Does My Dog Have Hip Dysplasia? Signs To Look Out For

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5 min read
5 min read

Updated - Oct 15th, 2022

Canine hip dysplasia (CHD), or developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH), is a degenerative disease that causes a hip deformity in dogs. It is a common genetic skeletal condition that is affected by environmental factors, and if left untreated, can severely reduce the quality of a dog’s life. 

Because hip dysplasia is inherited, it can never be fully cured without surgery. However, the good news is that there are many steps dog owners can take to treat and manage this disease, giving their pups a furbulous life. 

Let’s dive into how CHD works, what symptoms to look for, which breeds are more prone to the disease, and how pet parents can successfully manage this condition. 

How do dogs get hip dysplasia?

To understand how dogs get hip dysplasia, it is helpful to understand the basic anatomy of a hip. The hip is a ball and socket joint. When a puppy is growing, both the ball (the head of the thigh bone), and the socket (a pocket in the pelvis) must grow at the same rate. In dogs with hip dysplasia, this uniform growth does not occur, causing the ball and socket to not fit properly together or pelvis muscles to poorly develop. 

Although hip dysplasia is a hereditary condition, environmental factors also play a big role in a dog’s likelihood of developing the disease. Some of these include: 

  • Obesity or overfeeding 
  • Premature neutering (before full developmental maturity)
  • Overextension of the joint at a young age
  • Injury at a young age
  • Ligament tears at a young age
  • Putting too much repetitive motion on forming joints – such as jogging with a puppy under the age of 1

As you can see, being mindful of your pup’s forming joints is very important. It’s best to avoid any surgery or intense exercise until they have reached adulthood, and feeding them a proper diet is crucial, especially during their first year of life. 

Which breeds are more prone to developing hip dysplasia?

Any type of dog can develop hip dysplasia, but it is typically seen in medium-large purebred dogs and giant breeds such as German Shepherds, Great Danes, Golden Retrievers, Newfoundlands, Rottweilers, Mastiffs, Saint Bernards, Bulldogs, and Old English Sheepdogs. However, large mixed-breed dogs also have this genetic predisposition.

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Symptoms to look for 

Dogs can start showing signs of hip dysplasia as early as a few months old, but it is most common to start seeing symptoms in dogs one to two years of age. However, it is possible to not see symptoms until later on in a dog’s life, as the disease can develop alongside other diseases such as osteoarthritis. Dogs affected by hip dysplasia can exhibit symptoms such as: 

  • Decreased activity
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Lameness in the hind legs
  • Difficulty or reluctance rising, jumping, running, or climbing stairs
  • Wobbly, swaying, “bunny hop” gait
  • Loss of thigh muscle mass
  • Stiffness or limping
  • Pain
  • Noticeable enlargement of the shoulder muscles as they compensate for the hind legs
  • Grating or looseness in the joint during movement
  • Narrow stance
  • Stiffness or soreness after rising from rest
  • Subluxation, or dislocation of the hip joint 

These symptoms will vary depending on the severity of the disease, how long the dog has been suffering, the level of inflammation, and the degree of looseness in the joint. If left untreated, hip dysplasia can lead to degenerative joint disease (DJD) or osteoarthritis (OA). 

It can sometimes take years of bone degeneration before a dog begins to show clinical signs of hip dysplasia, so ensuring your dog gets the proper care it needs is crucial. 

How is canine hip dysplasia diagnosed?

During your dog’s regular check-up, the veterinarian will move their hind legs to test the hip joint and determine how loose it is, while looking for signs of reduced range of motion, pain, or grinding. If the exam includes any blood work, inflammation due to joint disease will be indicated on the results. If the veterinarian suspects hip dysplasia, X-rays will be taken of your dog’s hips to determine a definitive diagnosis—usually under general anesthesia. 

It is important to tell your veterinarian about any abnormal behaviors or signs you’ve observed in your dog, as well as any injuries or accidents, even if they don’t appear to be severe.  

Treatment and cost

There are several treatment options for dogs with hip dysplasia. Although options may vary depending on the severity of the disease, non-surgical treatments can include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Joint supplements
  • Weight reduction to reduce stress on hips
  • Joint fluid modifiers
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) 
  • Exercise to stimulate cartilage growth and reduce degeneration

If complications are more severe, sometimes non-surgical treatment isn’t enough. Depending on your dog’s symptoms and age, your vet may recommend these surgical options:

  • Femoral head ostectomy (FHO) – Available for both young and mature dogs, this procedure can be successful in managing pain, but it does not restore normal function of the hip. 
  • Double or triple pelvic osteotomy (DPO/TPO) – Typically performed in dogs less than 10 months old, this procedure aims to reestablish joint stability and encourage normal joint development.
  • Juvenile pubic symphysiodesis (JPS) – Only compatible for very young puppies, this procedure manipulates the way the pelvis grows to create a tighter hip, but it does not have very high success rates, making it less common.
  • Total hip replacement (THR) – In this procedure, the entire joint is replaced with artificial components, essentially providing the dog with a normal hip. It has the highest rate of success. 

Unfortunately, surgical procedures can be very costly. FHO, DPO/TPO, and JPS range from $1,000 to $3,000 per hip, and are only compatible for dogs who don’t have a lot of muscle loss. If your dog is in need of a total hip replacement, costs can range from $3,500 to $7,000 per hip. 

Other types of alternative treatment include acupuncture, class 4 laser therapy, and stem cell treatments. 

How pet insurance can help

If you’re like most pet parents, finding out your dog has hip dysplasia can be scary. But with the right care, your dog can still live a happy, healthy life. Pet insurance helps you say ‘yes’ to the best care, even when it’s costly. Check out how Pumpkin insurance plans can help cover the cost of hip dysplasia.

Lily Grant

Lily Grant

Lily Grant is a copywriter and a mom to a precious tabby cat named Luna.
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