Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Hip dysplasia is the most commonly inherited orthopedic disease in dogs.

By | Posted: September 11, 2014, 4 p.m. PST

Dogs love to run and jump, whether they are agility competitors or just chasing toys, and their joints can take a pounding. Joint problems fall into two general categories: degenerative problems, such as arthritis, and developmental problems, including hip and elbow dysplasia.




Hip dysplasia is the most commonly inherited orthopedic disease in dogs. This improper formation of the hip joint usually leads to osteoarthritis, which causes joint damage, inflammation, and pain. Dog owners spend $800 million to $2 billion annually in treatments for their pets who suffer from this debilitative disease, according to a publication in preparation from the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program, or PennHIP. Although no cure exists, tests help identify dogs who are susceptible to developing hip dysplasia. Early detection can aid in treatment and help breeders screen for the disorder.   

What is Canine Hip Dysplasia?

Canine hip dysplasia is the abnormal development of a dog’s hip, and is associated with looseness of the hip joint. In a dog’s hind legs, the head of the femur, or thighbone, is shaped like a ball and is designed to fit tightly into the acetabulum, or socket. Dogs with hip dysplasia have looser or more moveable hip joints.

What are the Signs of Canine Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia can be detected as early as 4 months of age. Symptoms may first appear as a swaying or unsteady gait. As the disease progresses, some dogs may move their hind legs together in what is described as "bunny hopping.” Others may exhibit difficulty navigating stairs or rising from a sitting position. A distinct clicking sound can often be heard when the animal is walking or running.  

How is Hip Dysplasia Diagnosed?

X-rays are the only definitive means to diagnose the disease. For more than 40 years, the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals has regulated the screening, which consists of taking an X-ray of an animal’s hips in a certain position. The single hip-extended film is evaluated by three board-certified veterinary radiologists, who rate the condition of the hips and assign them a grade, ranging from excellent conformation to severe hip dysplasia. 

Is Hip Dysplasia More Common in Certain Breeds?

While gender doesn’t seem to be a factor, size is. The disease is more common in large-breed dogs than in smaller breeds. Bernese Mountain Dogs, English Setters, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherd Dogs, St. Bernards, Standard Poodles, and Rottweilers are breeds that are commonly afflicted. However, dogs of all breeds and sizes are susceptible to this inherited condition.

How is it Hip Dysplasia Treated in Dogs?

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and dietary changes, such as increasing the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, can help decrease the inflammation and discomfort associated with this disease. A surgical option once a dog reaches maturity is total hip replacement. "The smaller the dog, the less it is probably needed, although nano total hip replacements (implants for animals generally weighing less than 10 pounds) for Poodles have been described with about 90 percent return to normal,” says James Roush, D.V.M., Doughman Professor of small animal surgery at the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine. "Total hip replacement is definitely the best for any dog weighing more than 40 pounds.”

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Karl   Colorado Springs, Colorado

5/4/2016 4:20:41 AM

My husky got the hip dysplasia not too long ago and can't say we were surprised, due to her breed and her being a rescue, it wasn't unlikely that it was going to happen. We're a really active family and despite the diagnosis we continue to be so. I think the thing that's most helped our husky is using the Ortocanis hip brace, when we go on long walks or around the house if he's noticeably stiff or in pain. The brace was recommended to us by our vet, since it increases circulation in the area, keeping it warm, and adds that bit of extra support he needs.

When we use it he's almost always limp free. This is a chronic condition so we're going to have to be dealing with it for the rest of his life, and it's possible at some point we're going to have to make some changes or find different methods to treat it. But for now, the Ortocanis dog brace along with nutritional supplements for joint health are keeping us all healthy and happy.

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M   Vacaville, California

4/30/2015 9:11:35 AM

My daughter's dog had severe hip dysplasia and dragged her hind legs around. After some research, she fed her dog a few ounces of natto daily and her dog regained her ability to walk in around 8 weeks.

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Leslie - 233329   Lakeside, AZ

9/13/2014 7:38:56 PM

Good information. thanks

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