Hip Dysplasia

Hip Dysplasia

What is Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is the most common cause of arthritis in the hip of dogs.

Hip dysplasia is malformation and degeneration of the hip joint that results in joint laxity.

Puppies are born with functionally normal hips.  Hip dysplasia develops as a result of genetic and environmental stresses that result in laxity, or looseness,  in the developing joint.  The genetics involve several genes, so inheritance does not follow a simple dominant or recessive pattern.  There is also a nutritional component, so nutrition during puppyhood is important.

Chronic laxity leads to arthritis as the dog matures.


Typical Patient

Hip dysplasia is most commonly seen in large, heavy breed dogs, but can occur in small dogs or cats.

Hip dysplasia is most commonly diagnosed in young dogs, when the hips are lax, and older dogs, due to the development of arthritis.

Signs can be present as early as 4 months to one year of age.  Or signs may not develop until the dog is middle aged or older.



Physical Exam Findings

  • Dogs with hip dysplasia tend to walk with a swaying gait or stiff gait at the walk.  Some dogs will bunny hop when running.  Some dogs have difficulty standing from a sit or jumping up (often have difficulty getting into the car).
  • On palpation of the hips, there can be pain and decreased range of motion.  Sometimes, subluxation can be felt.
  • There is often atrophy in the muscles of the thighs and over the hips.

Radiographs (x-rays)

  • Radiographs are usually taken at maturity, before breeding.
  • Patient positioning is critical, so sedation is necessary.



Because there is a genetic component, have both parents radiographed prior to breeding.

Puppy nutrition is important.  Limit feed large breed puppies during growth so that they maintain a lean body.  Calcium content of the diet is also important, so feed a diet formulated for large breed puppies during the first year of life.



Treatment depends on the age of the dog and the severity of the disease.

Pain medication and anti-inflammatories may be needed to keep your dog comfortable.

There are several surgical options for treatment of severe hip dysplasia.  If you are considering surgery for your dog, consult your veterinarian or veterinary surgeon.

Physical Rehabilitation:

Laser and myofascial trigger point dry needling can be used to treat muscle pain.

Moderate exercise can be helpful for several reasons:

  • Therapeutic exercises can help maintain hip range of motion.
  • Exercise can help maintain muscle mass.  Research shows that dogs with hip dysplasia that maintain muscle mass develop less severe arthritis.
  • Exercise is important for weight management.  In overweight animals, weight loss alone can improve mobility.
  • Low impact exercise can maintain joint health, slowing the progression of arthritis.

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