What Is Dog Hip Dysplasia? Symptoms And Treatment Options

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Canine hip dysplasia. A daunting thought for some dog owners, especially those that have a breed that is prone to the orthopedic issue.

But really, any dog, no matter how much of a purebred or a mutt they are, can be affected by hip dysplasia.

This issue is unfortunately all too common and can result in serious arthritis and pain in the future.

Read further to learn more about canine hip dysplasia, its symptoms and possible treatment options.

By Allison Salonko.

Allison is a Veterinary Technician in the state of Indiana. She graduated from International Business College and Vet Tech Institute of Indianapolis with a degree in Animal Science and Technology in 2011.

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What Is Canine Hip Dysplasia?

Canine hip dysplasia (CHD) is a condition that starts as a dog ages.

During puppyhood, when the ball and socket of the hip joint itself do not grow at an appropriate rate, this creates laxity, or looseness.

This laxity causes issues as the stretching of the supporting ligaments and muscles of the hip joint brings on degenerative joint disease (DJD) and osteoarthritis (OA).

This is simply the body’s attempt at stabilizing the loose joint, however it will certainly lead to pain and permanent damage in the future.

What Causes Hip Dysplasia In Dogs?

While there are several factors that go into why dogs are affected by hip dysplasia, the primary one is genetics.

Diet, exercise, environment, muscle mass, and growth rate also contribute significantly to hip dysplasia.

What Are The Symptoms Of Hip Dysplasia?

Every dog is different but for the most part, canine hip dysplasia symptoms include pain, limping on one or both hindlimbs, reluctance to rise, jump or use stairs, muscle wasting in the hips or hindlimbs and a “bunny-hopping” gait.

At What Age Does Hip Dysplasia Appear In Dogs?

Hip dysplasia has been known to affect and show clinical signs in dogs as young as only a few months old.

There are also dogs that have CHD and do not show any symptoms until they are older and have developed pain and arthritis.

On average, most dogs will begin to show symptoms of canine hip dysplasia around 1-2 years of age.

What Dog Breeds Are Prone To Canine Hip Dysplasia?

As mentioned earlier, genetics play the biggest role in the development of canine hip dysplasia.

This condition can affect any dog, of any breed or size, but it is much more commonly seen in breeds that are of the larger variety, like: 

 The above mentioned are some of the most loved breeds around the world.

Dog Breeds Not Prone To Canine Hip Dysplasia?

Are there dog breeds that aren’t prone to hip dysplasia? Yes, there are, such as: 

  • Foxhounds
  • Airedale Terrier
  • Salukis
  • Pharaoh Hound
  • Greyhounds
  • Chinese Crested
  • Beagles
  • Fox Terrier 

Did you know that cats have hip dysplasia as well?

What Are The Canine Hip Dysplasia Treatments?

One of the first things to mention is that early detection is key to successful and potentially minimal treatment options of hip dysplasia.

If not recognized early enough, the damage to the joint may be already severe.

The treatment of choice also depends heavily on the dog’s physical condition, age and their degree of lameness and pain.

When it comes to surgical treatment, again, the pet’s age and degree of joint laxity is one of the bigger deciding factors because if the dog is still immature, then there are two surgical options.

Surgical Options For Young Dogs

Juvenile Pubic Symphysiodesis (JPS) 

JPS is only performed in young dogs, between 10-18 weeks of age, that are accurately diagnosed with hip joint laxity.

The JPS is a minimally invasive surgery that closes the growth plate at the bottom of the pelvis, which results in selective growth and shape of the pubis and acetabulum (hip cup/socket), increasing the coverage of the head of the femur within the socket, therefore diminishing hip laxity.

The process and result of the JPS takes place as the puppy grows over the next 4-6 months, and they should live relatively happy lives, but only if they keep their energy to a minimum while they recover.

Double Or Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (DPO/TPO) 

This surgery is another option for dogs that are young, with canine hip dysplasia, but are not yet showing radiographic and arthritic changes.

This procedure involves cutting the pelvic bone in either two (DPO) or three (TPO) places and rotating the segments to achieve more coverage by the ball of the femur in the socket of the hip joint.

The best time to interpret whether your dog is a candidate for this procedure is while they are under anesthesia for their spay or neuter, when they are relaxed and the hips can be manipulated and a radiograph can be taken for interpretation of the joints.

Surgical Options For Dogs Who Cannot Be Treated With JPS Or DPO/TPO

Dogs that are mature or still young but showing radiographic arthritic changes have two options as far as surgery for their canine hip dysplasia.

Total Hip Replacement (THR) 

If a young dog is showing radiographic changes to their hip joints, they can be medically managed until they are old enough to undergo a THR, typically around 1 year of age.

Second to the JPS, the THR is the next surgical method that will provide the most normal and pain free function of the hip joint in a dog.

Involving some hardware, much like a human hip replacement, the procedure is meant to reproduce the mechanics of a normal hip joint with appropriate range of motion and limb function.

Femoral Head Osteotomy (FHO)

FHO procedure involves removing the head of the femur entirely, which thus reduces the pain that comes from abnormal physical contact with the bone in the socket.

As an effect of removing the femoral head, the muscles of the hip then create a “false joint” allowing for normal limb movement with minimal pain.

An FHO can be performed at any age, but it is most successful in dogs that are no heavier than 60-70 lbs.

These dogs must also remain slim and follow a limited exercise regimen in order to minimize aggravating the hip.

If this does not appeal to the dog or owner’s lifestyle, then a total hip replacement would be better suited to that pet.

What Are Non-Surgical Treatments For Dog Hip Dysplasia?

For owners that are not wanting to go the surgical route, or perhaps their dog simply isn’t a candidate for surgery, there certainly are several options out there.

