Pet Wellness Guides > Hip Dysplasia in Dogs - Pet Insurance Review

Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Posted: 06/23/2022 | BY: Jenna Bruce | Categories: Dog , Health problems , Pet care

The two words no large-breed dog owner ever wants to hear are hip dysplasia. The reality is, canine hip dysplasia can develop in any size or breed of dog. And sadly, this painful condition can significantly reduce the quality of life for your pup.

hip dyspasia in dogs

The good news is, dog owners who educate themselves about hip dysplasia have a better chance at reducing their dog’s chances of developing the disease. While not all cases can be prevented, getting educated can help you detect the symptoms and get your dog treatment early, so they can live a happy, healthy and active life for as long as possible.

What Is Canine Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is a common skeletal condition often seen in large and giant breed dogs, though it can develop in smaller breeds as well. To really understand how this painful condition develops, it’s important that you understand how the hip joint works.

Just like in the human skeleton, the dog’s hip joint functions as a ball and socket. When dogs develop hip dysplasia, the ball and socket do not develop properly and they grins against one another instead of gliding smoothly. Over time, the cartilage and bone mass will begin to deteriorate in the affected joint and eventually, that joint will no longer function.


There are several factors that can lead to the development of hip dysplasia in dogs, with the most common being genetics. This condition is hereditary and very common in larger breed dogs such as the Great Dane, Saint Bernard and German Shepherd.

In addition to heredity, the biggest factor that can influence the development of the disease is unbalanced nutrition. To start, a dog that eats too much and becomes overweight or obese puts more stress on their joints.

Second, many puppy breeds have special nutritional requirements and require food that has been specially formulated for large-breed puppies. These foods help prevent excessive growth, which tends to lead to skeletal disorders such as hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia. When you can slow the breeds’ growth, it allows their joints to develop properly, before too much strain is put on them.

It cannot be stressed enough how important proper nutrition is for dogs, especially in the prevention of hip dysplasia. It’s always a great idea to speak with your vet about the best diet for your dog.

Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

signs of hip dysplasia in dogs

Symptoms of hip dysplasia can become apparent at any age. Many dogs develop the condition in conjunction with osteoarthritis as they get older. But some dogs can begin to show signs when they are only 4-6 months old.

In either scenario, there are specific symptoms dog owners should be aware of. These symptoms will vary from dog to dog depending on the severity and progression of the disease, level of inflammation, the degree of looseness in the joint, and how long the disease has been present (before symptoms became apparent).

Symptoms include:

  • Decreased activity
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Difficulty or reluctance getting up, jumping, running, or climbing stairs
  • Lameness in the hind end
  • Grating in the joint during movement
  • Loss of thigh muscle
  • A visible enlargement of the shoulder muscles as they compensate for the hind end
  • Pain
  • Stiffness or limping


If you suspect your dog is showing signs of hip dysplasia, you’ll want to make an appointment with your vet, who with then conduct a thorough physical exam. During this exam, your vet will manipulate your dog’s back legs to see how loose the joints are. This manipulation will also help them to notice any grinding, reduced range of motion and signs of pain. Your vet may also want to run a blood test to check the amount of inflammation in their blood count.

To definitely diagnose a dog with hip dysplasia, your vet may also want to perform X-rays or ultrasound on your dog’s hips to determine the severity of the disease. This will help them determine the best course of treatment for your dog.

Available Treatments

treatments for canine hip dysplasia

Luckily, there are a variety of treatment options for hip dysplasia in dogs. These can range from making lifestyle changes to surgery.

If your vet has determined that your dog’s condition is not severe enough to warrant surgery, they may recommend one or more of the following:

  • A weight loss program to get stress of your dog’s joints
  • Exercise restriction, especially on hard surfaces
  • Physical therapy (water therapy can be very beneficial)
  • Joint supplements
  • Anti-inflammatory medications (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids)
  • Joint fluid modifiers

You’ll want to work closely with your vet once your dog has been diagnosed to ensure the treatment protocol is helping. This will likely require multiple vet visits throughout the year.

Preventing Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

As I mentioned earlier, not all cases of hip dysplasia can be prevented. Having said that, there are steps dog owners can take to try to reduce their dog’s chance of developing this debilitating disease.

If you are buying or adopting a puppy, particularly a large breed, you absolutely must feed them the appropriate diet to give their skeleton and joints the best chance at developing properly.

As your pup grows into adulthood, you’ll need to ensure they get appropriate levels of exercise, along with a proper diet, to prevent obesity, which is a major contributor of hip dysplasia. It’s tempting to give your dog lots of treats and table scraps, but avoid this for their own benefits.


prognosis for hip dyspasia

With the right treatment combined with educated and committed dog parents, pups with hip dysplasia can lead long, full and active lives. So if you suspect your dog may be showing signs, get them in to the vet ASAP so they may be diagnosed and put on the right treatment plan.

Healthcare You Can Afford

No one wants to hear their beloved pup has hip dysplasia. But as we mentioned, the right treatment can often delay the development of the disease, giving your dog the best chance at quality of life.

Of course, the right care often comes with a big price tag on it. Don’t let high vet bills get in the way of getting your dog the care they deserve.

Pet Insurance Review was begin by pet lovers for pet lovers. We believe in affordable healthcare for our best friends. That’s why research to bring you only the very best pet health insurance plans on the market. Did you know that some insurance plans can reimburse you for up to 90% of the vet bill?

Don’t let high vet bills stop you from providing the care your dog deserves. Get a free quote today!


  1. Smallest Dog Breeds. Fetched from the American Kennel Club
  2. What Dog Breeds Are Prone to Hip Dysplasia? Your Question Answered. Retrieved from:
  3. Hunter, T., DVM; Ward, E., DVM.  Hip Dysplasia in Dogs. Retrieved from:
  4. Crnec, I. (2022) Top Treatment for Hip Dysplasia in Dogs: How to Help Your Canine Companion. Retrieved from:





The information contained on this blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet's health care or treatment plan.

The authors of this blog are not veterinarians and do not claim to be experts in pet health. The information provided here is based on our own experiences and research, as well as information from reputable sources. However, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information.

We encourage you to do your own research and consult with your veterinarian before making any decisions about your pet's health.

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