Choose your dog breed


Choose your dog breed:

Hip Dysplasia in Dogs (Canine)

Hip dysplasia is a developmental anomaly in dogs that results in some secondary changes, such as arthritis or osteoarthritis, and in some clinical symptoms, such as chronic pain and lameness. In 95% of cases, it is transmitted from parents to pups, and therapy is mostly based on reducing the symptoms, because it is impossible to prevent the onset of the disease. Currently, there are many methods that can help in treatment of this disease. All methods have different efficiencies, which also depend on the degree of development of dysplasia.

What Is Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?

Hip dysplasia is an anomaly that occurs in dogs of medium, large or giant breeds. It is found most often in the following breeds:

  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Rottweilers
  • Great Danes
  • Saint Bernards
  • Long-haired and short-haired German Shepherds
  • Other breeds of similar sizes

This anomaly can appear in smaller breeds, but rarely.

Dysplasia in a dogVarious acquired diseases, such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, can affect the normal function of the hips, as well as trauma acquired during the dog’s life. Dysplasia is a genetic skeletal deformity that causes a loss of function of the hip joint. It is transmitted from adult animals to puppies. It is caused by many factors, and it actually occurs during a dog’s growth. The hip joint connects the dog’s lower extremity with the trunk. It is made of the cup of the hip (acetabulum), which looks just like a cup, and the rounded part, which looks like a root. That is the head of the femur (thighbone). These bony surfaces are covered with cartilage that provides a wide range of motion.

What Causes Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?

The true cause of this anomaly has not been determined exactly, but it has been assumed for some time that the development of this condition is due to the weakness of connective tissue in the joint capsule.

Dog's hip

The way this condition occurs is that the head of the femur and the cup of the hip do not grow at the same time. One of them lags behind in growth while the other continues to develop. So, the distance at their contact parts is reduced and leads to the appearance of friction and wear of the cartilage, and later of the bone itself. Then, the head of the femur and the cup on the pelvis start to correspond less and less to each other. It often happens that the tissue, which is distributed on the dog’s hip, is not tightened well enough. It causes the head of the femur to lie too loosely and closes the joint completely. This condition leads to the hip joint remaining loose.

Later, you may notice the appearance of discomfort, very strong pain in the dog, movement difficulties, and/or a generally exhausted condition resulting in the dog refusing to get up. It leads to wear, thickening, and elevation of the femoral head. Also, a dog’s higher body weight can cause this condition because more pressure is applied to already diseased joints. 1Canine Hip Dysplasia Resolved with Total Hip Replacement. NC State Veterinary Medicine. Retrieved 20 July 2020.

Symptoms (Signs) of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

This anomaly is not so easily noticed in young dogs. It does not produce symptoms in puppies. The only thing that is noticed in cubs is a clumsy gait, which many owners ignore. It’s because they reckon that puppies are too young and curled up anyway, so they assume that all this will be corrected in time. However, during the dog’s growth, the disease further develops over time.

Due to excessive load, there is an increasing wear of the hips and a deeper wear of the cartilage of the joints. All this causes more pain and brings an increase in lameness, difficulty in movement, and pain when walking.

Additional symptoms that we can recognize in adult dogs:

  • Whining (because of the pain)
  • Unusual walk
  • Loss of interest for some activities like playing, swimming, going for walks, etc.
  • Limping or being reluctant to climb stairs
  • Arthritis, osteoarthritis

As time passes, the dog finds it increasingly difficult to get up from a sitting or lying position. Over time, it can happen that the dog refuses to move.

What Does Hip Dysplasia Look Like in Dogs? (Diagnosis)

Dog hip dysplasiaIf the anomaly is advanced and long-lasting, the hip irregularity is visible to the naked eye. This diagnostic method is called adspection (watching, observing). Physically, a diagnostic method called palpation (feeling, pressure) serves for checking the dog’s soreness, tenderness, irritability, and reaction in certain places, like joints between bones or cartilage.

