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Dog Health: Signs and Symptoms of Dog Hip Dysplasia

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.

A dog keeping her hind legs close together to compensate for weak hips.

A dog keeping her hind legs close together to compensate for weak hips.

What Is Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?

Hip dysplasia is an orthopedic developmental disorder of dogs affecting the joints of the hips. The joints in a dog's hips are normally conformed in a ''ball and socket'' fashion where the two parts fit snugly and well into each other. Basically, in a dog affected by hip dysplasia, the head of the femur does not fit properly in the socket because of structural defects. This gives rise to looseness in the joint and, over time, cartilage damage. Affected dogs will develop crippling arthritis which tends to be progressive.

Large breed dogs are particularly prone to hip dysplasia. You see it quite often in German shepherds, rottweilers, labrador retreivers, golden retrievers, and mastiffs. Generally, dogs severely affected by the disease will show symptoms of this orthopedic disorders in their first year of life, while mild cases exhibit symptoms later at around six to nine years of age.

Muscle wasting due to chronic hip dysplasia.

Muscle wasting due to chronic hip dysplasia.

How Did My Dog Get Hip Dysplasia?

Often, dog owners are shocked to learn their dog has developed hip dysplasia. Many never even heard about this disorder before. This orthopedic condition is genetic, meaning it can be passed down from one generation of dogs to another. A good way to increase the likeliness of purchasing a puppy unaffected by this disorder is to rely on a reputable breeder. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) has tested the parents of puppies for generations. Good breeders generally test the condition of a dog's hips back four to five generations or more.

Hip Dysplasia Screening

OFA screens x-rays of dog hips and gives them a score. Reputable breeders will provide health certificates with proof demonstrating both sire and dam are clear from hip dysplasia and have received at least a passing score of Excellent, Good, or Fair.

PennHIP is another organization that checks hips and provides scores. Dogs with Borderline, Mild, Moderate, and Severe scores should not be bred. Unfortunately, backyard breeders typically do not health test their breeding pool for hip dysplasia, yielding a high range of dogs with orthopedic problems.

However, it is important to consider that at times, even the best litters may yield puppies with hip dysplasia. There are cases where generations of breeding have yielded puppies free of hip dysplasia and then one day, out of the blue, an unfortunate owner gets the one with this orthopedic disease.

Other contributing factors are excessive growth, exercise, and nutrition.

Schematic depiction of hip joint structures' positions in hip dysplasia by Londenp

Schematic depiction of hip joint structures' positions in hip dysplasia by Londenp

Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

As mentioned earlier, the symptoms of hip dysplasia may arise early in severe cases, or later in milder cases. Symptoms of hip dysplasia can be confused with other orthopedic disorders and this is why x-rays are recommended. Following are some symptoms suggesting hip dysplasia:

  • Decreased activity
  • Difficulty getting up from laying down
  • Rear leg pain
  • Reluctance to use stairs to go up
  • Reluctance to jump up or stand on hind limbs
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Bunny-hopping gait when running
  • Pain from manipulation of the hip (extension and bending)
  • Crepitus, a crunching/grating feeling when moving the leg in the hip join
  • Wasting of the rear leg muscles in chronic cases
Normal hips in a dog.

Normal hips in a dog.

Diagnosis of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Upon being taken to the vet, a dog with suspected hip dysplasia will be carefully examined. The veterinarian will likely ask the owner to have the dog walk and trot back and forth so to examine the gait. The veterinarian may then extend and bend the rear leg repeatedly to check for signs of pain or presence of crepitus, a crunching sensation felt when moving the leg into the joint. X-rays will ultimately rule out or confirm the presence of hip dysplasia.

Treatments for Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Treatment for hip dysplasia varies depending on gravity, dog's age and other factors. Following are some treatment plans.

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Read More From Pethelpful

  • Weight Loss: For dogs on the heavier side, a weight loss regimen may work wonders since every extra pound plays a role in putting strain on the hips. Being a bit on the slim side can work wonders. Avoid feeding high-energy diets in large breed puppies.
  • Exercise: You want to avoid strenuous exercise, therefore moderation is key. Swimming is a great sport your dog will enjoy and that will help maintain good muscle mass and tone, explains veterinarian Nicholas Trout. Swimming also keeps weight off the joints.
  • Glucosamine: A glucosamine supplement is safe to give and may help a dog suffering from hip dysplasia. Results are generally seen after 6-8 weeks of treatment.One of the more popular supplements containing glucosamine is Dasuquin.
  • Medications: Your vet may prescribe non steroidal anti-inflammatory medications however, you must be aware of potential side effects. Do your research well. Never give over the counter medications such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen, these are toxic in dogs. Aspirin may be given short term, following the vet's advice and monitoring for stomach problems.
  • Surgery: Your vet may recommend surgery depending on the level of severity of hip dysplasia. Triple pelvic ostectomy is an option before arthritis has set in. Total hip replacement can be a very successful surgery when carried out by highly trained vets at referral practices . Another option is a femoral head ostectomy and DARthroplasty which is a still fairly new procedure.

