A Simple Guide to Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Whitney has over 10 years of experience in dog training, rescuing, and healthcare.

The hip joint is composed of a ball-and-socket joint. The ball is the head of the femur (hind leg bone) and the socket is in the pelvis. In a normal hip joint, the ball and socket are perfectly matched to each other like puzzle pieces, with the socket surrounding the ball. There are connective tissues and ligaments that attach the ball and joint for stability.

Hip dysplasia is characterized by abnormal joint structure and weakened supporting tissues. This weakening often begins while the dog is still young and physically immature. Early-onset hip dysplasia usually develops as early as four months. Later onset can develop due to osteoarthritis when the dog is older.

Causes of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Hip dysplasia can be caused by both genetic and environmental factors.

  • Genetic predisposition: If one or both of the parents have hip dysplasia, the puppies are more susceptible to developing the disorder.
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Nutritional factors: Feeding puppies a diet with too little calcium or other minerals may have a detrimental effect on the development of the hip joint.
  • Pelvic-muscle mass
  • Over-exercise: Dogs that were over-exercised as puppies may have an increased risk, especially if already predisposed.

There is no connection in gender, but larger dog breeds are more likely to have a genetic predisposition for hip dysplasia. Common large and giant breeds that are affected include Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherds.

Signs of Canine Hip Dysplasia

The signs of hip dysplasia are similar to arthritis. Puppies may show pain and discomfort during and after exercise or play, and it may worsen until normal activities are painful. In adult dogs, the signs can include stiffness, pain and an altered gait.

Depending on the severity, the symptoms may vary.

  • Decreased physical activity
  • Difficulty standing
  • Reluctance to run, jump or climb stairs
  • Intermittent or persistent hind-limb lameness
  • A swaying gait
  • Narrow stance where the back legs are unnaturally close together
  • Pain in the hip joints
  • Joint looseness (more common in early onset; may not be seen in late-onset hip dysplasia due to arthritis)
  • Decreased range of motion in the hips
  • Loss of muscle mass in the thighs
  • Enlarged shoulder muscles mass

Treatments for Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Hip dysplasia can be treated surgically or managed non-surgically. There are several surgical procedures that your vet may choose depending on the dog's age, size and the severity of the hip joints.

  • Triple Pelvic Osteotomy: Typically performed in younger dogs less than ten months old that have severe looseness in the hips but haven't developed damage to the joints.
  • Juvenile Pubic Symphysiodesis: A less invasive surgery that prematurely fuses the two pelvic bones together so that the other pelvic bones will develop normally. This procedure must be performed in puppies 20 weeks or younger before any arthritic signs are evident.
  • Total Hip Replacement: This option is for dogs that have degenerative joint disease caused by chronic hip dysplasia.
  • Femoral Head and Neck Excision: This procedure is typically performed on dogs that weigh 50 pounds or less. It removes the head of the femur and creates a pseudo-joint. The dog will live pain-free and be able to regain normal daily activities, but a full range of motion nor joint stability will be decreased.

Depending on the severity of the disorder, you can medically manage it without surgery. Through proper diet, exercise, supplements, anti-inflammatories and pain medications, the dog may be able to regain some or most of its daily activities pain-free.

Supplements and Holistic Remedies

Since many of the signs and symptoms of hip dysplasia are similar to arthritis, you can supplement with similar vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Some research shows that 75% of dogs with hip dysplasia will lead a normal life with appropriate supplements and management.

Note: Before putting your dog on an over-the-counter supplement, make sure to consult your veterinarian first, especially if your dog is already taking a prescription medication.

Supplements That Can Help With Hip Dysplasia


Glucosamine and chondroitin

Repair joint wear-and-tear


Relieves pain and joint inflammation

Omega 3S

Relieves pain and joint inflammation


Facilitates the body's regenerative processes

Hyaluronic acid

Decreases pain and improves mobility

Herbs Thought to Alleviate Hip Dysplasia Symptoms


Dandelion and Nettle

Aid in joint repair and eliminating metabolic waste


Relieve pain and discomfort

Licorice and Yucca

Anti-inflammatory properties

Ginkgo, Hawthorne, Rosemary, Cayenne and Ginger

Improves blood circulation

Although hip dysplasia is a progressive and irreversible disease, surgical and non-surgical treatments can be successful in creating almost-normal, pain-free functions and overall life.


  • WebMD Pets. Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
  • Doctors Foster and Smith. Hip Dysplasia in Dogs: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention
  • PetWave. Treatment and Prognosis of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs. Updated on July 16, 2015

© 2016 Whitney

Labrador Hip Dysplasia Home Remedy

If invasive surgery is not be the best choice to treat your Labrador retriever’s hip dysplasia, look into non-surgical, conservative management options, such as physical therapy, canine chiropractic, weight control, acupuncture, anti-inflammatories, and massage therapy. Glucosamine support the body’s process of repairing tissues and fish oils can help lubricate the joints.


The Canine Hydrotherapy Association reports that “muscle wastage begins within three days of any immobilization so to prevent further weakness or injury it is important to rebuild, through safe exercise, any muscles that have deteriorated.” Taking place in a heated pool or aquatic treadmill, hydrotherapy improves muscle tone and promotes tissue repair. This breed already loves water so much, you may not be able to get them to stop swimming!