The most reliable way of determining the health of a dog’s hips is to make a complete clinical examination and to take X-rays. In the 6th and 12th month of a puppy’s life, regular examinations are performed in order to assess the current condition of the hips. If hip dysplasia is at all noticed with any of these diagnostic methods, these results will also be used later to track the speed of further development.

Screening Tests for Hip Dysplasia

One of the common diagnostic tools are specific screening schemes such as the British Veterinary Association (BVA)/Kennel Club (KC) Hip and Elbow Dysplasia Schemes. 2Hazewinkel H.A.W. (September 2007). Elbow dysplasia, definition and known aetiologies. Retrieved 20 July 2020. The BVA/KC scoring scheme for hip dysplasia (HD) is performed on dogs who are suspected to have hip dysplasia. 3Gibbs C. The BVA/KC scoring scheme for control of hip dysplasia: interpretation of criteria. Vet Rec. 1997 Sep 13;141(11):275-84. Erratum in: Vet Rec 1997 Nov 29;141(22):576. PMID: 9316245.

This method is also based on X-ray examination and has been in operation since 1984. These screening schemes give an indication of how serious preclinical affections are. That way, breeders have the opportunity to make decisions about which animals to use in the breeding process. 4 In order for this screening test to be performed, the animal must be identified by a microchip or a tattoo, so those details can be printed on the radiographs.5Hip Dysplasia (canine). Wikipedia. Retrieved 20 July 2020.

This is very important in veterinary clinics where the daily turnover of animals is very high, in order to connect the image with the patient, that is, for better identification of the health condition. Joints are evaluated individually by experts who review the BVA/KC.

The award points are based and given on nine aspects of hip joints. The degree to which a dog is affected is shown by the score for each hip individually, ranging from 0-106. It means, for each hip individually, the score is from 1 to 53. A value of score zero represents the lowest degree of hip dysplasia, while a score of 53 represents the highest. 6The Kennel Club. Retrieved 19 July 2020.

Experts also use screening tests for genetic diseases. Their role is to lower the frequency of “bad genes” and to improve the gene pool. They use a phenotype (all visible characteristics or traits of an organism) to assess the presence of the SD2 gene, a gene that is prone to mutation. This gene is responsible for bone shortening and inconsistent bone ratio. 7SD2 Skeletal Dysplasia Type 2 in the Labrador. Fortiswick. Retrieved 21 July 2020.

How to Treat Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?

Since this is an incurable disease, the therapy is approached exclusively to reduce the symptoms and pain, and it depends upon the pet’s clinical signs and the amount of pain and discomfort. There are a lot of nonsurgical ways of treatment, including the following:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Weight reduction
  • Exercise restriction
  • Corticosteroids
  • Physical therapy
  • Joint fluid modifiers
  • Stem cell treatments
  • Acupuncture

Veterinary-approved glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and salmon oil are nutritional supplements that can be given to dogs for preventive purposes even before the onset of the disease. Polysulfated glucosamine injections are another useful treatment, and physical therapy has also proved to be very effective.

Some of these methods are very encouraging in treatment and can be used in combination. Each one of these treatments by itself avoids excessive friction of the cup of the hip and the head of the femur, and thus reduces pain.

Dog preparing for surgeryBut, if dysplasia is in an advanced phase, then the therapy is exclusively surgical. The first step involves removing the femoral head, so there is no more contact between the femoral head and the cup of the hip. This way, the dog is relieved of pain to a great extent. It helps him to walk better and to limp less. The last resort is the most intensive surgical intervention, and it implies the installation of an artificial hip in a dog.

Medication for Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

If dysplasia is in the initial phase, the therapy includes giving various analgesics to alleviate bloating. But non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the best treatment in this case, because they have minimal side effects if they are used properly. One of those drugs is Meloxicam®. One of the reasons vets recommend it is that it removes pain and inflammation, which is caused by arthritis in young and middle-aged dogs, and osteoarthritis in adult dogs. 8Hunter T., Ward E. Hip Dysplasia in Dogs. VCA Hospitals. Retrieved 21 July 2020.

