Hip Dysplasia ~ The Ultimate Guide

Hip dysplasia is a common problem in dogs affecting approximately 15% of the canine population. So, what exactly is hip dysplasia?

Here’s everything you need to know about canine hip dysplasia - from symptoms to causes, diagnosis, prevention, treatments and care. Let's get started:

What is Canine Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is an inherited cause of hindlimb lameness. It is a deformity of the hip that occurs during growth. Hip dysplasia is predominantly seen in medium and large dogs.

In hip dysplasia, uniform growth of the hip joint doesn't occur during puppyhood. The result is laxity or looseness of the joint, followed by degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis.

Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

The usual symptoms of canine hip dysplasia are:

  • Weakness and pain in one or both of the hind legs
  • Difficulty to rise from a sitting or lying position
  • Lameness (limping)
  • Shifting of weight to the forelimbs
  • Loss of muscle mass on the rear limbs
  • Pain on palpation of the thigh area
  • Clicking sound when walking
  • Inability or reluctance to climb stairs
  • Lack of interest in play or exercise

Symptoms in young dogs

Symptoms in senior dogs

Bunny hopping

Reluctance to jump

Wobbly gait

Difficulty walking up the stairs

Hind limb abduction

Reluctance to go for a walk

Slowing down during walks

Bunny hopping at a moderate pace

Reluctant to jump

General stiffness

Less playful than other young dogs

Stiffness when standing up

Aggression towards other dogs

Sleeping a lot after exercise


Dogs may show symptoms at any stage of hip dysplasia’s development. Some dogs do not develop any clinical signs until they are older. Young dogs are good at hiding their pain. They usually keep playing and exercising despite obvious discomfort or pain.

Causes of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Generally, hip dysplasia is hereditary but can also be triggered by other reasons. It can develop due to factors like rapid growth, a high-calorie diet, excessive muscle mass, or environment.

  • Genetics: Genetics play a huge role in the overall health of your dogs.
  • Rapid growth: Excessive caloric intake causes rapid growth and weight gain. Excessive growth can lead to skeletal disorders like hip dysplasia.
  • Poor diet: Some puppies have special nutrition requirements. Improper nutrition can also impact a dog’s likelihood of developing hip dysplasia.
  • Lack of exercise: Dogs prone to hip dysplasia shouldn't become overweight or obese. Obesity and lack of physical activity can exacerbate the symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs.
  • Arthritis and joint degeneration: Osteoarthritis, arthritis, or degeneration of the cartilage in the hip joint may lead to misalignment, inflammation, and dysfunction of the hip joint.
  • Injury: Injury to the dog's hip joint might result in hip dysplasia. Injuries can damage ligaments, tendons, and muscles that support the hip joint itself. Some injuries affect the position and angle of the femur. It can cause the femur to become misaligned or result in degeneration of the hip joint structures due to increased strain.

How to Diagnose Hip Dysplasia

If you think your dog’s experiencing hip pain, it's crucial to take them to the vet for diagnosis.

  • Physical examination: The vet will perform back leg manipulation tests to check their range of motion, discomfort level, and listen for any grinding in the joint.
  • Dog's history: The vet will discuss your dog’s history, prior injuries, diet, and exercise routine.
  • X-ray and radiography: Basic X-rays can be helpful, particularly in an older dog. Radiographs like ultrasound, MRI, and CT scans may help to diagnose hip dysplasia.
  • OFA and PennHIP: The two most common advanced screening tests are the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) protocol and the PennHIP protocol. The PennHIP protocol can be performed on dogs as young as four months old, while the OFA protocol requires that a dog is two years old before the test.

How to Prevent Hip Dysplasia in Your Dog

Your dog needs healthy nutrition, regular exercise, a safe and comfy place to relax and sleep. You can take the following steps to maintain your dog’s health:

  • Don’t overfeed your dog:

Extra weight puts unnecessary stress on the hips and joints. But it’s also the calories that can be problematic. If a dog gets too many calories, this can lead to rapid growth, especially of the bones. Cartilage can’t keep up and the chances of hip dysplasia increases. This is an even greater risk between 3-10 months of age.

