Symptoms, causes, treatments and how to prevent hip dysplasia in dogs

What is canine hip dysplasia?

Canine hip dysplasia is a skeletal disease. The skeletal system gives the body its basic framework, providing structure, protection, and movement. Hip dysplasia in dogs is one of the most common skeletal diseases in dogs and affects millions of dogs worldwide.

Hip dysplasia is when the ball of the femur does not fit properly in the hip socket, see the photo above.

What are the main causes of hip dysplasia in dogs?

There are number of possible causes for hip dysplasia in dogs. First, the cause can be genetic as some dogs’ breeds are more prone to developing hip dysplasia. This is especially true for big dog breeds, like German Shepherd, Great Dane, St. Bernard, Labrador and Golden Retrievers.

Hip dysplasia in young dogs is usually not immediately noticeable but your Vet may be able to detect it with physical examination. More often joint abnormalities are not noticed until the dog has grown some more and the muscles and skeleton have fully developed.

Environmental factors, like weight, exercise and nutrition, can make these dogs even more likely to develop hip dysplasia. Small dogs can also develop canine hip dysplasia, but it is not as common as in larger breeds.

Hip dysplasia in older dogs is usually related to the onset of arthritic conditions, i.e. what is often called later onset hip dysplasia.


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What are the symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs?

The most common signs of hip dysplasia in dogs are:

  • Stiffness
  • Pain
  • Lameness in the hind end
  • Enlargement of the shoulder muscles as they compensate for the hind end
  • Loss of thigh muscle mass
  • Decreased activity / decreased range of motion
  • Clicking sound when moving
  • Reluctance or difficulty getting up, lying down, or going up stairs
  • Looseness in the joint
  • Narrow stance
  • Running or jumping with hind legs together in a ‘bunny hop’
  • Swiveling hips when seen from behind

Treatments for canine hip dysplasia

Severe hip dysplasia in dogs may require surgery. However, not all dogs are good candidates for hip dysplasia surgery, either for medical or financial reasons. The most common surgeries to treat hip dysplasia in dogs are:

  • Double or triple pelvic osteotomy (DPO/TPO)
  • Femoral head ostectomy (FHO)
  • Total hip replacement (THR)

For dogs with less severe hip dysplasia there are number of other treatment options available, from lifestyle changes to medication:

  • Losing weight to take stress of the hips and joints
  • Restricting exercise, avoiding too much stress on the hips and joints
  • Physical therapy and / or massage
  • Anti-inflammatory medications ( NSAIDS, aspirin, corticosteroids)
  • Joint fluid modifiers

Early detection of hip problems in dogs is very important as it makes less invasive treatment options more likely to work and avoid costly and invasive surgery. However, the best options of all is to prevent hip problems in the beginning but is that possible?

Preventing hip dysplasia in puppies and older dogs

It can be difficult to prevent hereditary hip dysplasia in dogs but there are things you can do to reduce the risk of your dog developing hip and joint problems later in life.

Good joint care starts in puppyhood, i.e. by feeding good balanced diet and offering age appropriate exercise. Too much exercise in puppyhood can cause joint problems later in life.

Puppies grow fast, especially big dog breeds. This puts strain on the bones and joints so diet and even supplement that support growing puppies can be valuable for future joint health.

There is though never too late to start caring for your dogs’ joints. One of the best things you can do for your dog’s joint health is to keep the dog within his ideal weight range as being overweight is a big contributing factor to any hip problems in dogs.

Using good quality dog joint supplement can also help preventing / delaying joint problems in dogs. Owners of big dogs often give their dogs joint supplement as preventive measure, usually as soon as they reach maturity (2-3 years old).

Which ingredients should be in my dog’s joint supplement?

The most common ingredients in joint supplements for dogs are Glucosamine, Chondroitin and up to some extend MSM. There are however many other joint support ingredients that are as effective, if not more effective for canine joint health. These included ingredients like Hyaluronic acid, Devil’s Claw, Bromelain and Turmeric.


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