The Gait of a Dog Suffering From Hip Dysplasia

For Further Reading

  • Dog arthritis home remedies
    Your dog has reached what in human years translates as seniority. She or he may have some difficulty jumping off the car or may wake up stiff in the morning.While this may be bothersome to some owners used to see their dog romping around all day,...
  • Causes of Limping in Dogs
    Learn about some of the most common causes of limping in dogs. Find out how to palpate the leg to pin-point problems.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

Question: How do I confirm if my dog has hip dysplasia?

Answer: Your vet can confirm it through x-rays of the hips. If you are planning on breeding your dog, x-rays should be sent to OFA (orthopedic foundation for animals) for scoring.


Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 30, 2020:

Hi Rujie, if this wound is due to pressure sore, it would be important providing soft places to lie down to help the wound heal. She should also be encouraged to sleep on the other side, and you can rotate her if she allows that, feeding her treats as she's moved by a helper. I think you should follow up with your vet to give an update and ensure the wound isn't infected or something else.

Rujie Carano-o on August 29, 2020:

My German shephered has a hip dysplasia and now inactive,she always lay sleeping and developed a hip wound due to sharp hip,we took care the wound but it was not healing..can you please help me how to cure the wound?im so desperate and feel pity for my dog.

Sushant on September 11, 2018:

How do I confirm if my dog has hip dysplasia

I have a golden retriever and his hind legs turn sideways while walking

Kerry staffa on May 16, 2018:

I have a 10 yrs old BLK lab he has hip dysplasia.and just sprain his back legs.he is sleeping a lot and eating very little and drings water Scotty is going out twice a day to pee but big problems with passing stool.Help

Karlbacco on June 01, 2016:

I have a young husky with hip dysplasia and have also found that using a hip brace helps tremendously to deal with the noticeable discomfort. The one I had is getting old and I'm going to replace it with the Ortocanis dog hip brace, I've read good things about it and I like how it's manufactured specifically for this purpose, for dogs suffering from hip dysplasia.

Jnfer on May 02, 2016:

My lab was diagnosed with dysplasia last year (at 8 years old). I've done a lot of research into the different treatment options that aren't necessarily surgery. We've been giving her an all natural anti-inflammatory with Devil's Claw to try and avoid some of the nasty side effects of traditional anti-inflammatories. Our vet also suggested we try putting on a hip brace when she was in discomfort or when we go out for longer walks. We found the Ortocanis dog hip brace that is aimed at dogs with hip dysplasia, and it really seems to help with the stiffness and pain.

Since this is a chronic condition any type of support like this is going to mean a huge difference for my dog in the long term.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 09, 2014:

Yes, shaking can be a sign of pain.

Katrina on February 09, 2014:

I've been reading all this and think that's what my dog has. Her back legs are giving in all the time and can hardly get up a lot of this weekend. She's been shaking none stop for few days as well with it. Does anyone no if that means she's in pain

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 26, 2012:

thank you, I am happy you found it well written, and it is great hearing so, especially hearing from a vet!

Joe Njenga from Nairobi Kenya on May 26, 2012:


Thank you for your resourceful and well written hub on Hip dysplasia. I enjoyed reading every bit of it and it was refreshing to what I learn in school a few years ago. Thanks

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 07, 2012:

Thank you for sharing your great tips, I am sure they will help owners of dogs affected by this debilitating orthopedic disorder!

JubePlaysGames from Canada on March 07, 2012:

Having experience with both hip dysplasia and raw feeding, I would highly recommend that anyone worried about hip dysplasia or anyone with a dog that already has it, strongly consider going raw. It has done wonders for my own dogs and those of my friends. Including one dog with two blown out ACLs that bounced back from the surgery like you wouldn't believe.

Another thing that I've found to be a great (safe and side effect-free) pain reliever and anti-inflammatory is Traumeel ( I don't normally buy into holistic or homeopathic remedies, but I've seen the LIQUID version of Traumeel work time and time again. It can be purchased in most pharmacies and many grocery stores.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 15, 2012:

I would estimate roughly anywhere between $1700 to $5000.

kyle on February 13, 2012:

how much does surgery usually range for hip displasia

danieltiley26 from Amesbury, Wiltshire, U.K on January 11, 2012:

Hello. I work for Animal Friends Pet Insurance and one of our most common claims is for hip dysplasia. This hub is very accurate and I found it to be an interesting read. I have voted up and marked accordingly.

TheEpicJourney from Fairfield, Ohio on January 09, 2012:

Alexandry thanks for writing this hub!! I've often been worried about this due to Zoe's breed being prone to it (malamute)and how much exercise she and I do. This article gave me a much clearer picture of what signs and symptoms I should be looking for and what age range I should expect said symptoms to appear if she would ever have it. Thanks!

Deborah Brooks Langford from Brownsville,TX on December 29, 2011:

Very interesting.. and useful My son has a large German shepherd.. we love that dog..Thank for this hub.

Happy New Year.

Cat R from North Carolina, U.S. on December 28, 2011:

Sadly it is a painful and expensive issue often caused by irresponsible breeders aiming for looks rather than health!

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