Hereditary diseases

What Is Hip Dysplasia in Cats? - Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Laura García Ortiz
By Laura García Ortiz, Veterinarian specialized in feline medicine. January 27, 2021
What Is Hip Dysplasia in Cats? - Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

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Hip dysplasia is the failure of the hip joints to develop normally, gradually deteriorating and leading to loss of function of the hip joints.

You may also be interested in: Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs


  1. What is hip dysplasia?
  2. Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia in Cats
  3. Diagnosis of hip dysplasia in cats
  4. Treatment of hip dysplasia in cats

What is hip dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia consists of a maladaptation or incongruity between the articular part of the hip (acetabulum) and the articular part of the femur (head). This results in joint laxity, where the head of the femur can shift or move, progressively inflaming and weakening the joint area with cartilage erosion, microfractures, and subluxation. All this leads to an instability in the hip joint that will lead to a series of degenerative alterations such as osteoarthritis with discomfort, pain or lameness, degenerative osteoarthritis and atrophy of the muscles of the hind limbs.

The development of this traumatic condition is due to the interaction between genetic and environmental factors. Even if the parents of a cat with dysplasia have not manifested it, the kitten has inherited its genes. Sometimes it can be accompanied by patella luxation.

Cat breeds with a higher predisposition to suffer from hip dysplasia

There is a racial predisposition to suffer from hip dysplasia, so the most prone races are:

In addition, it seems more common in females than in males.

Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia in Cats

The symptoms of feline hip dysplasia will depend on the degree of incongruity of the joint. They can begin experiencing symptoms between 4 and 12 months of age with weakness in the joints until degenerative signs. With that being said, we can find the following range of clinical signs:

  • Increased inactivity
  • Difficulty jumping, running, or climbing
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Hind legs closer together than normal
  • Decreased mobility of the hind limbs and hips, so it is common to observe that the cat drags its hind legs
  • Thigh muscle atrophy
  • Increased muscles of the forelimbs (to compensate for the atrophy of the hindquarters)
  • Difficulty getting up
  • Hip snap when walking or getting up
  • Hip pain
  • Intermittent or persistent lameness of the hind legs

One important thing to keep in mind is that an overweight or obese cat will be more prone to the progression and worsening of clinical signs of hip dysplasia in cats.

Unlike dogs, cats, being experts in hiding their ailments, show very little symptoms. This suggests that this disease may be very underdiagnosed in this species. Felines with few symptoms may not want to climb to high places, stairs, be less active or sleep more, which can go unnoticed by the caregiver or, if they are older, relate it to aging.

This scarce symptomatology may be due to the following peculiarities of cats, in relation to dogs:

  • Greater sedentary lifestyle inside the house, moving the least.
  • Greater size and location of the lumbar spinous and transverse processes, as well as differences in the femurs and tuberosities of the pelvis, can modify the degree of support of the muscle masses that are inserted in the area.
  • Lighter skeleton with stronger muscle mass that would explain why the joint remained strong for longer, delaying or avoiding arthritis and the consequent pain.

Diagnosis of hip dysplasia in cats

The diagnosis of hip dysplasia in cats should be made by first ruling out other orthopedic disorders with similar clinical signs. The tests necessary to complete the diagnosis of this disease are:

  • Urine and blood analysis (hemogram and biochemistry).
  • Palpation of both hip joints.
  • X - rays of the hip in various views to assess for characteristic changes in the pathology through a series of measurements, such as the Norberg angle to assess dislocation and subluxation, increased acetabular width and decreased depth or flattening and deformity of the head of the femur.

It should be noted that hip dysplasia in Persian cats is especially frequent, being important to take X-rays from one year onwards in this breed.

What Is Hip Dysplasia in Cats? - Causes, Symptoms, Treatment - Diagnosis of hip dysplasia in cats

Treatment of hip dysplasia in cats

Once detected, feline hip dysplasia must be treated, otherwise the disease will progress and the cat will find itself worse and worse, creating a decrease in their quality of life and making them prone to other health issues.

Symptomatic treatment

Initially, the treatment should be symptomatic to improve the cat's quality of life, slow down the evolution of degenerative disorders and reduce inflammation and pain. The following drugs are used:

  • Corticosteroids: such as dexamethasone in a single dose at the beginning, continuing with prednisolone for its anti-inflammatory effect, of choice in acute cases of inflammation of the joint capsule. They should not be used long-term, as it can reduce the formation of collagen and proteoglycans, damaging the cartilage.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: those that act against cyclooxygenase 1 and 2 (COX-1 and COX-2) are chosen to inhibit the synthesis of prostaglandins that are mediated by pain and inflammation.
  • Glucosaminoglycans (GAGs): being part of the articular cartilage, they are used as precursors of glucuronic acid, glucosamine and glutamine, among others. They serve to regenerate articular cartilage and to reduce symptoms thanks to its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.


In cats with severe hip dysplasia or those that do not respond to conservative treatment, surgical intervention should be considered, performing:

  • Excision of the head of the femur: to form a fibrous pseudo-joint that can reduce pain.
  • Triple hip osteotomy (OTC): performing osteotomy of the pubis, ilium and ischium to free the acetabulum and reorient it to improve congruence between it and the head of the femur. This can correct the subluxation and increase the stability of the joint.
  • Artificial prostheses is performed when osteoarthritis or the disease is very advanced, the acetabulum and the femoral head and neck are removed to replace them with implants. Its great disadvantage is its high cost.

Physical therapy in cats with hip dysplasia can also be very helpful. What's very important here is that you quickly recognise the clinical symptoms and bring them to the veterinarian to be properly diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.

What Is Hip Dysplasia in Cats? - Causes, Symptoms, Treatment - Treatment of hip dysplasia in cats

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 What Is Hip Dysplasia in Cats? - Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, we recommend you visit our Hereditary diseases category.

  • Veterinary Portal. (2004). Hip dysplasia in the cat: a clinical case. Available at:
  • EcuRed. Feline hip dysplasia . Available at:
  • AI Raya., PC Ruíz. Hip dysplasia. Available at:
  • Harvey, A., Tasker, S. (Eds). (2014). Feline Medicine Manual. Ed. Sastre Molina, SL L ́Hospitalet de Llobregat, Barcelona, Spain.

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