Dog Hip Dysplasia Guide

If you own a large dog, chances are that you’ve heard of dog hip dysplasia at some point.

But what actually is this disease? And is your pup at risk?

signs of hip dysplasia in dogs

Photo by Joelmills (CC BY-SA 2.5 licence)

We’ve got the low down on everything to do with hip dysplasia in dogs, including how to spot it, treatment and prevention.


Let’s get down to it…

What is Dog Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is a disease in which the ball and the joint socket of the hip is malformed, causing the bones to rub against one another, instead of making smooth and round motions.

Basically, the patient (human or dog) will not have enough support for their joints to function normally and effectively, possibly due to a loose structure of their ligaments.

dog hip dysplasia

Bilateral hip dysplasia (Photo by Joelmills (CC BY-SA 2.5 licence)

Hip dysplasia in dogs is not exhibited at birth, but surfaces as they mature. Though there are different types of dysplasia, pain in the hip joints is one of the most common factors.

Because of this pain, the dog will become more unwilling to move, resulting in other complications if the breed is prone to gaining weight.

hip dysplasia dogs

Normal canine hips (Photo by Joel Mills CC BY-SA 3.0 licence)

Signs of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

  • Your dog may attempt to take pain away from the joints, leading to an altered stance
  • Favoring the front legs for walking
  • A lameness of the hind limbs, which may be temporary or persistent
  • Difficulty in rising
  • Unwilling to take the stairs
  • A more pronounced muscle mass in the front shoulders
  • A decreased muscle mass in the hind legs

Here’s a good video on how to spot hip dysplasia in your dog:

What Breeds Are at Risk?

The following groups of dogs are most often diagnosed with hip dysplasia:

  • Newfoundlanders
  • Great Danes
  • Huskies
  • Dogs belonging to the Retriever family (golden, Labrador…)
  • German Shepherds
  • Mastiffs
  • Rottweilers
  • Alaskan Malamutes
  • Samoyans

Of course, dogs belonging to these breeds do not necessarily develop hip dysplasia.

At the same time, the condition may also occur in medium to smaller breeds.

labrador hip dysplasia

The disease most often occurs in pure-bred dogs who, due to selective breeding, often fall victim to inherited conditions that mixed breeds do not suffer from.

If your dog is a mixed breed, check if the parents suffered from dysplasia, or if it is common to their respective breeds.


Can You Prevent Dog Hip Dysplasia?

In short, yes.

Even if your dog is genetically predisposed to dysplasia, there is a chance the disease will not manifest itself.

If you are looking to adopt a new dog, ask the breeder about their lineage: if there is no history of dysplasia in the dog’s family tree, odds are slim they will ever have to deal with this discomfort.

Through selective breeding, odds of dysplasia can be severely lessened. Purchasing from reputable breeders saves yourself and your loved ones pain in the long run.

One of the biggest factors in preventing dysplasia is carefully balancing the puppy’s diet. If your puppy is at risk, make sure they consume enough food, but not too much. Table scraps may seem like a sweet idea, but prevention is easier than recovering. Give your dog an extra cuddle and rest easy knowing you’re doing it to keep them healthy.

Exercise falls in the same boat as food; not too much and not too little.

If your puppy is over-exercised at a young age, their bones and ligaments might not be able to take the strain.

At the same time, they need that muscle mass to better deal with possible symptoms. Taking your best friend out for a walk or a swim are your best bets.

Activities that require explosive movements – sprinting, catching Frisbees – are best avoided.

Treatment for Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

The first step in any treatment – for humans and pets – is getting an official diagnosis. Some afflictions might mimic the symptoms of dysplasia, so a professional opinion is a must.

If it is dysplasia, you have the choice between surgery or medicinal treatment.

Surgery is the most fireproof way of getting rid of the problem, but the high price tag means that it might not be suitable for everyone. Discuss your options with the vet and consider your preferred way of handling the situation.

There are several surgical options available:

  • TPO: TPO stands for Triple Pelvic Osteotomy. The procedure is generally only available for dogs younger than ten months. It is a major and expensive treatment and should not be undertaken lightly, but it has proven very successful on dogs that meet the requirements.
  • Juvenile Pubic Symphysiodesis: This surgery fuses two pelvic bones together prematurely, changing the angle of the hips. As the name indicates, dogs should be young, at least younger than twenty weeks.
  • Total Hip Replacement: A total hip replacement is only available for dogs who are fully grown. Thanks to advances in medicine, there is no minimum or maximum size for the patients to adhere to. This is once again an expensive treatment, but it has a high success rate and almost guarantees a life without pain post-recovery.
  • Femoral Head and Neck Excision: This treatment removes the head of the femur and replaces the hip with a pseudo-joint. This treatment is used when a hip replacement is not feasible. The results are not as positive as a hip replacement, but the dog will in most cases be free from pain and able to move they please. For best results, it is recommended the dog weigh 40 pounds or less.
hip dysplasia in dogs

A dog with a hip replacement (right) and hip dysplasia (left) (Photo by Joelmills CC BY-SA 3.0 licence)

In cases where you are either unable to finance an operation, or do not wish to have such a procedure performed on your dog, there are other ways of handling the disease.

Due to its mainly genetic causes, there is no medicine available to prevent the disease.

But in the following ways you can make life more pleasant for your dog:

  • Exercise: Moving may be painful for your dog, but not moving at all will hurt them even more. Consult with your vet on what kind of exercise will be most beneficial for your dog.
  • Warmth: Providing heat for sore muscles feels good for yourself and your pets. Provide a bed with orthopedic foam and place it in a warmer spot of the house.
  • Massages: This can be a bit intimidating for the novice. After all, your dog is in pain and you’re about to touch the painful spot. Ask your vet for advice on how to approach this, and build up slowly. Make sure your dog trusts you and knows you’re not intending any harm.
  • Ramps: A ramp is easier to navigate than stairs for our canine friends. They’re easier on their hips and simple to place.

>>> Check out the best orthopedic dog bed for hip dysplasia

Apart from these tips, there are foods and medicine available to help your dog. As always, consult with your veterinarian on which are suitable.

Though there are breed standards, your buddy might just be a special case, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.


Now that’s everything you need to know about dog hip dysplasia — any questions?

Our readers love these products



Leave a Reply