All About Hip Dysplasia

by Nancy Boland

Hip dysplasia is the malformation of the hip joints, gradually deteriorating and leading to loss of function of the hip joints.It is one of the most common diseases seen in dogs, affecting larger breeds like Great Danes, Saint Bernard’s, Labradors and German Shepherds more commonly.

Symptoms and Types

Symptoms depend on the progression but generally speaking include:

  • Decreased activity
  • Difficulty rising
  • Reluctance to run, jump, or climb stairs
  • Intermittent or persistent hind-limb
  • Narrow stance in the hind limbs (back legs unnaturally close together)
  • Pain in hip joints
  • Joint looseness
  • Grating detected with joint movement
  • Decreased range of motion in the hip joints
  • Loss of muscle mass in thigh muscles
  • Enlargement of shoulder muscles due to more weight being exerted on front legs


Influences on the development and progression of hip dysplasia include:

  • Genetic susceptibility for hip looseness or laxity
  • Rapid weight gain and obesity
  • Nutritional factors
  • Pelvic-muscle mass
  • Old age


Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical exam on your dog. X-rays are crucial for visualizing the signs of hip dysplasia. Some of the possible findings may be degenerative disease of the spinal cord, vertebral instability, and other bone diseases.

Hip Dysplasia Dogs


Whether or not your dog undergoes surgery will depend on your dog’s size, age, and intended function. It will also depend on the severity of their condition and progression of their osteoarthritis.  Hydrotherapy can greatly improve joint and muscle function without aggravating the injury.

If your dog suffers with hip dysplasia it is important to help them maintain a healthy weight to decrease the amount of pressure applied to the painful joint(s). Avoid unhealthy treats and choose lean proteins for meals along with their regular balanced meals to minimise any weight gain during recovery.

Living and Management

Your vet will schedule follow-up appointments with you to keep up to date with the status of your dogs hip dysplasia. If your dog has undergone surgery, x-rays may be taken to compare and check progress and indicate the rate of post-surgical healing.

If your dog has been effectively diagnosed with hip dysplasia, the most responsible thing to do as a pet owner is not to breed them out as this condition has strong genetic links.

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