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Everything you need to know about hip dysplasia in dogs

October 30, 2020 6 min read

Vet wrapping a bandage, hip dysplasia in dogs

Hip dysplasia is a common joint condition that can deeply impact our canine companions. With causing so much discomfort with each step our dogs take, the condition has the power to truly alter a dog’s life. So what exactly is hip dysplasia and how can you help to manage the condition?

In this article we’ll dive into the details of hip dysplasia in dogs, and help you understand how you can offer your dog comfort throughout the condition. 

What is hip dysplasia?

This is a joint condition that is classified by the irregular formation of the hip joint in dogs. A normal canine hip consists of ball and socket joints that glide freely with each step. When a dog has hip dysplasia, the irregular formation of the hip joint causes it to run and grind. The grinding of the joint is not only incredibly painful, but can result in severe joint deterioration over time. 

Due to the grinding of their hip joints, dogs with this condition will often experience symptoms associated with chronic pain. 

Causes of hip dysplasia in dogs

While there are a few different factors that have been linked to hip dysplasia in dogs, it’s most often a hereditary condition. Hip dysplasia is a huge reason as to why breeders provide medical paperwork clearing dogs of the condition, as it is often passed down from dog to dog. 

Of course, there are other factors that can impact dogs with genetic predispositions to the condition. Some things that can exacerbate hip dysplasia in at-risk dogs include:

  • Fast growth periods, often in large breed dogs
  • Improper nutrition that impedes normal growth
  • Excess weight or obesity
  • Excessive exercise, especially during growing periods

Breeds prone to developing hip dysplasia

While any dog can be affected by hip dysplasia, there are a few breeds that are more at risk to hip dysplasia and other joint conditions. Though it was previously believed to be a condition that only impacted large breed dogs, it’s clear now that it’s not always the case. Some of the dog breeds that are prone to developing hip dysplasia include:

  • Labrador Retrievers
  • German Shepherds
  • Pugs
  • Mastiffs
  • Golden Retrievers
  • French Bulldogs
  • Basset Hounds
  • Great Danes
  • Rottweilers
  • Boxers

Common symptoms of hip dysplasia

There are some telltale symptoms to watch for that may indicate your dog is developing or suffering from this uncomfortable condition. The most common signs of hip dysplasia in dogs include:

  • Weakness in the hind legs
  • Limping
  • Stiffness
  • Decrease in activity
  • Limited mobility
  • Change in normal gait
  • Difficulty getting up and down
  • Being hesitant to jump
  • Other signs of pain
Solution for hip dysplasia - Lively Paws Mobility

Managing hip dysplasia

Now that you understand the condition and how it can affect our pups, it’s time to discuss the many ways that you can help to manage hip dysplasia in your canine companion. Let’s dive into management options involving exercise, at home treatment, and medical intervention. 

Exercises for hip dysplasia

Swimming & hydrotherapy

Swimming and other types of water exercise are extremely beneficial for dogs with hip dysplasia. Swimming can help dogs accomplish their recommended exercise, all without any serious impact to their joints. Hydrotherapy can help dogs improve their joint rotation, maintain a healthy weight, and gain muscle strength in their back end. 

As long as you work your dog up to swimming in deeper water, the exercise of swimming can offer wonderful, low-impact exercise for dogs with joint conditions. If you do not have access to a safe swimming environment for your pup, you can always look into professional hydrotherapy options for dogs in a rehab center near you. 

Short & low-impact walks

Short and low-impact walks can be extremely beneficial for dogs with hip dysplasia. While dogs with hip pain may be hesitant to be as active as they once were, a sedentary life can be risky. A life without exercise can lead to weight gain, muscle loss, and joint deterioration over time. By engaging in low impact walks, dogs can help to maintain their strength and stay as active as possible. Just be sure to pay attention to your dog’s body and never push them if they are struggling. 

Range of motion exercises

Range of motion exercises are a wonderful way to help your dog with hip dysplasia stay limber! Since hip dysplasia often results in stiffness, it’s important to help them stretch and introduce some range of motion exercises. The longer a dog remains stiff without proper stretching, the more painful their hip condition can become. Some of the most effective range of motion exercises for dogs include hip flexion while your dog is laying on their side and shoulder extensions (since the shoulders often take on extra stress). 

Home remedies for hip dysplasia 

Joint supplements

Joint supplements are a must have if you have a dog that is struggling with hip dysplasia. Since the condition can cause severe inflammation and pain, the ingredients in joint supplements are essential for added comfort. Joint supplements are enriched with ingredients that relieve inflammation, prevent further joint damage, and repair damaged cartilage. Some of the most common ingredients in popular joint supplements include glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, green lipped mussel, and more. 

Omega fatty acids

Omega fatty acids are another essential additive for dogs with hip dysplasia. Omega fatty acids are not only well known for their assistance in dogs with chronic allergies, but also offer support for dogs with joint conditions. Omega fatty acids help to target inflammation in dogs with hip dysplasia, and can offer longevity as they work through the condition. 


Medical intervention for hip dysplasia 

Prescribed medications

Some cases of hip dysplasia can be so uncomfortable that they require prescribed pain control. Veterinarians can prescribe an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) that works best for your furry friend, and can offer them the much needed pain relief they seek. Your vet will likely perform diagnostic blood work before starting any new medications, as well as periodically as they continue to take the meds. While the side effects of these medications are generally mild, they can impact their kidneys and liver over time. 


While this is often the last step in hip dysplasia management, some dogs do require surgical intervention. If your dog is unable to find relief through medication and lifestyle changes, there are two surgical options that can be effective. Dogs with hip dysplasia can either have a total hip replacement, or receive a surgery that removes the entire femoral head (an FHO). Though these procedures can be extremely helpful, they can have a long recovery time. 

The best dog food for canine hip dysplasia

What you feed your dog with hip dysplasia is important. Since hip dysplasia can lead to chronic inflammation in dogs, an anti-inflammatory diet can be extremely beneficial for dogs with the condition. Many popular diets on the shelf are filled with ingredients that cause inflammation, meaning they can further exacerbate their symptoms. Multiple studies suggest that raw diets can be extremely beneficial for dogs with hip dysplasia, as well as prescribed joint diets from a veterinarian. 

Preventing hip dysplasia: How to get ahead of the condition

Prevention is key when it comes to so many health conditions that impact our dog’s quality of life. The best way to get ahead of a condition is by stopping it in its tracks. Some of the most important things you can do to help prevent the onset of canine hip dysplasia include:

  • Choose a responsible breeder
  • Offer a nutritional, anti-inflammatory diet
  • Never overwork growing dogs
  • Offer dietary supplements
  • Keep your dog slim and trim
  • Address injuries immediately
  • Keep up with annual vet exams and diagnostics


The prognosis of hip dysplasia

If you're wondering how long a dog can live with hip dysplasia, you're not alone. 

The diagnosis of hip dysplasia is not lethal in itself. The best way to offer your dog longevity in spite of their hip dysplasia is by finding a combination of treatment that works well for them. As you can see, there are multiple options that help to relieve discomfort and prevent further joint damage going forward. By using a combination of inflammation and stress control, your dog can find comfort in their condition.

The article was written by  Amber LaRock, RVT on October 30, 2020.