Hip Dysplasia In Dogs – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Hip dysplasia is a common growth deformity that deeply impacts a dog’s quality of life.

Not only can this condition cause significant pain in itself, but it can lead to arthritic changes as the years go on.

Dogs with hip dysplasia can struggle significantly if their disease is not managed properly, making it so important to educate yourself on the details of this condition going forward.

In this article we will discuss the details of hip dysplasia in our canine friends, and help you better understand how you can offer your dog comfort as their condition progresses.

Hip Dysplasia In Dogs

Understanding The Hip Joints In Dogs

Before we discuss the details of hip dysplasia in dogs, it’s important to understand the normal formation of the canine hip joint.

In a dog free of hip dysplasia, the hip is made up of a ball and socket joint that allows the dog to move freely.

The two structures that make up the ball and socket joint of the hip include the head of the femur and the acetabulum of the pelvis.

Both the ball and the socket of the hip should grow at the same rate, allowing for a snug fit that offers stability.

What Is Hip Dysplasia In Dogs?

Hip dysplasia in dogs is a joint condition that refers to the improper development of the hip joint.

Dogs with hip dysplasia will experience laxity of the hip joint, leading to the development of scar tissue and bone spurs over time.

Due to this, the hip will no longer glide freely with each step, and dogs will develop secondary inflammation and arthritis.

The grinding of the joint is not only uncomfortable for the dog affected, but it can lead to significant joint deterioration over time.

This will begin a constant cycle of inflammation and pain, leading to the drastic impact on their quality of life.

What Causes Hip Dysplasia In Dogs?

Hip dysplasia in dogs is most commonly believed to be a genetic condition.

Though most experts will consider it a hereditary disease, there are other factors that can lead to the development of this condition in high risk pups.

To help you better understand the many factors that play a role in this painful condition, let’s discuss some of the most common causes of hip dysplasia below.


If a dog with hip dysplasia is used for breeding, their pups are more likely to develop the condition later in life.

This is why dogs with hip dysplasia should not be used for breeding when possible, as this only contributes to the continuation of this painful condition.

Rapid Growth

Dogs that undergo fast growth periods are more likely to suffer from abnormal formation of their hip joints.

This is most common in large and giant breed dogs, as they typically grow quickly within the first year of age.


Obesity can put a large amount of stress on the canine joints.

Not only can excess weight increase the risk of developing arthritis down the line, but it can exacerbate the development of hip dysplasia in at-risk pups.

Vigorous Exercise

Vigorous exercise during a dog’s growth period can lead to the development of hip dysplasia in predisposed pups.

Intense exercise in puppies can also lead to injuries as they age, which in turn increase the risk of developing joint conditions down the line.

Inadequate Nutrition

Nutrition is key for a growing puppy.

Growing dogs require a diet that fits their specific life stage, as they will need to take in a certain amount of calories and nutrients to thrive.

If a dog does not receive adequate nutrition, this can increase the risk of developing hip dysplasia later in life.

Are Some Breeds More At Risk Of Hip Dysplasia?

Any breed of dog can suffer from hip dysplasia, but there are breeds that are more at risk of developing this painful joint condition than others.

Some of the unlucky pups that are known to struggle with hip dysplasia include:

  • German Shepherds
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Mastiffs
  • Great Danes
  • Rottweilers
  • Boxers
  • French Bulldogs
  • Basset Hounds
  • Pugs

If you have any of the breeds listed above, this does not mean they will automatically develop hip dysplasia at some point.

These breeds simply have a higher risk of developing joint conditions, so we suggest watching them closely as the years go on.

Symptoms Of Hip Dysplasia In Dogs

The first signs of hip dysplasia can be subtle, so it’s important to be educated on how this joint condition can manifest in our canine friends.

Whether you have an at risk breed or not, we always suggest monitoring your dog for any of the symptoms listed below.

Some of the most common signs of hip dysplasia in dogs include:

  • Stiffness
  • Limited mobility
  • Muscle wasting in the back end
  • Slower to rise after resting
  • Difficulty rising from a seated or lying position
  • Limping
  • Hesitance to jump on furniture
  • Sensitivity of the back legs
  • Change in normal gait

If you notice any of the above symptoms in your furry friend, we suggest having them seen by your veterinarian for a proper physical exam.

How To Diagnose Hip Dysplasia In Dogs

If your veterinarian fears hip dysplasia in your canine friend, they will typically rely on two different methods to offer a diagnosis.

In most situations, your vet will perform an in depth physical exam, as well as performing radiographs of the hips and legs.

The physical exam will involve a thorough mobility check that will allow your vet to check your dog’s range of motion.

