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Hip Dysplasia in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Learn how to identify, prevent, and treat hip dysplasia in dogs. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know, from the signs and symptoms of this common condition to the treatment options available so that you can help keep your four-legged best friend healthy, happy, and mobile for years to come.

Written by Raquel Astacio. Published in April 2023.

Does your four-legged friend seem to be in pain or unable to move around as easily as they used to? If so, they may be suffering from hip dysplasia. This common canine condition can become quite serious and even lead to long-term crippling arthritis without proper care. 

In this blog post, we'll cover the signs, causes, treatments, and preventive measures for canine hip dysplasia. Read on to learn more!

What is Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?

Hip dysplasia is a genetic disorder affecting the hip joints of canines, resulting in abnormal formation of the hip joint and leading to lameness and pain. The condition has likely been affecting dogs since antiquity but was first formally recognized in the United States in 1935.

Affected dogs experience loose hips due to laxity (lack of muscle tone) around the joints coupled with inadequate or malformed development of the bones that make up the joint. This looseness and malformation lead to instability within the joint when weight is being borne on it, which causes inflammation and pain over time as well as early-onset arthritis. Affected animals may also experience difficulty rising from a sitting position or show other signs of stiffness after exercise or long periods of rest. 

Causes of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Hip dysplasia is hereditary and is largely controlled by genetics - meaning that certain breeds are predisposed to developing it or are more prone than others due to their specific genetic makeup. Dog breeds that are considered high-risk for hip dysplasia include the following: 

  • German Shepherds
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Newfoundlands
  • Rottweilers
  • Saint Bernards
  • Bulldogs
  • Boxers
  • Chow Chows
  • American Staffordshire Terriers

However, environmental factors, such as overfeeding, nutrient deficiencies, and injury or trauma during the growth stage, can also contribute significantly, as can age and gender. To showcase this, the American Veterinary Medical Association recently performed an interesting study that provided great insight into the topic of risk factors for canine hip dysplasia. This study revealed that:

  • Dogs between two months and one year of age, as well as dogs between one and four years old, are significantly more likely to develop hip dysplasia
  • Female dogs (both intact and spayed) are significantly less likely to develop hip dysplasia
  • Neutered male dogs are significantly more likely than others to develop hip dysplasia

As you can see, there are many risk factors that may increase the chances of this condition occurring - genetics alone is not the only culprit!

Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Because this condition is isolated to the hip joint, hip dysplasia can cause significant discomfort when it comes to mobility. Symptoms of this condition can generally be seen in dogs when they are just 6-12 months old and typically become more severe with age (especially without early intervention).

Common signs that your dog may have hip dysplasia include:

  • Reluctance or trouble rising from a sitting position
  • Limping or an abnormal gait
  • Reduced activity level
  • Difficulty climbing stairs and jumping up on furniture or into cars/trucks
  • Pain or stiffness in the hind end that worsens after exercise
  • Loss of muscle mass in the hindquarters compared to other parts of the body

In addition, many owners have reported hearing a grinding, clicking, or popping noise originating from the hip joints when in motion, while others report that their dogs are asymptomatic. However, despite their often-stoic nature, dogs with hip dysplasia will typically experience excruciating pain - even if they do not display any visible signs of it.

Diagnosing Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Hip dysplasia in dogs is diagnosed through a combination of physical signs and imaging tests. A physical examination will typically include palpation of the hip joint and ranges of motion testing to detect if there is any looseness or laxity in the joints. Additionally, your veterinarian may request a radiograph (x-ray) to further investigate the condition. 

On radiographs, it is possible to evaluate the shape of the head and neck of the femur (thigh bone) and determine if it fits correctly into its socket. An ill-fitting connection between these two bones can be indicative of hip dysplasia as well as other diseases that affect this particular joint, such as arthritis

Other common methods used to diagnose hip dysplasia involve using computed tomography (CT scan) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). CT scans provide more detailed images than traditional x-rays, allowing for greater accuracy when determining abnormal structures within a joint, while MRIs are even more sensitive since they create three-dimensional images based on electromagnetic signals.

Overall, making an accurate diagnosis for canine hip dysplasia requires examining different factors, such as medical history and clinical signs exhibited by your pet, combined with diagnostic imaging technology. The combination of these measures will allow your veterinarian to come up with a tailored treatment plan depending on the severity level of your particular pet. 

