What is Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?

Lindsey ZimmermanDog Health

Although hip dysplasia can occur in cats, dogs and humans, for the purpose of this article we will focus on dogs. According to the ASPCA, hip dysplasia is an inherited disease that occurs when a hip joint is improperly formed. Because the hip joint is loose, the dog’s leg bones move around too much causing pain. It is one of the most common skeletal diseases found in dogs, it can strike dogs of any age, and is not gender specific.

Hip dysplasia usually begins when a dog is young (four to five months) and is more noticeable before and after exercising or running. However, it can also develop when a dog gets older in combination with osteoarthritis, which is inflammation of the hip joint.

Image Credit: Just a Dog

Image Credit: Just a Dog

What Are The Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia?
The symptoms will be different depending on how loose the joint is and how long the disease has been progressing. Signs to look for in your dog include:

  • Stiffness or soreness upon getting up
  • Decreased activity
  • Inability to climb stairs or jump
  • Limping
  • Bunny hopping

In addition to genetic factors, hip dysplasia is often caused by obesity, poor diet and pelvic muscle mass.

What Kinds of Dogs Are Susceptible to Hip Dysplasia?
Although hip dysplasia can be found in virtually all dog breeds, it is most common in larger dogs. German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, Great Danes, Golden Retrievers, Saint Bernards and Boxers have been found to have a higher occurrence. It is rarely found in Greyhounds and Borzoi (sight hounds). Pure breeds or mixed breeds, a cross mix of two dogs, are susceptible to developing the disease are at the highest risk.

How is hip dysplasia diagnosed?
Your vet will run a series of blood and urine tests and take an x-ray.

How is hip dysplasia treated?
Treatment will depend on your dog’s age, body size, and degree of dysplasia. Because it is an inherited illness there is no way to prevent its development. There are various surgical options; unfortunately, most of these will be pricey.

The goal is usually management of the illness and relief of the pain. This can be accomplished through a variety of methods:

  • Weight management. Nutrition is a big factor in hip dysplasia, so maintaining your dog at his recommended weight will be helpful. It is important to feed your dog a quality food in quantities appropriate to your dog’s size. If your dog is overweight, your vet will have some recommendations for a weight management program that includes fewer calories plus exercise.
  • Antiinflammatory drugs. For dogs who have developed osteoarthritis there are some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs on the market that may help relieve the pain and reduce the inflammation. There are also many oral supplements, including Glucosamine and Chondroitin, Perna Mussels, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Avocado and Soybean Extracts, and MSM. Talk to your veterinarian before starting your dog on a supplement program.
  • The Help ‘Em Up harness with Hip-lift was designed specifically for dogs with hip dysplasia or arthritis to help with mobility. It consists of a belly band, support straps and a movable pelvic pad that spreads weight over multiple surfaces, allowing you to lift the complete pelvic floor while supporting the spine. By lifting from beneath, and not around the legs, it reduces strain on joints, ligaments and arteries.

We know that most dog owners will do anything to keep their dog’s from being in pain. With the right nutrition, exercise, supplements and products your dog can live a happy and healthy life!