Provide full nutrition and a complete balanced diet to your furry friend. A good diet ensures that your dog stays at the optimum weight and keeps its bones and joints healthy. Also, help your dogs to avoid rapid weight gain during their first year of life.

  • Exercise Caution:

Appropriate exercise increases muscle tone and strengthens the structures associated with the hip joints such as ligaments and tendons. Exercise is vital for all dogs but be careful not to over-exercise your dog.

Slippery surfaces are also a major danger. These are especially true for dogs that are more prone to hip dysplasia. Also, be careful not to let your dog jump from excessive heights.

  • Beware of Breeders!

You must ensure that you are buying from reputable breeders. Good breeders take special care to breed their dogs for good health. Always insist on seeing the health certificates of the parents before you commit. This will ensure that your pup doesn't carry genes for hip dysplasia. A responsible breeder will appreciate your concern!

  • Supplement Your Dog’s Health!

Humans have long known the benefits of supplements when it comes to bone and joint health. You can introduce dietary supplements, like Eva Pet Revitalizer into your dog’s diet. These supplements boast excellent amounts of Calcium, Glucosamine, Chondroitin sulfate, and Collagen. Put together, these form a tried-and-true recipe for strong joints and a reduction of muscle pain.

Given to your dog early, this supplement can help promote healthy joints and lessen the effects of hip dysplasia. We recommend starting with Man's Best Friend Package.

  • Vet examination:

Vet examinations are a key part of preventive care. These vet checkups give you a chance to track your dog’s growth and discuss any questions about the dog's health with your vet. If your dog is showing any symptoms of hip dysplasia, seek treatment to ensure the issue does not become severe.

Breeds Prone to Hip Dysplasia

There is a genetic basis in both the likelihood and severity of hip dysplasia. This condition can affect any breed of all sizes. However, bigger dogs are more prone to hip dysplasia. Here are the breeds that most often develop hip dysplasia.

  • German Shepherds
  • Corgis (Cardigan and Pembroke Welsh)
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Great Danes
  • Saint Bernards
  • Bernese Mountain Dogs
  • Bull Mastiffs
  • Neopolitan Mastiffs
  • American Staffordshire Terriers
  • Newfoundland
  • Rottweiler
  • Bulldogs
  • Boxers
  • Old English Sheepdogs

Canine Hip Dysplasia Treatment and Management

Your vet will help you find a daily pain-relieving program that is right for your dog. Here's a really helpful list of treatment and management options for dogs diagnosed with hip dysplasia.

  • Healthy diet: A combination of a healthy diet and maintaining a thin or average weight can help your dog maintain mobility and live a less painful life. Joint prescription diets or joint supplements, recommended by your vet, can help decrease inflammation and promote cartilage healing.
  • Exercise: It’s vital to make sure that dogs with hip dysplasia get an appropriate amount of exercise. Regular, low-impact exercises like swimming or walking will help reduce pain in your dog’s joints. You can work with your vet to explore exercise options to help ease your dog’s pain.
  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy can really help reduce your dog’s pain and increase his mobility.
  • Acupuncture: Acupuncture is an ancillary therapy that provides an additional benefit in some dogs.
  • Pain medication: You can give your dog pain medications, like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, to reduce pain, but only as directed by your vet.
  • Create a dog-friendly environment: You can use ramps or easy steps to help your dog into a car, bed, or around the house. Soft mattresses and orthopaedic dog beds work well too.
  • Surgery: Various surgical procedures are available including juvenile pubic symphysiodesis and total hip replacement. Your vet will advise you of the various surgical procedures. Total hip replacement is an option in dogs with severe hip dysplasia. If the procedure is successful, it can incredibly increase the quality of your dog's life. Juvenile pubic symphysiodesis is a simple preventive procedure for young puppies, with a high likelihood of developing hip dysplasia.

Final thoughts

Having a four-legged member is much more than just having a faithful friend. Their mere presence provides much more than just company. The responsibility of taking care of your dog makes your life more meaningful.

When it comes to the health of your furry companion, it’s never too early to start! Exercise, a healthy diet, supplements, and vet examination are great at reducing complications from hip dysplasia.

You can help your dog live his best life! A healthy dog can save you from a lot of stress in the long run. If you are not sure what is good for your dog - we'd be happy to help!

Until next time everyone!

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