dog has severe dysplasia.

Dogs that have dysplasias with degrees C, D and E should not be used in breeding stock. As it is very likely that the genes carrying the disease will be transmitted.

On the other hand, we must always be careful with physical exercise and the risk of obesity in our pet. These two factors are clearly influential in the onset of hip dysplasia.

Caring for a dog with hip dysplasia

Even if your dog suffers from hip dysplasia, you can improve their quality of life

considerably, if you take proper care. Your dog should be able to continue performing their routine activities. And yes, more calmly than before.

  • One of the proposals that work best is swimming both on the beach and in the pool. In this way the dog develops the muscles that surround the joints without wearing them out. A couple of times a week will suffice.
  • Do not stop taking your dog for a walk because they suffer from dysplasia. Reduce the walking time but increase the times you take them. It is very important to have at least 30 minutes of exercise per day.
  • If your dog suffers from obesity, it is very important that you remedy it as soon as possible. Remember that the dog supports their weight in their hip and this problem could aggravate the dysplasia. Look for light feed in the market and avoid high-fat snacks.

  • Take your dog to the vet for regular checkups to track their health. Follow the advice given by the specialist.

  • If they feel a lot of pain you can try to relieve the symptoms by massaging them or using hot water bottles in winter.

  • There are ergonomic wheelchairs for dogs suffering from dysplasia. If yours is following conservative treatment, you could benefit from this system.
Hip Dysplasia in Dogs - Caring for a dog with hip dysplasia

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Hip Dysplasia in Dogs, we recommend you visit our Degenerative diseases category.

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1 comment
Suzanne Cannavino
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Suzanne,

It is certainly possible that it is a neurological condition, but you will need to consult a veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis. Did they say anything else when you were getting x-rays?
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Hip Dysplasia in Dogs