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What You Need to Know About Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

If your dog is limping, avoiding stairs, or walking with an odd gait, hip dysplasia may be to blame. Fortunately, there are medical interventions that can help pups with this scary-sounding condition.

Learn how to recognize the symptoms of hip dysplasia and help keep your pup healthy and active at any age. 

What is hip dysplasia?

For dogs, healthy hip joints develop when the ball joint of the femur (thigh bone) and hip socket grow at the same rate. Hip dysplasia is a genetic condition that causes puppies’ femurs and pelvic sockets to grow out of sync, resulting in loose hip joints. 

Over time, the improper fit of the femur and socket can cause the cartilage and bone in dogs’ hip joints to wear down. This causes pain with movement, and eventually, osteoarthritis. 

Though hip dysplasia begins when dogs are very young, not all at-risk pups will grow up to develop the condition. A number of other factors, like hormones, body weight, and activity level will determine if a dog’s loose joints will develop into joint disease.  

hip dysplasia bulldog

What are the signs of hip dysplasia?

Because hip dysplasia is a degenerative condition, it often comes on with age. However, even puppies under a year old can suffer from hip pain and arthritis. Keep an eye out for the symptoms of hip dysplasia:

  • Limping or lameness 
  • Difficulty getting to a standing position
  • Trouble navigating stairs
  • Clicking or popping sounds from hip joints
  • Unusual “bunny hopping” gait
  • Overdevelopment in the shoulder muscles to compensate for hind end weakness

Which dog breeds are at risk?

Hip dysplasia is most common in larger dogs, as well as breeds with stocky bodies and short legs, like corgis and bulldogs. That being said, pups of all breeds and sizes can develop hip dysplasia, particularly if they are overweight. 

How is hip dysplasia diagnosed and treated?

Your veterinarian can diagnose hip dysplasia by manipulating the joints to check for grinding and stiffness. They may also take x-ray images to determine the severity of your dog’s condition in order to recommend the best course of treatment. 

For less severe cases of hip dysplasia, your vet may recommend dietary changes, physical therapy, joint supplements, or anti-inflammatory medications. More advanced joint degeneration, however, may require surgery. 

Surgical options for hip dysplasiahip dysplasia corgi

There are several different surgical procedures that can alleviate the symptoms of hip dysplasia. Your vet may be able to repair your dog’s hip joint, or they may perform a femoral head ostectomy, a procedure that removes the head of the femur to create a false joint. In some cases, a total hip replacement might be necessary.  

The best course of treatment will depend on your dog’s age, health, and the severity of their osteoarthritis. 

Prevention

Hip dysplasia is a genetic condition that is present from birth. It is possible, however, to reduce the likelihood that dogs with loose joints will go on to experience pain, stiffness, and osteoarthritis. 

One of the best ways to keep your pup’s joints healthy is to keep them active and at a healthy weight. Excess body weight puts added stress on their hips, exacerbating and accelerating degeneration. 

Schedule a visit with your vet to assess your dog’s body condition score, and make a plan to be proactive about their joint health as they age.