  • NSAIDs and pain management
  • Glucosamine supplements
  • CBD oil
  • Rehabilitation
  • Alternative therapies

NSAIDs And Pain Management

The first step is addressing the dog’s pain with NSAIDs or another adjuvant therapy if they cannot take non-steroidals.

The majority of veterinary professionals are going to recommend starting a dog on an NSAID such as Carprofen/Rimadyl or Meloxicam.

The choice depends on the individual preference of the doctor.

Glucosamine And Chondroitin

It is also a good idea to have your dog on a glucosamine supplement to help keep their joints lubricated and feeling more limber.

Your dog’s supplement should also contain chondroitin and it is likely that your veterinarian will also recommend omega-3 fatty acids for additional support.

CBD And Hemp Seed Oil

Some veterinary professionals have started recommending CBD or hemp seed oil supplements.

While these have minimal data and no FDA backing, there is still some evidence to support that the cannabinoids and gamma-linolenic acids (GLA) work well to reduce inflammation and pain within their joints.

Rehabilitation Therapy

Then there is the option of rehabilitation therapy.

These non-surgical methods of treatment focus more on strength and mobility with your dog.

Many canine rehab facilities utilize equipment such as the underwater treadmills, swimming with core strength and balancing exercises.

Not only do these focus on your dog’s muscle maintenance but it is also a great way to shed and keep off weight.

Excessive weight adds unnecessary pressure to your dog’s joints, making their pain more severe and their recovery more lengthy and difficult.

Alternative Therapies

Alternative therapies or integrative medicine techniques are on the rise as people are searching for ways to achieve balance and a pain free life without surgical or medical intervention.

The same ideas apply to changes in veterinary medicine by incorporating more options such as cold laser therapy, massage, acupuncture and chiropractic methods.

It is proven that these techniques do and can work, but sometimes they still require NSAIDs as needed to help with those bad days that are bound to happen.

How Much Does Hip Dysplasia Surgery Cost?

The cost of these surgeries will vary significantly depending on the area that it is being performed, who is doing the surgery and the age and size of your pet.

However, here is a general cost estimate of the four surgical options for canine hip dysplasia.

  • Juvenile Pubic Symphysiodesis (JPS): ~$800-$1000
  • Double Or Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (DPO/TPO): $2000-$4800 per hip
  • Total Hip Replacement (THR): $3500-$7000 per hip
  • Femoral Head Osteotomy (FHO): ~$1500 – $3500 per hip

Can Hip Dysplasia Be Cured In Dogs?

Unfortunately there is no cure for hip dysplasia.

Through surgical and medical management, a dog affected by this orthopedic condition can live a happy and fulfilling life.

What Happens If Hip Dysplasia Is Left Untreated In Dogs?

If left untreated, canine hip dysplasia will grow more severe.

If it wasn’t already affecting both hips, it will do so eventually and the dog’s quality of life will start to suffer as they develop osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease, leading to extreme pain, lameness and potentially immobility as they age.

Are There Exercises To Prevent Hip Dysplasia In Dogs?

It is important to mention that preventing hip dysplasia is not always possible as it is typically a genetic issue that is outside of your control.

However, there are ways to potentially minimize the occurrence by keeping your dog strong and trim.

Keeping the extra weight off of your dog will help significantly at reducing strain on their joints.

This is true of any kind of orthopedic issue, not just hip dysplasia.

Your dog will benefit greatly from light to moderate exercise like running, walking or swimming and steer clear of high impact activities that involve jumping.

What About Dog Hip Dysplasia Home Treatments?

There are few options out there for simple, home and over-the-counter treatments of canine hip dysplasia.

However, you can provide your dog with one of many options of glucosamine and chondroitin supplements, just ensure that it comes from a reputable company!

Many owners have looked into using nutraceuticals such as omega-3 fatty acids, and some are even touting the results of CBD and hemp seed oil used in dogs with hip dysplasia and arthritis.

Owners are welcome to use cool compresses over the hips to reduce inflammation after moderate exercise.

Warm compresses will help to improve circulation the next day.

What Is The End Stage Hip Dysplasia Treatment In Dogs?

If a dog is geriatric and suffering from the pain and difficulties associated with their advanced hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis, it is possible to turn to a total hip replacement for some comfort.

It is important to consider the dog’s quality of life first and whether or not they are physically and mentally good enough to withstand a surgical procedure as invasive as a total hip replacement.

If the dog’s other leg is not strong enough to support them during the recovery process, then it may not be in the pet’s best interest to proceed.

When Do You Know If The Hip Dysplasia Is Too Much For Your Dog?

Once a dog’s hip dysplasia reaches the point where they are no longer able to get around and live a happy and fulfilling life, it is time to consider what is best: euthanasia.

These are the potentially ethical moments where a dog’s hip dysplasia is too advanced:

They are on the highest dose of NSAID/pain meds possible and are still struggling to find relief. Or they may not be able to take NSAIDs due to another health reason.

They are unable to get up off of the floor without human assistance more than 75% of the time.

Unable to walk or falling without assistance, i.e. a risk to themselves when owners are gone for a few hours.

The dog has become aggressive or is no longer themselves due to their constant state of discomfort.

Understanding Canine Hip Dysplasia

As man’s best friend, we always strive to keep our dogs happy and healthy, but sometimes nature has a plan all on its own.

When it comes to canine hip dysplasia, we can only hope to do what seems best for our pet, whether that is surgery, medicine or an alternative therapy.

It is important to understand the signs and symptoms associated with this potentially debilitating orthopedic condition and you should call your veterinarian right away if you suspect that your young dog could be affected by canine hip dysplasia.

Photo by Pavel.