Dog Health: Signs and Symptoms of Dog Hip Dysplasia

Updated on May 28, 2019
alexadry profile image

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, former veterinary assistant, and the author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

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

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, because of structural defects, the head of the femur does not fit properly in the socket, giving the rise to looseness in the joint, and overtime, cartilage damage. Therefore, 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, around six to nine years of age.

Muscle wasting due to chronic hip dysplasia.
Muscle wasting due to chronic hip dysplasia. | Source

How Did My Dog Get Hip Dysplasia?

Often dog owners are shocked to learn their dog has developed hip dysplasia. Many even never heard about this disorder before. This orthopedic condition is genetic, meaning it can be passed down from a generation of dogs to another. A good way to up the likeliness of purchasing a puppy not affected by this disorder is to rely on a reputable breeder which OFA tests the parents of the puppy and has done so for generations. Good breeders generally test the hips back to 4 to 5 generations or more.

OFA stands for the ''Ortopedic Foundation for Animals'' and screens x-rays of dog hips giving 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, back yard 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 | Source

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. | Source

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.

Treatment for Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

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

Treatments for Hip Dysplasia

  • 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

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

  • How do I confirm if my dog has hip dysplasia?

    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.


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    • profile image


      23 months ago

      How do I confirm if my dog has hip dysplasia

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

    • profile image

      Kerry staffa 

      2 years ago

      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

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      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.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      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.

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Farricelli 

      6 years ago

      Yes, shaking can be a sign of pain.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      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

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Farricelli 

      8 years ago

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

    • afriqnet profile image

      Joe Njenga 

      8 years ago from Nairobi Kenya


      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

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Farricelli 

      8 years ago

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

    • JubePlaysGames profile image


      8 years ago from Canada

      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.

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Farricelli 

      8 years ago

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

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      how much does surgery usually range for hip displasia

    • danieltiley26 profile image


      8 years ago from Amesbury, Wiltshire, U.K

      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 profile image


      8 years ago from Fairfield, Ohio

      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 profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 

      8 years ago from Brownsville,TX

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

      Happy New Year.

    • Cat R profile image

      Cat R 

      8 years ago from North Carolina, U.S.

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


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