Hip Dysplasia in Dogs


healthy dog jumping free of hip dysplasia

Has your veterinarian diagnosed your dog with hip dysplasia, but you don't see any lameness? You may feeling that they misdiagnosed your pup, but your veterinarian is most likely correct in the diagnosis. Your doubt can be resolved once you understand more about hip dysplasia. This article involves a basic understanding of hip dysplasia in dogs, how it occurs, and the possible counter-strategies.


First of all, you need to understand that hip dysplasia is a deformity of the hip joint that occurs to a variable degree. You may have studied in your high school biology class that the hip joints are ball and socket joints. It is composed of a ball, the head of the femur, and a socket, the acetabulum of the pelvis. For this joint to work properly, both these structures need to develop synchronously.


If for any reason, these structures don't develop synchronously, it results in dysplasia. When these structures are not developed at equal rates, the nonuniformity results in arthritic changes followed by degenerative joint disease. The degree of lameness depends on the extent of these arthritic changes. Small abnormalities may not cause obvious lameness, which makes your concerns true. But it doesn't mean that your dog is not suffering from hip dysplasia. Let us dig deep into hip dysplasia to get its complete understanding.

x-ray of a dog with hip dysplasia
You can see the ball and socket joint are not fitting correctly.

What is hip dysplasia in dogs?

Hip dysplasia is one of the common skeletal problems that often occurs in large dogs during their growth periods. Hip dysplasia is a serious condition because it causes the hip joint's to loosen, resulting in pain and dysfunction.


Due to abnormal development during the growth period, the ball and socket joint do not develop properly. The abnormal development results in rough movements of the joint. Rough movements replace the smooth and sliding movement of the bones with rubbing and grinding of bones. The friction resulted in degeneration and loss of function of bones over time.


Severe damage occurs that results over time and causes bone and cartilage wear and tear. The first condition to develop is arthritis which brings other problems such as limited mobility and muscle atrophy.


What can be the possible causes of hip dysplasia?

German Shepard puppy laying down

Hips dysplasia is a multifactorial condition, meaning that more than one factor contributes to its occurrence. However, there is a leading cause of hip dysplasia and some contributing factors to its occurrence. The leading cause of hip dysplasia is

genetics. You can say that hip dysplasia is a genetic disorder that is common in large dog breeds.


The physical contributing factors determine the fate of hip dysplasia. The most common contributing factors of hip dysplasia are extensive growth rate, uncontrolled weight gain, the extent of exercise, and quality and quantity of nutrition. These factors determine the severity and extent of the disease. These factors can mitigate or elevate the chances of occurrence of hip dysplasia in dogs.


The diet for puppies is formulated according to the breed. Some diets are specially formulated according to the demands of large dog breed puppies. These diets contain nutrients that help prevent the undesired growth that can lead to skeletal disorders. Balanced nutrition helps the skeletal system to grow at an optimum pace to prevent the risk of hip dysplasia in dogs and other joint problems.


An unbalanced diet can be as dangerous for dogs as improper exercise. An unbalanced diet can put your dog in an unhealthy condition, such as obesity. As mentioned before, one of the major contributors to developing hip dysplasia in dogs is obesity. It tends to put a lot of pressure on joints, worsening the condition.


Glucosamine and Chondroitin for Dogs

dog eating glucosamine treat for hip dysplasia

Glucosamine is one of the essential nutrients in large breed dogs. In addition, when your veterinarian diagnoses your dog with skeletal problems, he tends to add glucosamine to his diet. Glucosamine will be more likely recommended in chewable forms along with chondroitin. Supplement nutrition for large breed dogs often contains glucosamine and chondroitin for the improvement of skeletal problems.


Glucosamine and chondroitin are essential for the growth of joint cartilage. The most devastating condition of the skeletal system is the degenerative joint disease, in which the cartilage and bones start to deteriorate. Fortunately, glucosamine and chondroitin are responsible for the growth of new cartilage in joints. Glucosamine is often prescribed by vets in supplemental nutrition for the dog to prevent any unfortunate condition from occurring.


If your veterinarian suggests that your dog is prone to such skeletal disorders, you can add glucosamine as a supplemental diet to prevent the incidence of arthritis and dysplasia. Arthritis is a progressive disease that takes a long time to recover. Veterinarians often prescribe joint supplements during the course of treatment as an early intervention because they are safe to use for long terms. It is believed that these supplements are also helpful in reducing the severity of dysplasia, though research in this regard is limited.


What are the symptoms of hip dysplasia?

There are two times in a dogs life in which the chances of development of dysplasia are high. Some dogs tend to develop dysplasia at the young age of almost four months. Whereas some other dogs develop dysplasia in association with osteoarthritis as their age progresses.

old dog laying down because of hip dysplasia

Regardless of the time of onset, there are a few symptoms that an owner should be aware of. The symptoms that I mention here depend and vary in different dogs. In addition, the development of these symptoms also depends on many factors. These factors include the degree of loss of function, the severity of the condition, the level of inflammation, and the time of suffering from the disease. Keeping the above-mentioned factors in mind, I have listed some of the common symptoms of hip dysplasia:

  • Lameness

  • Depression

  • Decreased movement

  • No activities or reduced tendency to jump, run, climb or even rise on his feet.

  • Undesired growth of shoulder muscles to compensate for the hind limb

  • Bunny hopping

  • Stiffness

  • Pain


Which breeds are prone to canine hip dysplasia?

As a general understanding, you can say that any large dog breed is prone to or at risk of developing hip dysplasia. However, the following dog breeds are the most commonly affected dog breeds. Below is a list of breeds prone to developing hip dysplasia:

large dog laying down showing pain of hip dysplasia
  • German Shepards

  • Great Danes

  • Labradors

  • Mastiffs

  • Bulldogs

  • Rottweilers

  • Golden Retrievers

  • Pugs

  • St. Bernards

How to diagnose hip dysplasia?

veterinarian doing exam on dogs for hip dysplasia

Diagnosis of hip dysplasia is not a complicated method. Whether you go to your veterinarian for a regular checkup or specifically for hip dysplasia, your veterinarian can determine hip dysplasia in a physical examination. The first thing that your veterinarian will opt for is to check the viability of the joint and any signs of discomfort, grinding, or loss of function. When the vet suspects there is something wrong with the joint, he can run a few confirmatory tests, including a blood profile test and radiograph or x-ray. The radiograph will tell the exact degree of deformity in the hip.

How to treat hip dysplasia?

There are more than one options to treat hip dysplasia. The choice of treatment depends on the severity and extent of the damage. If your dog is not suffering from severe hip dysplasia, your veterinarian will choose a nonsurgical method of treatment involving lifestyle modifications. The lifestyle modifications may include the following

  • Elimination of hard exercises from the schedule

  • Reduce weight to decrease the joint stress

  • Physical therapy

  • Anti-inflammatory medication

  • Fluid modifiers for joints

  • Joint supplements

However, if your dog is suffering from a severe form of hip dysplasia that requires immediate intervention, your veterinarian may opt for a surgical method. The surgical methods that can be adopted in this regard are as follows.

  • Femoral head ostectomy