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Canine Hip Dysplasia

Posted by Noah D. on

Canine Hip Dysplasia

As a pet parent, there are few words as concerning as canine hip dysplasia. While this condition can happen to any size of dog, it tends to present more often in large and giant breeds. Canine hip dysplasia can dramatically impact your dog’s life, and it can leave you feeling helpless. Here’s what you need to know about canine hip dysplasia: the symptoms, options for treatment, and the prevention to take to give your dog a long, healthy and active life.

What is Canine Hip Dysplasia?

Before we look at this, let’s discuss the anatomy of a dog’s hip. Akin to a ball and socket that fit well together, the hip joint slides smoothly to allow for movement and stability, among other things.

In dogs with hip dysplasia, the ball does not fit properly in the socket and grinds or rubs. The “ball” in this case is the thigh bone, or the head of the femur, while the socket is located in the pelvis. When the two are not properly aligned it creates pain, and deterioration of the hip.

Causes of Canine Hip Dysplasia

Canine hip Dysplasia is caused by many factors including genetic/hereditary, improper nutrition, expedited growth rate, types of exercise, and obesity among other causes. Especially common in large and giant breed dogs, canine hip dysplasia most often affects Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Labrador Retrievers, and German Shepherds.

Signs of Canine Hip Dysplasia

While many dogs do not show signs of this disease, there are some that can show the symptoms at a very young age. Some show it with age, particularly if they develop osteoarthritis. Dogs exhibit symptoms based on the severity and progression of the disease. However, if you know what to look for, you may notice it early enough for intervention.

Some of the signs of canine hip dysplasia include:

  • Wasting (shrinking) of muscles in the thigh or hind leg(s)
  • Difficulty or reluctance to rise from a sitting or lying position
  • Unwillingness to climb up the steps or to run
  • A decrease in activity levels
  • Pain in the hip or pelvis area when touched
  • Loosened joints
  • Narrow stance, particularly in the back legs
  • Enlargement of the shoulder muscles
  • Lack of coordination in movement (swaying or staggering while walking)
  • Pain, either with or without stiffness

In some cases, you may be unable to detect the condition early as some dogs rarely show signs of it. When detected late, the joint can deteriorate and cease to function with time. That’s why early intervention is key.

Diagnosing Canine Hip Dysplasia

While your dog will be examined during routine vet checks, it’s best if you maintain a constant awareness of the symptoms. This way you can proactively report concerns to your dog’s vet who will conduct specific hands-on tests to help confirm your suspicions. You can expect blood work as the inflammation associated with canine hip dysplasia is revealed in a complete blood panel. An accurate diagnosis will also include x-rays.

Preventive Measures

Early nutrition when your large breed dog is a puppy, is paramount. There are special foods for these dogs that are designed to maintain proper bone growth. Without it, these dogs can grow too fast too soon - one of the leading causes of canine hip dysplasia.

Again, for large dog breeds, you’ll want to feed specially formulated meals with special supplements (Glucosamine). Other things you can do include:

  • Ensure your dog does not engage in too much exercise, particularly on hard floor surfaces.
  • Maintain your dog’s proper weight and do not overfeed. Obesity is a major cause of canine hip dysplasia.
  • Physical therapy can help your dog feel better and fight the disease.

What Treatment Options are Available for Canine Hip Dysplasia?

There are various treatment options available for dogs with hip dysplasia. However, treatment depends on the severity of the condition. Some options include:

Weight Management Program

Dogs whose cases are not severe are placed on weight management programs to help reduce excess weight.


There are a variety of medications that can be given to dogs to help repair cartilage, relieve pain, and reduce inflammation in the joints. Most commonly used are anti-inflammatory medications (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), aspirin, corticosteroids).


The surgical approach is usually carried out on dogs with severe cases of canine hip dysplasia. Surgery helps to restore the mobility of your pet as well as reduce discomfort. Some of the surgical options available include the following:

  • FHO (Femoral Head Ostectomy). This surgical option is perfect for puppies and smaller dogs. It involves the removal of the “ball” part of the joint, resulting in creating a ‘fake’ joint to help helps ease the pain.
  • DPO or TPO (Double or Triple Pelvic Osteotomy). This is a type of surgery which requires the pelvis to be cut (in two or three different places) around the hip joint. The surgeon then rotates the bone to create a much better alignment with the “ball.”
  • THR (Total Hip Replacement). In this process, the entire deformed ball and socket are replaced with artificial components. This is the most effective surgery and used when the FHO and D/TPO is not advised.

Canine Hip Dysplasia Can Be Managed

Nowadays, with the help of modern medicine and early intervention, as well as assistance with support slings and other clinical wraps, etc., dogs with hip dysplasia can lead long, full lives. Paramount is to take action if you think your dog is showing signs of canine hip dysplasia. With quick assistance from your dog’s vet, you can find the appropriate treatment options and make some lifestyle changes designed to keep your dog comfy and pain-free.


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