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Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

A common ailment among larger breeds of dogs is hip dysplasia. This condition causes abnormal hip development during a dog’s early life, leading to pain, swelling, and arthritis as they get older.

It is heart-breaking to see your beloved pet develop this disabling condition. So what can you do to avoid hip dysplasia, or treat it if your dog already has it? This brief guide aims to help owners answer these questions, and more.

What Is Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?

As briefly mentioned above, hip dysplasia causes a dog’s hip socket to develop abnormally. In severe cases, it can cripple the animal through acute arthritic pain in the joints.

In most cases, the condition is hereditary, usually getting passed on by one of the affected dog’s parents, but it can also be influenced by the dog’s environment. It is common for hip dysplasia to occur within medium to large pedigree breeds of dogs.

Signs to Look Out For in Your Dog

If your dog is suffering from hip dysplasia, you may notice some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Back legs hopping
  • Deterioration of hip muscle
  • Difficulty lying down
  • Getting up is hard
  • Difficult or reluctant to jump, use stairs
  • Displaying signs of pain in hips
  • Lameness
  • Limping
  • Loss of enthusiasm for walks
  • Stiff legs
  • Unsteady walk

These symptoms can come on gradually and not show in your dog until they are older, by which time they may already have developed arthritis.

How To Prevent Hip Dysplasia?

This condition is predominantly genetic passed on when breeding dogs. As dog breeders have become more aware of hip dysplasia, they have introduced programs to screen for the condition in breeding animals.

These screening programs allow breeders to prevent dogs that have the hip dysplasia gene from breeding, and thus stop the condition from being passed on. Preventing affected dogs from breeding is the only way to stop this hereditary condition being passed on to the next generation.

If you are considering having a larger pedigree dog, you should enquire about the ‘hip scores’ from the breeder. This includes those scores of the puppy and its parents.

What To Do if Your Dog Already Has Hip Dysplasia?

Before resorting to surgery to resolve your dog’s hip dysplasia, there are a few treatments your vet may recommend to relieve the symptoms.

  • Anti-inflammatory pain relief
  • Controlled exercise
  • Rest
  • Weight control

Hopefully, your dog will respond well to these treatments and be able to enjoy a long, happy life. Even so, your dog will need to continue these treatments, possibly for the rest of its life. Physiotherapy and hydrotherapy are also helpful as they can strengthen your dog’s muscles and keep their joints supple.

If, however, treatment does not have the desired effect, then you may have to consider surgery to improve your dog’s condition. Various surgical options are available, and your vet will be able to advise you on the one most suitable for your dog. Whichever surgical procedure your vetĀ  recommends, it will likely be carried in a specialist veterinary surgery.

Of course, your dog’s condition may become so acute that their quality of life is completely eroded. If this becomes the case for your dog, you may have to consider taking the difficult decision to put it to sleep.

What Breeds Are Most At Risk?

Hip dysplasia can develop in any breed of dog, regardless of size or pedigree. However, it is more common in medium to large-sized breeds including the following:

If you own one of the above breeds, or another similar-sized dog, and you have not had a hip score, be sure to maintain a healthy feeding and exercise routine. This is particularly important while they are growing. If you are considering owning such a breed of dog, be sure to check the hip score and consult your vet for advice.

If you are planning to breed from your dog, you should first confirm that it does not have hip dysplasia, or any other hereditary disease.


Hip dysplasia is a painful and debilitating condition and, if not treated, will lead to arthritis later in a dog’s life. If hip dysplasia develops, it will require lifelong treatment. You should consult your vet if you notice any of the symptoms listed above.

Even if you cannot identify any of the symptoms of hip dysplasia, any concerns you have about your dog’s health, you should direct your vet. No-one knows your dog better than you do, and no-one is better placed to protect them from this potentially crippling disease.

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To ensure accuracy, a professional vet has reviewed and verified the information presented in this article. It is important to note that when it comes to making decisions about euthanasia for your pet, there are no easy answers. It is always recommended to seek advice from your own veterinarian before making any decisions.