Dog Hip Dysplasia

Dog hip dysplasia is one of the most common diseases of the skeletal system seen in dogs. While gender does not seem to be a factor, dog breed and dog size are both a factor. Large breed dogs such as the Great Dane, Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, St. Bernard, and German Shepherd are just a few of the breeds commonly affected. Some smaller dogs such as Spaniels and Pugs may also be affected.

Dog hip dysplasia is an abnormal formation of the hip socket. If severe, dog hip dysplasia can eventually cause lameness and painful osteoarthritis of the joint. It is the most common single cause of arthritis of the hips.

The hip joint is a ball and socket joint. The head of the femur, the large bone in the hind leg, is the ball which fits into the socket located in the pelvis. In a normal socket, the bones are perfectly shaped to match each other and the ball rotates freely within the socket. The two bones are held together by a strong ligament which attaches the head of the femur to the socket. The area where the bones touch each other is perfectly smooth and cushioned with a layer of spongy cartilage.

In dog hip dysplasia, the head of the femur does not fit tightly into the socket. Either the head of the femur or the socket is not smooth and round. The loose fit of the head of the femur into the misshapen socket causes either abnormal wear on the joint or friction within the joint during movement.

The joint will continually try to repair itself by repairing the cartilage, but this is a very slow process. The joint becomes inflamed, the cartilage is damaged and the inflammation causes further damage of the joint.

Dog hip dysplasia can be caused by the femur not fitting into the socket or by poorly developed pelvic muscles. Dog hip dysplasia may affect either one or both hips. Puppies as young as 4-5 months can begin to show some pain and discomfort during and after exercise. The problem usually always appears by the time the dog is 18 months old. Yet for some dogs, the first sign may not develop until the middle or later years.

The causes of dog hip dysplasia have generally been considered hereditary, but new research is indicating a dog’s environment may also be a factor. Some environmental factors are dog obesity, injury or overexertion of the hip at a young age, or a torn ligament at a young age.

If a parent dog has been diagnosed with dog hip dysplasia, all puppies are at risk for developing dog hip dysplasia. Dog hip dysplasia can range from mild to crippling.

Signs and Symptoms of Dog Hip Dysplasia

Signs of stiffness or soreness upon getting up
Reluctance to exercise
An abnormal, swaying gait, such as “bunny hopping”
Appears to be in pain
Reluctance to jump up or climb stairs
Grating noise heard with joint movement

Diagnosis of Dog Hip Dysplasia

Dog Hip Dysplasia

If you suspect there is a problem with your dog’s hips, you will want to make an appointment with your veterinarian. Your vet will do a complete physical exam and x-rays. Complete blood work and a urine test may also be completed. The vet will ask you about your dog’s health since last seen. If this vet has never examined your dog before, expect to give a full health history for your dog. Additional questions will ask about when you first started noticing symptoms and whether or not your dog has possibly had any injury. Inflammation due to joint disease will be detected in any blood work completed.

Treatment of Dog Hip Dysplasia

Surgical treatment of dog hip dysplasia is very costly, so for many dog owners, non-surgical treatment is the only option.

To begin treatment, there are several non-surgical interventions – weight control, exercise control, supplements, anti-inflammatory medications, pain relief, physiotherapy, warmth and good sleeping options which may slow down the progression of the disease.

Weight Control

How many calories your dog consumes and when in his/her life the calories are consumed may increase their risk of developing dog hip dysplasia. Maintaining your dog’s weight is one of the most important things you can do for your dog. You have control over what your dog eats.

You need to research dog foods to make sure you are giving your dog the healthiest dog food. Learn to read labels. Educate yourself about the appropriate amount of food to give your dog according to their breed, their size and their activity level. Keep treats to a minimum.

Dog obesity can increase the severity of the dog hip dysplasia. Being overweight hastens the degeneration of the dog’s joints, inclulding the hips. Dogs that are genitically prone to dog hip dysplasia and are overweight are even more at risk to develop dog hip dysplasia.

How fast your puppy grows from age 3-10 months may also increase their risk of devoloping dog hip dysplasia. This is all the more reason to not allow your dog to have access to food at all times. If in doubt about how much to be feeding your dog, check with your veterinarian.

