What You Need To Know About Hip Dysplasia In Dogs

Causes, symptoms and treatment of hip dysplasia 🤕

dog with close up of hip bone

If you have a big dog, you may have heard of hip dysplasia before — and you might even have some concerns about it.

Hip dysplasia sounds scary, but there are plenty of treatment options available to help your pup stay active and pain-free if he’s ever diagnosed.

We reached out to Dr. Aliya McCullough, the on-staff veterinarian for Fetch by The Dodo, to find out everything you need to know about hip dysplasia in dogs.

JUMP TO: What is hip dysplasia in dogs? | What causes hip dysplasia? | Signs of hip dysplasia | Treatment

What is hip dysplasia in dogs?

Hip dysplasia happens when a dog’s hip joints don’t fit together properly, causing the joints to grind together.

“Hip dysplasia is a common condition in dogs in which one or both hip joints develop abnormally and have an improper alignment,” Dr. McCullough told The Dodo. “This results in laxity (looseness) of the joint, leading to pain and arthritis.”

Over time, the joints deteriorate because of the friction of rubbing together, and eventually, they won’t function like they should.

What causes hip dysplasia in dogs?

There are a number of factors that contribute to hip dysplasia in dogs.

“Hip dysplasia is hereditary, meaning it is passed down from the parents,” Dr. McCullough said.

Hip dysplasia occurs often in large and giant dogs, but smaller dogs can develop it, too. Breeds that are prone to hip dysplasia include Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Labs, mastiffs, rottweilers, golden retrievers and German shepherds.

Aside from genetics, other factors that can lead to hip dysplasia include nutrition, excessive growth rate, improper exercise and hormones, Dr. McCullough said.

Growing or gaining weight too quickly can lead to hip dysplasia, so it’s important to feed your big dog puppy and adult dog food that’s made specifically for large-breed dogs, since they’re formulated to have the right amount of nutrients and calories for large and giant breeds.

Try this Purina Pro Plan large-breed puppy food from Chewy

Try this Purina Pro Plan large-breed adult dog food from Chewy

Signs of hip dysplasia in dogs

According to Dr. McCullough, “Symptoms of hip dysplasia include pain, limping, difficulty rising or jumping, a bunny-hopping or swaying movement when walking, and hind leg muscle loss.”

Here are signs of hip dysplasia to look out for:

  • Back limb stiffness or lameness
  • Decreased activity
  • Difficulty jumping
  • Reluctance to go on walks
  • Reluctance to go up or down stairs
  • Stiff or slow walking
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Pain
  • Limping

According to Dr. McCullough, dogs can develop hip dysplasia at pretty much any age.

“The timing of when dogs show symptoms of hip dysplasia can vary,” Dr. McCullough said. “Some dogs show signs of hip dysplasia as early as 5 to 8 months of age, while others may be asymptomatic for years.”

Many dogs won’t show signs until they’re older, since it can take years for the joints to get worn down enough to cause symptoms.

Treatment for hip dysplasia in dogs

There are a bunch of treatment options and ways to manage hip dysplasia in dogs, from lifestyle changes to surgery.

“Hip dysplasia in dogs can be treated with medications, and some dogs will require surgery,” Dr. McCullough said.


Medication options to treat hip dysplasia are used to reduce inflammation in the joints.

“Medications such as prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) or steroids may be used to control pain and inflammation,” Dr. McCullough said.


There are lots of joint supplements available for dogs that can help with their symptoms.

“Joint supplements, cartilage supporting medications and omega-3 fatty acids are typically used to slow the development of arthritis,” Dr. McCullough said.

Ingredients to look for in supplements for your pup include glucosamine, omega-3 fatty acids, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), chondroitin and hyaluronic acid. Be sure to check with your vet to see what joint supplements would be a good fit for your pup.

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Non-medication treatments

Your vet might recommend physical therapy for your dog to strengthen his muscles and joints. Physical therapy usually involves low-impact exercises, such as swimming.

“Physical therapy and acupuncture are commonly used to relieve pain and improve mobility,” Dr. McCollough said.

Acupuncture and massage therapy are also treatment options to help with joint and muscle mobility and pain.

Lifestyle changes

Lifestyle changes to help your dog’s hip dysplasia include restricting his exercise and losing weight. Extra weight puts a lot of pressure on your dog’s joints, so if your dog’s overweight, talk to your vet to come up with a weight loss plan. Your vet can also help you with an exercise program for your dog, since dogs with hip dysplasia may need to restrict their exercise so their joints don’t get damaged.


If medication and lifestyle changes don't help your pup or if his symptoms are severe, there are a few surgery options for your dog.

  • Double or triple pelvic osteotomy (DTO/TPO) — This is when the vet cuts the pelvic bone to help the hip joints fit together. It’s usually performed on dogs younger than 10 months old.
  • Femoral head ostectomy (FHO) — In this surgery, the femoral head (or the ball part of the ball-and-socket joint) is cut off, allowing your dog’s body to create scar tissue in its place. This surgery is best for dogs who are under around 45 pounds.
  • Total hip replacement (THR) — With total hip replacement, the entire hip joint will be replaced with a prosthetic joint to make a “normal” joint. THRs are usually very effective, and dogs can be active after they've recovered.

Surgery can get really expensive, so it’s a good idea to get pet insurance early on before your dog starts showing symptoms of hip dysplasia, since most pet insurance companies don’t cover pre-existing conditions.

If you're looking for pet insurance, you’ll want to check out Fetch by The Dodo because it's made by and for adoring pet parents, and it's the most comprehensive coverage in the U.S. and Canada, covering things that other providers don't or charge extra for, like holistic services, prescribed supplements for conditions they’re covering, and breed-specific conditions.

While you can’t prevent your pup from getting hip dysplasia, there are plenty of ways to manage, and even treat, the condition. And it’s not the end of the world if he’s diagnosed — your dog can still be active with hip dysplasia, just as long as you get him on a good treatment plan.

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