Hip Dysplasia In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, Diagnosis

Hip Dysplasia In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, Diagnosis

Oftentimes, when we think of hip dysplasia in dogs, large and giant breed dogs come to mind. However, the truth is that hip dysplasia can affect any size or breed of dog. A diagnosis of canine hip dysplasia can be devastating to the dog and the owner as it can greatly reduce the dog’s quality of life. The good news, however, is that if canine hip dysplasia is discovered early enough, you can take action to prevent the joint disease from progressing further.

What causes canine hip dysplasia? Hip dysplasia is a deformity of the hip bone in dogs that occurs while the dog is still growing. This results in looseness within the joint, which is then followed by degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis. These symptoms are a result of the dog’s body trying to stabilize the hip joint due to its laxity.

Hip dysplasia is a genetic disease that can be affected by various factors, including the dog’s environment, diet, growth rate, and hormones, to name just a few. Many times, treatment of hip dysplasia depends on the age of the dog as well as the amount of discomfort the dog is in.

In addition to the above causes, canine hip dysplasia can be caused by cartilage damage due to a traumatic fracture at any stage in the dog’s life. If your dog has suffered from a traumatic leg injury, it is best to take him to the vet to ensure he has not begun to develop clinical signs of canine hip dysplasia. The earlier this joint disease is discovered, the better the outcome will be for the dog’s quality of life.

Signs of hip dysplasia in dogs

Signs of hip dysplasia in dogs include staggered walking with slight leg opening and reduced mobility. Later, lameness, difficulty standing, and stiffening of the hind legs may occur. The posterior muscles can deteriorate as many prevent movement due to pain. Similarly, the muscle mass that lines the hip joint can experience painful contractures due to this condition.

Diagnosis of hip dysplasia in dogs

With an X-ray, the diagnosis of canine hip dysplasia can be made, but the animal must be sedated to perform it properly. In this way, the muscles are relaxed and do not feel any pain. In addition, the hip x-ray allows the veterinarian to assess the degree of dysplasia and the alterations produced in the joint.

One of the main evaluation criteria is the Norberg angle, the one formed between the line that joins the center of the two femoral heads and the line that crosses the anterior acetabular border. In a healthy hip, the Norberg angle is above 105º.

The following alterations may indicate dogs with hip dysplasia: the acetabulum, the femoral head, or both are flattened. The correct placement of the bony head in the socket cannot be guaranteed. Also, misalignment of the neck and head of the femur is frequently seen. Signs of osteoarthritis such as osteophytes are likely to be recognized at the anterior and posterior acetabular margins and the junction between the neck and the head of the femur with this condition.

hip dysplasia in dogs

The International Cynological Federation (FCI) stipulates criteria for the detection of canine hip dysplasia and some postural indications for the radiographic procedure. In addition, a second radiograph in which the hind limbs are positioned with the knees apart – the so-called frog position – is required in certain breeds and some countries because of this way alterations in the acetabular margins and the femurs.

Grades of hip dysplasia in dogs:

  • A = Normal (no evidence of dysplasia)
  • B = Almost normal
  • C = Slight
  • D = Average
  • E = Severe Treatment of hip dysplasia in dogs

Although there is no cure, dysplasia can be treated in different ways to relieve pain and inflammation, delay the progression of the joint disease and improve mobility and joint mechanics. The chosen treatment will depend on multiple factors such as the severity of the symptoms, the radiographic diagnosis, the breed, the age, and the weight of the dog; the owner will also influence the decision.

If canine hip dysplasia is diagnosed early on in your dog’s life, such as at 10 to 18 weeks of life, veterinarians can perform a surgery called a juvenile pubic symphysiodesis or JPS. This surgery aims to close the growth plate at the bottom of the dog’s pelvis, which allows the joint to grow together and prevent the progression of hip dysplasia as the dog ages.

Treating Hip Dysplasia In Dogs

There are two types of treatment: conservative and surgical. Conservative treatment consists mainly of protecting the joints and reducing the load they bear. If your furry is overweight, it is necessary to lose weight so that their joints do not suffer due to the extra kilos. In addition, some food supplements contain omega-3 fatty acids, green-lipped mussels, chondroitin, and glucosamine and can promote joint health and alleviate symptoms of this joint disease.

Also, it is recommended to offer your dog orthopedic bed dogs, which are characterized by including viscoelastic foam, which takes care of the joints.

Activities that demand excessive effort should be put aside; however, controlled movements on soft surfaces help protect the joints and strengthen the muscles. For example, swimming is a good exercise for hip dysplasia in dogs. On the contrary, the sudden movements made when playing, jumping, or spinning place a load on the surface of the joint, the capsule, and the tissue that covers it, so it is preferable to avoid them.

In addition to these measures, physical therapy sessions can be performed to reduce pain and inflammation and relieve muscle contractures. Treatment is usually combined with medications. The most commonly used are anti-inflammatories and analgesics and, sometimes, a combination of both.

Several methodologies exist for surgical treatment; These will depend on the type of patient: young dogs without joint alterations or adults in which changes in the joint are already seen.

While there are quite a few surgical procedures and strategies that can be implemented, the most common surgery in relation to dogs with hip dysplasia is a double or triple pelvic osteotomy, a femoral head ostectomy, and a total hip replacement surgery. Among these types of surgeries to treat canine hip dysplasia, the most effective is a total hip replacement. However, this surgery is typically only performed on dogs that are less than 10 months of age, as it is difficult for older canines to recover from this type of surgery.

Hip Dysplasia In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, Diagnosis


The course of the disease depends on the degree and symptoms. The combination of different treatments can improve the clinical signs of many dogs and get them to enjoy periods with little or even no discomfort. However, it is not possible to cure it. What is sought is to mitigate the clinical signs and delay the appearance of joint incongruities to maintain a positive quality of life.

How to prevent dysplasia

Since it is a congenital pathology, it can only be avoided in a puppy if its parents do not have it. The owner can also, to some extent, help prevent severe canine hip dysplasia. In the case of large breed puppies, activities that overload the animal are discouraged. Also, food rich in energy must be dispensed with, and special attention must be paid to ensuring that they contain several minerals and vitamins adapted to the puppy’s needs.

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