Generally speaking, if NSAIDs are not managed properly, they can cause some serious side effects like decreased heart function, kidney damage, and high blood pressure.

The veterinarian may also recommend an injection of corticosteroids directly into the arthritic joint, which can reduce inflammation and ease the pain. There are also hyaluronic acid injections, which are used for injecting directly into the joint space. Those injections make the synovial fluid (a fluid that contains hyaluronic acid, which cushions and lubricates the joint during activities) more substantial, and improves the gliding motion of the joint.

Best Food (Diet) for Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

In case the dog is obese, a reduction diet is prescribed so its joints and hips get released of pressure. The owner needs to pay more attention to the dog’s nutrition; it should be rich in omega fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, calcium for bones, and hyaluronic acid for synovial fluid.

Protein-based nutrition is also very important for the preservation of not only bones and cartilage tissue, but also for all muscles in general. A healthy diet is commonly used in combination with exercise, massage, warm and dry sleeping areas, joint supplements, and pain-relieving medication.

Also, a good exercise program, such as daily walking and moderate running, will be the best way to keep the joints of your pet healthy for a long time. A general rule of thumb is to avoid jumping or running. Swimming is also a great exercise for the muscles around all joints.

Apart from a reduction diet, supplements are used as a great alternative in dysplasia treatment.

Supplements for Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Glucosamine is a natural substance found in healthy cartilage, which helps it to form and repair. The production of this natural substance slows down with age and, as a result, the repairment of tissues in the body slows down. The lack of this substance leads to the development of painful arthritis and stiffness of joints. It is a natural anti-inflammatory. Glucosamine can be found in the forms of capsules and chewing products. It increases mobility, improves lubrication in joints, and can be very useful if you want to avoid using NSAIDs.

Chondroitin is also a natural substance found in dog’s cartilage, often paired with glucosamine for an even more beneficial effect on the cartilage of joints.

Another helpful supplement is a natural sulfur compound, MSM (methylsulfonylmethane). It has the same effect as the previous two supplements and is also used as a supplement to the normal diet of pets.

Finally, there’s green-lipped mussel (GLM), which contains omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. Green-lipped mussel alleviates joint discomfort and helps your pet during aging. It is commonly used in combination with glucosamine and chondroitin for making chewing products.

Salmon oil is rich in fatty acids. Among other things salmon oil contains, the most important are omega-3 fatty acids. Those acids strengthen muscles and joints. You can give it to your dog on a daily basis, but you have to be careful with dosage because they serve as a source of calories and can encourage fattening, which is not desirable in this case.

Turmeric curcumin enhances the functions of joint and connective tissue and supports flexibility. Active ingredients, which are responsible for those improvements, are contained in turmeric.

You can learn more about joint supplements for dogs here.

Surgery for Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

There are several surgical procedures available in treating this condition:

  • Double or triple pelvic osteotomy (DPO/TPO)
  • Femoral head ostectomy (FHO)
  • Total hip replacement (THR)

The choice of surgery is made depending on the dog’s age and condition. DPO is performed in dogs younger than 10 months. FHO is performed on young and mature dogs, and it can be a great pain management strategy. THR is the best and most effective surgical treatment. 9Hunter T., Ward E. Total Hip Replacement in Dogs. VCA Hospitals. Retrieved 22 July 2020. The dysfunctional joint is replaced with metal and plastic implants, which return the hip function to a normal state.

Stem Cell Therapy

The great potential has been seen in one of the most promising treatments for many types of diseases called stem cell therapy. 10How Long Can a Dog Live With Hip Dysplasia – Complete Guide. Medrego. Retrieved 22 July 2020. It is an innovative and harmless method that implies renewing and repairing the tissues in the affected area. Those cells have the ability to develop into any one of many different types of cells required by the tissue (ligament cells, skin cells, bone cells, etc.).