Exercise Control

Dogs that are genetically prone to dog hip dysplasia should not be over exercised at a young age. A moderate exercise routine that includes running and swmming will strengthen the gluteal muscles. Exercise activities like jumping and playing Frisbee should be minimized as this type of exercise puts excess force on joints. It is important to exercise your dog daily in short sessions rather than long periods of exercise on a weekend. Swimming is an excellent form of exercise which encourages joint and muscle activity without increasing the severity of joint injury.

Oral Supplements

Dog Hip Dysplasia

Many people have relied on the use of glucosamine and chondroitin to manage their osteoarthritis and these have also been found helpful for your dog. They help the cartilage forming cells build new cartilage and repair the damaged cartilage. They are not pain medications and may take up to 6 weeks to make a difference.

Perma mussels are also used. They are washed, frozen, and freeze dried, then ground into a powder which can be added to joint care products.

Omega – 3 fatty acids also offer anti-inflammatory effects and can be found in joint care products.

Other additives to joint care products to enhance protecting and repairing cartilage in addition to anti-inflammatory effects are avocado/soybean unsaponifiables (ASU’s), duralactin and methyl-sulfonyl-methane (MSM).

Many of the healthiest dog foods will have supplements added to the dog food. Learn to read the labels on dog food products.

Joint Max is a joint supplement which contains Glucosamine, Chondrotin, Vitamin C, and Zinc. It is available in regular and maximium strength and comes in a chewable tablet, or capsules.

Anti-inflammatory drugs

There are several NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) on the market for use in dogs with osteoarthritis and dog hip dysplasia. They are painkillers that also decrease inflammation. Remadyl, Deramaxx, Zubrin, and Metacam, just to name a few, are available only by presciption from your veterinarian. They have potential side effects and must be given as directed.

You must follow the guidance of your veterinarian. Your vet may prescibe these along with a joint care supplement. As the joint care supplement begins to work, the NSAID can be reduced or discontinued. Buffered aspirin may also be recommended for pain management as directed by your veterinarian.

Another prescription medication that may be used to decrease inflammation is a corticosteroid, Prednisone. Because of the side effects, they are generally only prescribed for flare-ups when all other products have failed.

Vetrin Chewable Canine Buffered Aspirin – 325 mg (100 Tablets)


Your veterinarian or staff may be able to show you how to massage your dog’s stiff muscles and provide ROM exercises to the joints. If your dog is in pain, remember to start slow. Begin with petting the area then slowly beginning gentle massage of the area. Moist heat may also help.

There are also ramps and steps available to help aid your dog in daily activites.

Pet Gear Tri-Fold Pet Ramp for cats and dogs up to 200-pounds, Grey

Solvit PupSTEP Plus Pet Stairs

Warmth and good sleeping areas

Many people with arthritis are most uncomofortable with cold damp weather. This may also be true for your dog. Keeping him/her warm will help their comfort level. A dog sweater or coat will help to keep the joints warmer. Having a good bed for your dog is also very helpful. Orthopedic foam beds distribute your dog’s weight and decrease pressure on joints. Keep your dog’s bed in a warm area free of drafts.

K&H Orthopedic Superior Pet Bed, Large 40-Inch by 50-Inch, Mocha Paw Bone Print

K&H Ortho Bolster Sleeper Pet Bed, Medium 30-Inch Round, Gray Velvet

Surgical Interventions

The decision on whether or not your dog has surgery will depend on your dog’s size, age, severity of joint looseness and amount of osterarthritis along with your veterinarian’s advice and preference for treatment and your financial concerns.

Hip modification surgeries result in decreased hip function in return for improved quality of life, pain control and reduction of future risks.

Excision arthroplasty involves the removal of the head of the femur, leaving muscles intact to act as the joint.
Pelvic rotation (triple pelvic osteotomy) realigns the hip socket and is done on dogs less that one year old.

Hip replacement surgery, which completely replaces the joint, offers the highest rate of success. It is done in older dogs who are not responding well to medical therapies and have severe osteoarthritis.

While many dogs learn to live with the pain, know that this does not have to be the case.

Before buying a puppy, you should always ask about the hip scoring of the puppy’s parents. If you are thinking of breeding your dog, you should be sure to have hip scoring completed by your veterinarian. Potential buyers of the puppies will want to know this information.

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