Vet's Blog > Canine Hip Dysplasia

Canine Hip Dysplasia

What is canine hip dysplasia?

This is a bone disorder having a genetic or hereditary basis despite the fact that only a limited number of offspring (puppies) may be affected. If, after the careful veterinary examination, this condition (hip dysplasia) is detected, it is advised not to breed the dog without discussing it with your vet.

Canine hip dysplasia is the most common cause of rear –end lameness in dogs. To understand this disease, we have to have some knowledge of normal anatomy of hip joint. In normal hip joint, the root  ( the thigh bone) or fumer is connected to the pelvis at hip joint. The almost spherical end of the femur head fits into acetabulum which is a concave socket located at pelvis. The bony surface of femur head and of the acetabulum is covered by cartilage. The bone provides strength necessary to support body weight and the cartilage ensures a smooth fit and wide range of motion. In hip dysplasia the femur head is not fit or partially fit. Secondly the head of femur (caput) or acetabulum are not smooth and round and are misshapen causing abnormal wear and tear or friction within the joint as it moves. Slowly the joint may suffer degradation Due to the wear and tear and it may not support the body weight as in normal condition. Similarly the mass or tone of the muscle around the socket is also plays a important role. Tight ligament, broad pelvis with a well cupped acetabulum and good ratio of muscle mass to the size of the bone predispose to good hip. Environmental factors including weight and nutrition of the puppy and rearing practice figure into final outcome.

What causes hip dysplasia and breed predisposed to it?

There are several factor that lead to hip dysplasia in  dogs. The prime on is genetic means this disease is heredity (goes on from generation to generation).Hip dysplasia is more common in large and giant breed dogs like Saint Bernard, Labrador Retriever and German Shepherd. Expert says that heredity account for about 25% of dog’s chance of developing the condition. This genetic predisposition can be amplified by environmental factors such as excessive growth in early stage of life, exercise, and your dog’s weight.

Improper nutrition can also influence a dog likelihood of developing hip dysplasia as can too much or too little exercise. Obesity put a lot of stress on dog’s joint which can exacerbate or deteriorate a pre existing condition like hip dysplasia. Consult your vet about the best diet for your breed of dog as every dog is different  and appropriate amount of exercise your dog need each day to keep him in good physical condition. Keep in mind, hip dysplasia is not limited to large or giant breed .Small and medium breed can also develop this condition, though is less common.


What are the signs and symptoms?

Some dogs begin to show sign of hip dysplasia as young as four month of age while other dog shows the sign as they ages with osteoarthritis. Generally the symptom depends upon the degree of joint looseness or laxity, the degree of joint inflammation and the duration of onset of disease. If your dog shows sign of hip dysplasia it seems similar to arthritis-painful joint, difficulty in moving and general stiffness.

Some of the symptoms are:

  • Decreased activity
  • Difficulty getting up and lying down especially in morning
  • Decreased willingness to exercise
  • Reluctance to run, jump or climb stair
  • Intermittent or persistent hind limb lameness often worsen after exercise.
  • Narrow stance in hind limb( back leg unnaturally close together)
  • Grating detected with joint movement.
  • Pain when touched in hip or pelvis area.
  • Muscle atrophy in affected limb or shrinkage of hind limb muscle.
  • In the young dog(around six month) luxation and subluxation may be palpable as the animal walks. That is, you may feel hips moving in and out of the acetabulum.
  • Swaying or bunny hopping gait

Bunny hopping refers to abnormal change of gait. It is named as both hind limb move upward simultaneously like jumping       rabbit.

  • Enlargement of shoulder muscle mass as more weight being exerted on front leg as dog avoid weight on its hip leading to extra work for shoulder muscle.
  • Decreased range of motion in hip joint



Diagnosing  hip dysplasia in dog

Your vet will perform complete physical examination and also look for the flexibility of the joint. Beside he or she will manipulate your dog’s hind limb to test looseness of joint or reduced range of motion. A hip radiograph(X-ray)under general anesthesia is the preferred method of diagnosing hip dysplasia.


What are the treatment options for hip dysplasia?

Since the condition is inherited there is no complete cure till date. But the good news is ,there are many effective ways to manage it ranging from lifestyle modification to surgery. If the dysplasia is not severe and the owner decline surgical option then your vet may recommend non surgical approach like weight reduction, exercise restriction, regular low impact exercise like swimming or leash walking, physical therapy, joint prescription diet, anti inflammatory medication etc.



What are the Prevention measures for hip dysplasia?

There is nothing much we can do after the development of HD in dogs but there few measures we can take to reduce the impact. Avoid allowing your dog to become overweight, malnourished, under exercised, or injured (due to over exercised) to minimize the chances that the hip joint will experience misalignment in order to minimize the risk of hip dysplasia, whether genetic anomalies exist or not. A high quality diet and joint health supplements may be beneficial to preventing hip dysplasia. Dogs that experience this condition can be treated with surgical intervention to repair or correct joint misalignment. Dogs with the condition should be removed from a breeding program to prevent future incidence of hip dysplasia.


Written by Dr Pratik Man Pradhan B.V.Sc &A.H

Chief Veterinarian (Mount Everest Kennel Club)