Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Picture of a German Shepherd running

If your pup has been showing signs of discomfort in his lower body or experiencing issues with mobility, you might want to take into account the possibility that he might be suffering from hip dysplasia. Naturally, this doesn’t happen with all dogs, and there are breeds that are more prone to developing the condition.

Let’s look at what hip dysplasia is, its causes, its symptoms, and what treatment options you have available.

What Is Hip Dysplasia?

Canine hip dysplasia can be defined as a skeletal condition that occurs in giant or large breed dogs. However, it can also occur in smaller breeds. The hip joint works as a ball and a socket and they should fit perfectly. In some of our canine friends, the two components do not develop correctly, which means that they do not fit properly.

Eventually, the dog loses the joint functionality as it becomes deteriorated over time.

What Breeds Does It Affect More Frequently?

This medical condition tends to pop up in larger breeds such as Labrador, St. Bernards, Great Danes, but also German Shepherds.

It is universally acknowledged that it can show up in any breed (including small ones), but it appears that the ones we have mentioned are more affected both because they are bigger in size and because there have been some mistakes made with regard to the specimens that were mated so as to perfect the breeds.

What Causes It?

Genetics is the first and probably most important cause of this medical condition. It can be hereditary. Nevertheless, there are a series of factors that influence its development, and they range from improper weight and nutrition to an excessive growth rate.

Large and giant dog breeds have unique nutritional requirements. They tend to grow extremely fast, and this is one of the things that makes it easier for hip dysplasia to develop. These dogs need food that prevents excessive growth, especially in their joints.

Getting too much exercise or on the contrary, not getting enough, is another cause. An obese puppy has a higher likelihood of developing the disease.

Clinical Signs

While there are some dogs that can show symptoms of hip dysplasia as early as four months of age, it usually occurs around the age of six months. Since it can develop along with osteoarthritis, it also affects dogs as they age. In any case, the symptoms are well-known among those that have had dogs with hip dysplasia before.

Your dog can show a decreased range of motion, decreased activity, and lameness in the hind end. He’ll also find it more difficult to climb stairs, run, or jump, and will manifest a reluctance when rising. He can sway, have a narrow stance, be in pain, or generally stiff. Dogs that have a form of advanced hip dysplasia will also have an enlargement of the shoulder muscles (since they have to use them to compensate for the hind end) and a loss of thigh muscle mass.

If you notice any of these symptoms, you should take your dog to the vet as soon as possible. The veterinarian will test the looseness of the hip joint and check for pain, grinding, or reduced motion. It’s quite likely that the vet will recommend an X-ray since it is virtually the only diagnosis method that will show the hip dysplasia without a doubt.


The treatment of this disease is selected depending on its severity. There are several treatment options and surgery shouldn’t be the only one that you should take into consideration. However, keep in mind that surgery has a higher success rate compared to other choices and that’s because the hip joint is mechanically corrected. It is the only possible treatment that can even solve severe cases of canine hip dysplasia. Unfortunately, it’s also the most expensive one, with an operation costing between $1,800 and $4,500 and beyond.

There are four types of surgery available nowadays. The procedure that is recommended for lighter dogs is the femoral head and neck excision. While this surgery does not restore the joint’s original range of motion, it is recommended for dogs that are old and that have problems such as osteoarthritis anyway, and that wouldn’t be able to regain their stability completely.

Juvenile pubic symphysiodesis is a somewhat less invasive surgery that is recommended for dogs that are younger than five months of age. The procedure involves fusing the two pelvic bones so as to allow the rest of the bones to develop correctly. It is virtually based on changing the angle of the hips.

TPO (triple pelvic osteotomy) is recommended to dogs that are younger than 11 months of age. It does not have the same results if the damage has occurred in the hip socket already. It is one of the most expensive and, at the same time, painful operations, but younger dogs have the ability to recover in a timely fashion. It is also capable of fully restoring the function of the joint.

Finally, another surgical alternative is hip replacement. It is by far the most invasive treatment option, but it is capable of restoring the complete function to the joint. Hip replacements are extremely expensive and can be performed on dogs that have ended their growth period.

What If You Don’t Want to Choose Surgery?

If your dog doesn’t have severe hip dysplasia yet and there is no way you can possibly afford the surgery, there are some other treatment options that you could go for. Hip and joint supplements such as Cosequin, Dasuquin with MSM, and Synovi G3, as well as anti-inflammatories (Deramaxx or Rimadyl) and pain medications, can at least provide your canine companion with some relief.

Physical therapy is another option that you might want to consider. It needs to be associated with changes in nutrition, and when it is combined with medications, it has good results. You can choose from hydrotherapy or an exercise regime or combine both.


Making sure that your large or giant breed dog doesn’t grow too fast and doesn’t become obese is by far the best prevention method. However, you can’t have any control over genetics, but you can, at least, have a talk with your veterinarian to find out what symptoms you should be on the lookout for and what you can do to prevent this medical condition.



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