Treating Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Treatment for hip dysplasia in dogs can vary depending on the severity of the condition. Generally speaking, mild to moderate cases can be managed with a combination of weight management and exercise modifications. This means reducing your pet’s body weight and avoiding highly strenuous activities like running or jumping. Pain management is also a critical component in treating hip dysplasia, which may include administering non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) as directed by your vet.

In more severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to treat the development of arthritis that can accompany this condition. Depending on the individual dog’s case, procedures such as a femoral head osteotomy (FHO), total hip replacement (THR), or triple pelvic osteotomy (TPO) may be performed to provide relief from pain while restoring mobility and stability in the joint. 

Alternative Therapies for Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Additionally, your veterinarian may also recommend physical therapy, which can involve stretches, strength-building exercises, hydrotherapy (swimming), therapeutic ultrasounds, and massage. Each of these measures helps to build muscle, promote weight loss, and improve joint strength and mobility. Acupuncture might also be recommended as it helps to reduce inflammation and can provide relief from the pain associated with hip dysplasia. 

As with most medical conditions, prevention is key when it comes to treating hip dysplasia in dogs. So if your pup is showing any signs of discomfort – such as limping or difficulty rising – make sure you take them to your veterinarian for an examination right away!

Preventing Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

To prevent hip dysplasia in dogs, here are some practical steps you can take: 


Regular low-impact exercise that keeps your dog’s muscles strong and flexible will help reduce the risk of developing hip dysplasia. Activities like swimming or walking for short intervals several times each day provide great exercise options for dogs of any age or breed type.


Proper nutrition plays a major role when it comes to preventing hip dysplasia in dogs, so be sure to feed your pup a balanced diet of lean proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates, as recommended by your veterinarian. Additionally, keeping your dog at an appropriate weight can help minimize the development of the condition since extra weight puts added strain on the hips and joints.

Avoid Injury & Overuse

Injuries caused by trauma, such as falling from a great height, could increase the risk of developing hip dysplasia, so avoid putting your pup into situations where injury could occur due to lack of coordination or imbalance. 


Another great way to ward off hip dysplasia is to include Glucosamine and Chondroitin supplements in their daily regimen. These supplements work to build up the cartilage in your pet's joints, slowing the progression of painful hip dysplasia as they age. The earlier you start giving your pet Glucosamine, the better chance they have of staying healthy and active well into their golden years. 

Of course, every pet is unique, so it's best to talk to a veterinarian before starting any new supplements. But if your vet agrees that your pet could benefit from Glucosamine, you'll be glad you made the investment in their long-term health!


Ultimately genetics play a huge role when it comes to this disorder, so check with your veterinarian about what measures you can take if there’s a history of this disease within your pup’s bloodline. Additionally, researching which breeds have been known to carry this trait can be helpful when considering adopting or purchasing a new pet. 

FAQs About Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

“Is hip dysplasia in dogs painful?”

Yes, hip dysplasia in dogs is an incredibly painful condition that can cause even the toughest pups to whimper and ache.

“Can hip dysplasia in dogs be fixed?”

While there is no cure for hip dysplasia, it can be managed with treatment options such as physical therapy, medications, and even surgery.

Physical therapy may include exercises to strengthen the muscles around the hips and improve range of motion, while medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help reduce inflammation and pain. Surgery may also be recommended if the condition has progressed significantly or if other treatments have been unsuccessful.

“Can hip dysplasia cause a dog to become incontinent?”

In many cases, hip dysplasia has been known to cause involuntary urination or incontinence. Why is this? Because the abnormal formation of the hip joint places extra strain on the muscles in the hind legs. As these muscles become weaker, your pup will experience greater difficulty posturing to urinate, which may cause your dog to wet themselves unintentionally.

Incontinence can also be a sign that your dog is experiencing significant pain from hip dysplasia, so if you notice any change in bathroom habits, it’s important to take your pup in for a checkup with their veterinarian.

“How long can a dog live with hip dysplasia?”

With proper care and treatment, a dog with hip dysplasia can live a normal lifespan.


Hip dysplasia is a serious condition that can have lifelong consequences for your pet if left untreated. Fortunately, with an early diagnosis, proper care, and ongoing treatments, dogs with hip dysplasia can lead rich and comfortable lives. Understanding the signs and symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs, as well as how to prevent it, is key to helping keep our furry friends healthy, happy, and mobile for years to come.

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