Hip dysplasia is one of the most common causes of lameness found in dogs. An inherited orthopedic disease, large-breed dogs show the highest incidence of being affected.

Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia:

Many, but not all animals will show signs of lameness.

Symptoms of hip dysplasia may include:

  • Pain in the hip
  • Walking with a limp
  • Difficulty with stairs
  • Trouble getting into a car
  • Increasing times of inactivity
  • Swaying gait
  • Hopping run
  • Abruptly stopping play
  • Displaying difficulty when getting up
  • Difficulty getting into the posture to void
  • Pelvis may drop when rump is pressed on
  • When animal is on its back, extending into a frog-like position may be painful.


The hips of an animal with hip dysplasia may appear normal at birth, but at a point within the first year they may begin to structurally change to show joint laxity.

Veterinary examination will be based upon:

  • Clinical signs
  • Physical examination
  • X-rays.
  • Radiograph of:
  • Hips and pelvis
  • Taken when dog is on its back with its legs parallel and extended
  • Stifles are rotated internally
  • Pelvis is not tilted
  • To ensure an accurate diagnosis, animal will need to be sedated or under anesthesia


There are medical and surgical treatments available which depend on the animal’s age, size, and the degree of severity of hip dysplasia.

Medical Options:

  • Diet for weight management. Maintaining a healthy weigh puts less stress on joints and bones
  • Exercise routine that is individualized for the animal based upon its age, weight, physical condition, and severity of the degeneration
  • Joint supplements that include Glucosamine and Chondroitin
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDS prescribed by your veterinarian
  • Massage and physical therapy
  • Orthopedic foam bed
  • Methods to help animal maintain heat such as warming blankets, sweaters
  • Ramps for getting in/out of house and car

Surgical Options:

  • Clients should be aware that the criteria to make the decision for a surgical procedure depends upon the individual animal
  • Possible options include:
  • Triple pelvic osteotomy
  • Juvenile pubic symphysiodesis
  • Total hip replacement
  • Femoral head and neck excision

Tips for parenting a pet with Hip Dysplasia

Dietary Needs:

Diet plays a part in the development of the symptoms of Hip Dysplasia.  Diets fed that are not nutritionally balanced can have a harmful effect on the development of the hip joints.  Feeding a high-caloric diet to growing animals can predispose a dog to dysplasia when the rapid weight gain places increased stress on the hips.

Weight Considerations:

It is important to monitor your pets weight and maintain it at a healthy level. My wife seems to like her pets on the rather plump side and when I expressed concern  to her about our large Pug's weight she would always say he was just big boned.  Altough it is true that each dog breed will have its own healthy weight it is important to know the difference between healthy and unhealthy for our pets. If you are unsure whether your pet is at a healthy weight or not, ask your Veterinarian.
Dogs that are overweight and genetically prone to hip dysplasia will have an increased risk of developing hip dysplasia.
Lameness in dogs that are overweight by as little as 10 to 12% can be aggravated significantly.  Another consequence of obesity is that it can hasten joint degeneration resulting in pain and discomfort for your pet.

Exercise Do's and Don'ts:

Over-exercising young dogs that are at risk of the disease may increase the chances of hip dysplasia
Young dogs should be discouraged from the following types of activities that can place added stress on hips during times of rapid bone growth:

  • Jumping up and down from heights that cause them to land on rear legs
  • Playing frisbee
  • Standing up on back legs
  • Running on pavement

Animals need to be exercised moderately to strengthen the gluteal muscles. Examples of these exercises are:

  • Running
  • Swimming

Genetics and Breeding:

If you are considering using your pet for breeding, you need to know that nearly half of all animals show no clinical signs of hip dysplasia and in order to ensure that your pet doesn’t pass on hip dysplasia to its puppies,  testing should be completed to rule it out, for example:
Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (or OFA) the World’s largest registry, maintains radiographs or Xrays that are taken by veterinarians.
Radiographs are then submitted to OFA for evaluation and certification of the animal’s hip status.  


The University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program (PennHIP) uses radiographs that show joint laxity taken by certified veterinarians.
Hip joint laxity is considered to be strongly associated with an animal’s development of osteoarthritis.

If you are considering adopting a pet breed that is prone to hip dysplasia i recommend asking the breeder if the puppy's parents have had testing to determine their hip health.

I hope this blog has been helpful in navigating the diagnosis of Hip Dysplaia  for your pet.

To your pet's good health,

Barry Miller DVM



Henry Schein Animal Health