Canine Hip Dysplasia

Canine hip dysplasia is the most commonly found orthopedic disease in veterinary medicine. The word "dysplasia" refers to a detachment in the hip joint that keeps the ball at the top of the thighbone from fitting properly. This disease is considered a polygenic trait, which means that more than one gene controls the inheritance. Therefore, predisposition to this disease in certain breeds of dogs is very troublesome. Watch the video below from VetVid detailing what hip dysplasia is and possible treatment options.

It has been accounted for that approximately 25% of dogs going to veterinary clinics are diagnosed with musculoskeletal disorders. While large and small dogs may develop hip dysplasia, it is more common in large dogs than small dogs. Dog hip dysplasia usually occurs in breeds like Boxers, Bloodhound, St. Bernard, Golden Retrievers, and Rottweilers.

Causes Of Hip Dysplasia

In large breed dogs, the onset of hip dysplasia is generally connected with periods of rapid growth - between 4 and 10 months of age. Thus, it is best to understand what can cause this accelerated growth rate.

Feeding a dog a high-calorie diet stacked with carbohydrates and synthetic nutrients can aggravate the tendency to hip dysplasia. The rapid weight gain increases pressure on the hips. Excessive weight gain during this period causes a higher occurrence and more serious degenerative changes in a large dog breed. Having the genetic predisposition in addition to this additional weight, significantly increases the large breed dog’s chances for hip dysplasia.

Obviously no dog owner sets out wanting their dogs to eat too much and to grow too quickly. Limited amounts of the right food is obviously the answer. But how do you make sure you are giving the right amount of the right food? We will discuss some symptoms you can look for later that might lead you to identifying problems early enough to prevent major problems, but discussing regularly with your veterinarian and watching for changes in your dog should help as well.

Another less common cause for hip displasia can occur when the calcium/phosphorus balance in the body is thrown out of balance. A lot of expert breeders encourage new dog owners to routinely supplement their dog diet with calcium during the entire first year of life. Maintaining correct Calcium levels is very important for skeletal formation, but if the correct balance is not maintained, this also can lead to skeletal issues in your dog and create a deficiency in other key nutrients. As always, discuss any supplements with your veterinarian to make sure a correct balance is maintained for your dog.

One final factor that can impact hip dysplasia is improper exercise. During the period of rapid development, you should discourage young dogs from jumping up and down and from standing up on their hind legs. Furthermore, as much as possible, you should discourage your dogs running on pavement during this time.

Canine Hip Dysplasia Symptoms

The symptoms below may appear earlier if a large breed dog grows too quickly as a puppy, or if it does a lot of jumping and running on slippery floors or concrete at the early age. An X-ray is the only proven way to diagnose canine hip dysplasia. The best age for a specific diagnosis is between 13 and 19 months. Some of the affected dogs do not show any symptoms at all for several years. However, here are some of the symptoms to watch out for:

The dog having difficulty standing up after sitting or lying down

The dog having difficulty walking, jumping, or going up and down stairs

The dog desiring to sit with both legs together on one side of his body

Letting you know it hurts when you touch his rear legs and hips

Doing the "bunny hop" when he runs, by maintaining both rear legs together

Canine Hip Dysplasia is not only painful for dogs, it can be painful for owners as well as it is very expensive to treat. Often, when medications for pain or physical therapy are not helping, the only option left is surgery. These procedures can be very extensive and should be performed only by highly trained professionals. In addition, even with a good success rate, not all dogs are suitable for this type of surgery.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Because it is difficult to conclude if any particular dog has a greater predisposition for the hip to develop Hip Dysplasia, a few veterinary clinics make use of PennHIP X-ray technology to identify the condition early on and use that for preventative steps as the dog ages. The PennHIP procedure can be performed as early as 16 weeks of age. One major problem in performing an X-ray of any kind on a dog is that it requires the dog to be under sedation or heavy anesthesia, which also has its own set of risks. If you do decide to take the test, the X-rays will allow your veterinarian to rate either the severity of the dog hip dysplasia, which ranges from mild to severe, or the likelihood your dog could develop it in the future. 

In terms of treatment, if your dog is already suffering from hip dysplasia, there are a few procedures outside of surgery that can give your dog some pain relief. These comprise of acupuncture, veterinary skeletal chiropractic adjustments, massages, hydrotherapy and if necessary, pain medications.

Acupuncture and Acupressure

A lot of dog owners have touted acupuncture as a means to help alleviate the constant pain of hip dysplasia. This ancient form of treatment has no negatives, and it is a decent treatment technique to attempt to give the dog some comfort and enhance their versatility. Acupressure is comparable to acupuncture, but instead of using needles, the expert’s hands, elbows, and knees are used to keep light pressure on similar points used in acupuncture. Acupuncture treatment is easier for those who wish to perform home treatments for their sick dog. There are selections of books and how-to videos out there to assist you to get on track. Just make sure to discuss with your veterinarian before you begin to this treatment yourself.

Chiropractic Care

When the dogs hips are in bad shape, the entire body is frequently overcompensating to ease the damaged joint. After a period of time, this uneven weight distribution can cause other issues with the spine. This is the reason some choose to undergo regular chiropractor adjustments to help correct this situation and avoid more problems in the future.


A certified massage therapist can help improve pain and stiffness in your dog’s limbs and reduce the uneasiness from hip dysplasia. A lot of people also rely on massage therapy to help those who suffer from arthritis and muscle tension.


When your dog’s hips are damaged, the most vital thing to manage is your dog's body weight. The extra weight on your dog will put extra strain on the hips and cause increased pain. This frequently makes your dog more inactive which just exacerbates the condition. Hydrotherapy gives your dog a low impact effect of exercise, which helps to promote mobility, weight loss and also reduce stiffness in the muscles and joints.

Prevention is the key

As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Research has shown that nutrition plays a vital role in preventing and treating hip dysplasia. Studies have proved that about 60% of all factors affecting hip dysplasia are environmental in nature –one of those factors is what we feed our dogs. Feeding your dog a balanced, and a biologically correct balanced diet that supports stable growth and reduces the obesity factors is significant to the prevention of hip dysplasia. It is best to discuss with your veterinarian to come up with a well-planned diet schedule to limit the risk of developing hip dysplasia. 

Additionally, if you are buying your dog from a breeder, always be wary and knowledgeable of their breeding habits. Cautious breeding is one of the best preventive measures for Hip Dysplasia. 

Best food to help treat and prevent Dog Hip Dysplasia

There are several ingredients to look for in order to find the best dog foods for hip dysplasia. First, you want to avoid salt, sugar, artificial flavorings, and preservatives. Very similar to a proper human diet, you want to avoid foods that are heavily processed. Look for a dog food that is high in omega fatty acids from fish oil and flaxseed oil which will help lubricate joints and reduce inflammation. You want to look for dog foods containing calcium, vitamin D, vitamin C, and iron. The ingredients to look for often lead you back to what is traditionally natural for dogs to eat. As a result, a recent Fad diet for a Raw Dog Food dients have grown in popularity. These diets emphasize raw meat, bones, fruits and vegetables. This is a controversial diet because of the potential risks also associated such as threats to humans and dogs from bacteria in the raw meat. Additionally as mentioned before if a proper balance is not maintained then it can cause more harm than good. We will have a follow up article discussing this diet in more detail and also identifying commercial brands that offer the best ingredients while avoiding those harmful ingredients.

As always, we hope you found this educational and hopefully some part of it will help your fluffy family member live a longer healthier and happier life. If you know someone that could benefit from this information, please remember to share.