Canine Hip Dysplasia

Canine hip dysplasia is the most common cause of rear leg lameness in dogs. Find out what are the causes and symptoms for hip dysplasia in dogs, how it is diagnosed and what treatment options are available.

Canine Hip Dysplasia Relief

What is Canine Hip Dysplasia

Canine hip dysplasia is a malformation of the hip, which causes the hip joint to be loose in the hip socket (acetabulum) located on the pelvis. Joint instability, pain, inflammation and a deterioration of the bones start to occur when the connective joint tissues, ligaments and muscles aren't able to stabilize the hip joint adequately. Symptoms such as limping or lameness will manifest and if left untreated, some dogs may gradually loss the function of their rear legs.

The veterinary profession generally regards hip dysplasia in dogs as a genetic problem though it can also be complicated by a variety of environmental influences such as obesity in dogs, poor diet habits with an imbalance of calcium and phosphorous or previous injuries during puppyhood.

Hip dysplasia is often found in the larger breed dog such as German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, St Bernards but smaller breeds can also be affected, however are less likely to show symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

An early diagnosis of canine hip dysplasia gives your dog the best chance for treatment and pain relief. Symptoms of canine hip dysplasia include:

  • stiffness and lameness in the rear legs, especially after waking up or getting up from a resting position
  • often using the front legs to pull themselves up from a lying position
  • finding it painful to flex or fully extend its rear legs
  • show a reluctance to participate in daily activities such as walking, running and climbing stairs
  • use an abnormal gait (pattern of movement of the limbs) that looks like a bunny hop (when your dog moves both hind legs at the same time)

The signs of hip dysplasia tends to develop during puppyhood and can show symptoms in puppies as early as 5 to 13 months old. The symptoms may range from difficulty getting up to limping after prolonged activity.

As dogs get older, degenerative joint diseases such as dog arthritis and rheumatism may develop causing chronic pain and inflammation of the joints.

If your dog shows any of these symptoms, take it to the vet for a diagnosis so you can start treatment as soon as possible. The diagnosis of canine hip dysplasia will typically involve a complete physical exam, and radiographs (x-rays).

Treatments Of Canine Hip Dysplasia

Once you dog is diagnosed with hip dysplasia, treatment will depend on several factors including your dog’s age, heath, severity of the defects and the costs of treatment. Treatment includes:

Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

Conventional medical treatment for canine hip dysplasia involves corticosteroids or non-steroidal medications and may include the following:

NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as Rimadyl and Aspirin help relieve pain and inflammation. While NSAIDs analgesic stops the pain quickly, it does not prevent canine hip dysplasia damage to the joints and may even inhibit healing of the cartilage, further destroying the cartilage and joint components if used over a long period of time. NSAIDs may also cause stomach ulcers and internal bleeding and therefore should only be use for short term pain relief.

Acetaminophen treats mild to moderate pain in osteoarthritis. It has no anti-inflammatory properties and is purely for pain relief. It can be used safely in conjunction with NSAIDs. Too much of this medicine can cause liver damage so only use as directed by your vet.

Corticosteroids or steroids for short are anti-inflammatory and analgesic pain relieving medications similar to NSAIDs. They are very effective medication if your dog suffers from extreme pain or when they fail to respond to NSAIDs. However the negative side effects of corticosteroids is that they are immuno suppressive and may also contribute to the destruction of your pet's joints by decreasing collagen and proteoglycans synthesis in cartilage.

Ideally, anti-inflammatory medicine should only be used in the short term for joint pain relieve and should be used alongside with proper diet, exercise and natural supplements.

Surgical Treatment

Hip surgery may be recommended by your vet for dogs that continue to experience pain and lameness despite medical treatment. Surgery may include:

Surgery For Canine Hip Dysplasia

Femoral head ostectomy is a procedure to remove the ball of the femur. The rest of the femur becomes a false hip joint which reduces the dog’s pain in certain situations. This is not a procedure that normally produces good results in either large or overweight dogs.

Triple pelvic osteotaomy may be recommended to young dogs that show signs of degenerative joint disease but has yet to develop damage to the joints. This operation cuts the pelvic bone in three places so the ball of the femur fits better into the hip socket. The pelvis is then fixed into place with screws and a special plate. This operation can prevent further deterioration of the hip socket and your dog will live a relatively normal life without pain.

Total hip replacement surgery is the surgical option of choice for mature dogs who have difficulty walking using its hind legs. The procedure involves the complete replacement of the existing hip joint with an artificial joint or prosthesis to help eliminate pain and further degeneration of the hips.

Oral Supplements For Joint Health

There are many oral supplements to choose from to help your dog with canine hip dysplasia. Here are some oral supplements for good joint health:

Glucosamine is an amino sugar naturally occurring in the body. As an oral supplement for dogs, glucosamine helps stimulate the synthesis of synovial fluid and cartilage which helps to form the connective tissue surrounding your dog’s joints. It has anti-inflammatory properties that can relieve inflammation of the joints, reverse joint damage and regenerate tissue repair. Glucosamine is highly recommended by many holistic vets as the supplement of choice for dogs that suffer from arthritis or hip dysplasia.

Glucosamine For Dogs -- Find out more on how it can treat arthritis in dogs

Chondroitin naturally occurs in your dog’s cartilage and as a supplement, it helps to slow down enzymes that are destructive the cartilage. Chondroitin is often added to supplements containing glucosamine.

Methylsulfonylmethane or MSM for short is a natural anti-inflammatory supplement given to dogs to help promote good joint health. MSM supplies sulfur to the body, essential for the synthesis of cartilage that will help maintain flexible, healthy ligaments within the joint.


While surgery, anti-inflammatories and supplementing your dog’s diet will help relieve existing canine hip dysplasia problems, there are other things you can do to prevent hip dysplasia in dogs before the damage has been done, such as:

  • Selective breeding or buying a puppy from a reputable breeder can help you avoid hereditary canine hip dysplasia in your dogs.
  • Keeping your dog’s weight under control with a well supplemented diet and exercise will delay the onset of hip dysplasia in many dogs with a genetic predisposition.
  • Feeding your puppy with lots of antioxidants such as vitamin C help neutralize harmful chemicals such as free radicals that are toxic to cells and tissues and aid in the prevention of hip dysplasia in dogs.