This is a new possibility that has shown great success in treatment in a short period of time. Although this method has been successful in previous cases, it has not been sufficiently tested. We expect more case studies in the near future. 11Stem Cell Therapy in Dogs. Wagwalking. Retrieved 22 July 2020. For now, it is best to treat your pet with natural supplements.

How to Prevent Hip Dysplasia in Dogs? (Prevention)

Not all cases of hip dysplasia can be prevented, but they can be efficiently controlled by avoiding mating dogs with already diagnosed dysplasia, or mating dogs with predisposition to the onset of this disease. Breeders should screen their breeding dogs for the disease on time.

When your dog is young, you should do everything in your power to keep its skeleton healthy. An appropriate diet, as well as supplements containing glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and MSM can be a good start for healthy bone and joint development. It will prevent obesity, which then contributes to keeping all the other organs healthy. Also, an appropriate level of exercise is very important. As a dog owner, your timely response and regular animal health checks can make a big difference when it comes to detecting the disease in time to avoid surgery.


All genetic material of dogs is passed on from parents to offspring. During the years of mating purebred dogs, many hereditary diseases were avoided in reproduction. This is best achieved by a good selection of genetically healthy dogs. Supplements are always resorted to use preventively. Also, controlled exercise and mild physical rehabilitation are key for good outcomes.

Even though your pet gets hip dysplasia, you can still undergo your pet to the surgery and the installation of an artificial hip. Total hip replacement (THR), based on so far evidence, enables the most normal pain-free function joint. The ball (head of the femur) and the socket (acetabulum) are replaced with metal and polyethylene (plastic) implants. They are fixated with metal pegs, bone cement or “press-fit” (bone ingrowth). A hip like this reproduces the mechanics of a normal hip joint.


1 Canine Hip Dysplasia Resolved with Total Hip Replacement. NC State Veterinary Medicine. Retrieved 20 July 2020.
2 Hazewinkel H.A.W. (September 2007). Elbow dysplasia, definition and known aetiologies. Retrieved 20 July 2020.
3 Gibbs C. The BVA/KC scoring scheme for control of hip dysplasia: interpretation of criteria. Vet Rec. 1997 Sep 13;141(11):275-84. Erratum in: Vet Rec 1997 Nov 29;141(22):576. PMID: 9316245.
5 Hip Dysplasia (canine). Wikipedia. Retrieved 20 July 2020.
6 The Kennel Club. Retrieved 19 July 2020.
7 SD2 Skeletal Dysplasia Type 2 in the Labrador. Fortiswick. Retrieved 21 July 2020.
8 Hunter T., Ward E. Hip Dysplasia in Dogs. VCA Hospitals. Retrieved 21 July 2020.
9 Hunter T., Ward E. Total Hip Replacement in Dogs. VCA Hospitals. Retrieved 22 July 2020.
10 How Long Can a Dog Live With Hip Dysplasia – Complete Guide. Medrego. Retrieved 22 July 2020.
11 Stem Cell Therapy in Dogs. Wagwalking. Retrieved 22 July 2020.
Dr. Elvira Sefo-Kapidzic (DVM)
Dr. Elvira Sefo-Kapidzic (DVM)
Dr. Elvira is working as a field veterinarian and in a small animal ambulance in Sarajevo. She has a deep knowledge of toxicity in dog food. She has successfully completed a large number of seminars in her special fields. She is a proud mom of 11-years old labrador retriever “Bonny”.

Readers' Comments

Related Articles

Most Read Articles

Glucosamine for Dogs

Glucosamine is a popular supplement for dogs, often used for treating joint problems.

Dog Joint Pain

Joint pain can occur in dogs of any age. Learn about the possible causes and treatments.

Dog GPS Collar & Tracker Review

How to find your dog if he gets lost? This widget monitors the dog's location, activity, and health.

Pet Stain Remover

Learn how to remove bad odors and all kinds of dog stains in the most effective way.

Dog Shampoo

How often should you bath your dog? Should you use a human or dog shampoo?