Not only can they measure the flexibility of your dog’s hips, but they can also search for any sign of pain during these movements.

After performing the mobility exams, your vet will then move onto the diagnostic radiographs.

This will typically involve taking multiple films of the hips in different positions, allowing them to view the hip joint from every angle.

These films will allow your vet to search for the evidence of hip dysplasia, measure the grade of hip dysplasia they have, as well as searching for any evidence of joint deterioration.

It’s important to note that many dogs with hip dysplasia will need to be sedated for their x-rays, as maneuvering their hips in different pistons can be extremely painful.

Not only will sedation prevent your dog from experiencing pain, but it will allow your vet to get the angles they need without any worry.

Can You Treat Hip Dysplasia In Dogs?

There is no set treatment option for hip dysplasia in dogs, but the condition can be managed.

Proper management is essential in not only offering your dog relief from their chronic pain, but also preventing as much additional deterioration of the joint as possible.

To help you determine the best management plan for your pup, let’s list a few of the most common options below.

Weight Management

Excess weight puts a large amount of stress on a dog’s hips.

Not only can canine obesity lead to more joint deterioration over time, but it can make their current symptoms even more painful.

Keeping your dog at a healthy weight is not only beneficial for their overall health, but it is a critical part of managing hip dysplasia.

Physical Therapy

When a dog develops hip dysplasia, there are many factors that can contribute to their pain.

The endless cycle of inflammation can be unbearable, as well as the stiffness that develops in their joints as they break down.

Physical therapy can not only improve your dog’s flexibility, but it can also strengthen the muscles your dog has lost over time.

Some of the most common forms of physical therapy for hip dysplasia in dogs include hydrotherapy, low impact exercise, laser therapy, approved stretching, and acupuncture.

If you are ever unsure of what physical therapy option would be best for your pup, we suggest asking your vet for guidance.

Joint Supplements

Joint supplements can be used as a preventive option to combat hip dysplasia, as well as a management option for promoting comfort.

Joint supplements will not cure your dog’s hip dysplasia, but they can aid in supporting the joints as the condition progresses.

A joint supplement regimen can help to decrease inflammation within the joint, lubricate the cartilage in the joint, as well as prevent some future deterioration.

Prescription Medications

If a dog is experiencing significant pain as a result of their hip dysplasia, your veterinarian may prescribe medication for pain and inflammation.

This can be used when a dog is experiencing a flare up, or even as a daily management tool in severe cases.

If you think your dog can benefit from the use of prescription medications for their hip dysplasia, we suggest speaking with your vet.


Surgery can be explored in severe cases of hip dysplasia.

Some dogs will benefit from a procedure known as a femoral head ostectomy (FHO), which is a procedure that removes the entire femoral head.

A surgical procedure known as a juvenile pubic symphysiodesis can also be used as a preventative measure in at-risk puppies, as this can surgically alter the hips before they grow into an abnormal formation.

This procedure is only beneficial if it’s performed before 1 year of age, so it’s important that this option is explored within the acceptable timeframe if a puppy is predisposed.

How To Know When A Dog Is Suffering With Hip Dysplasia

Even when hip dysplasia is managed over the years, it can still lead to a decreased quality of life for some dogs.

Hip dysplasia can become unbearable for some furry friends, leading us to the question of how to know when it’s time to say goodbye.

To help you better determine when it may be time to say goodbye to your dog with hip dysplasia, let’s list a few of the signs of a suffering pup below.

  • Severe muscle wasting
  • Inability to get up and down on their own
  • Disinterest in thing they once enjoyed
  • Decreased appetite
  • Crying out with movement
  • Leg sensitivity 
  • Falling down 

If your dog is experiencing any of the above symptoms, it may be time to have a quality of life discussion with your vet.

Final Thoughts

Hip dysplasia can be a challenging condition for our furry friends to endure.

A proper management plan can not only slow the deterioration of your dog’s hip damage, but offer your pup the longevity they deserve.

There is one comment:

  • Daniel Flores at 5:00 am

    Hello my rescued yellow Lab has hip dysplasia from being malnourished at age 1 month. I found her at her second month of life.
    Sadie is 4 years old now and recently went off on a run with another dog for 8 hours and barely made it back alive.
    Now her hip dysplasia has worsened. She still tries to play, but I pick her up to get up the front steps when she can’t. She lets me know. We don’t have deep pockets but am wondering what I can do for her. She’s been prescribed Novox 100 and Gabapentin 300 about 2 years ago. I give her Hip and Joint chews daily. She’s so good hearted. I wish I could help her more.

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