Dog Hip Brace

Canine orthopedic braces may slow the progression of this chronic issue by minimizing pressure on your Lab’s joints. Dog hip braces, such as the Ortho Dog Hip Hound brace, supports the low back and hip area for any severity level of hip dysplasia. The purpose of the Hip Hound brace is to stabilize the hip and lower back areas by holding the head of the femur in the hip socket. This reduces grating of the bone, which allows for post-surgical healing or pain-free exercise. Braces come in all sizes so you can find one that is perfect for your pet and allows for maximum support. All of Ortho Dog’s braces are waterproof so they’re designed to be worn while your dog is swimming or undergoing hydrotherapy.

Since Labs are prone to joint issues, your dog may be diagnosed with elbow dysplasia (Fragmented medial coronoid process). According to the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, about 17-21% of Labs are affected by elbow dysplasia. A veterinarian we work with has used the Ortho Dog Hock Holder brace for the hind leg over the elbow joint. We recommend you give it a try!

Whether you opt for surgery, non-invasive treatment options, or a combination of the two to treat your Labrador retriever’s hip dysplasia, we hope your furry friend finds fast and lasting relief. We know he’s looking forward to that next game of fetch!

How Can I Tell if My Dog Has Hip Dysplasia?

Initially, you may not be able to tell if your dog has hip dysplasia. Sometimes, there are no symptoms until they begin to limp or favor their hind legs. If symptoms are present, you might see some or all of the following:

  • Stiffness in their back legs
  • A decrease in thigh muscle mass
  • Reduced activity
  • Reluctance to climb stairs or get up
  • Shoulder muscle growth from compensating for the pain in their hips

Causes of Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia can be the result of a variety of factors, including genetics. The condition is hereditary, passed down through generations. It is especially common in certain large dogs that generally weigh more than 50 pounds. Other factors, such as excessive growth rate, types of exercise, muscle mass, hormones and improper weight and nutrition can magnify a dog’s predisposition to hip dysplasia.

Because hip dysplasia tends to develop in large breeds, dog owners should keep puppies at a normal, lean weight during development rather than feed the puppies too much in hopes the dogs will get big quickly. Quick growth can allow the ball and socket to develop at different rates. Excessive growth can put pressure on the skeletal system to cause hip dysplasia and other skeletal or joint conditions, such as elbow dysplasia. Slowing down growth can allow joints to develop at a normal, even pace without putting too much strain on the bones and connective tissue.

Improper nutrition can also cause dysplasia. Obesity puts excess pressure on a dog’s joints, and this pressure can cause hip dysplasia or worsen pre-existing hip dysplasia. Research shows that feeding puppies as much as they want to eat can increase the risk of hip dysplasia in dogs. The type of food a dog eats is important too, as the research shows that puppies that eat bread-rich diets are more likely to develop hip dysplasia as adults than were those that eat all-meat diets.

Exercise plays a role in hip dysplasia – physical activity burns calories to help maintain a healthy weight. Exercise also strengthens the muscles around the hip joint, keeps connective tissue flexible, and improves the range of motion in the hip joint. While exercise is beneficial, it must be the right type of exercise in the right amounts. Too much exercise can cause pain, but too little exercise leads to weight gain and stiffness. Walks can loosen stiff joints, while running and jumping can worsen pain or damage the affected joints.

9 Common Ways To Treat and Manage Canine Hip Dysplasia

So your dog’s just been diagnosed with hip dysplasia, or you just welcomed a cute cuddly puppy into your home who is part of a breed genetically predisposed to get hip dysplasia. Either way, we’ve put together a really helpful list of treatment and management options so you know just what to expect down the road!

Before you read on, we’ll recap our in-depth medical look at hip dysplasia. The condition occurs when a dog’s hip joints don’t develop right, causing the hips to partially dislocated and leads to early development of degenerative joint disease. This can cause a dog a lot of pain and can make it really hard to walk around. The cause is almost always genetic, and being overweight can make it a lot worse. And while it tends to affect large breed dogs more frequently, all breeds of dogs are at risk.

Because the condition is inherited, there’s no cure for hip dysplasia. But the good news is, there are tons of effective ways to treat and manage it! Here are some common treatments and habits that can help your pooch stay happy and healthy:

  1. Exercise. Regular, low-impact activity such as swimming or leash-walking will help reduce some of the pain in your dog’s joints. It will also lead to increased tendon and muscle strength. TIP: When walking, try to keep your pup away from hard surfaces like concrete or asphalt. It’s hard on the joints and might do more harm than good.
  2. Physical therapy can really help reduce your dog’s pain and increase his mobility. From massages to hydrotherapy – the use of underwater treadmills – physical therapy can be a great option when done right. Before starting, be sure to talk with your veterinarian who knows your dog’s limitations.
  3. Joint prescription diets or formulas, recommended by your veterinarian, can help decrease inflammation and promote cartilage healing.
  4. Give your pooch pain medications, like NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), to reduce pain, but only as directed by your veterinarian .
  5. Create a dog-friendly environment using ramps or easy steps to help your dog into a car, bed, or around the house. Limit your dog’s movement up and down steps. Soft mattresses work well too, and a heated dog bed in cold weather can be great. TIP: Be careful with regular heating pads, as they can get very, very hot and burn your pooch.
  6. Acupuncture as an ancillary therapy may provide additional benefit in some patients.
  7. Surgery can help in many cases. Various surgical procedures have been described including juvenile pubic symphysiodesis and total hip replacement (see below). Your veterinarian will advise you of the various surgical procedures, if an option for your pet, and will refer you to a veterinarian who is a board certified specialist in surgery if appropriate.
  8. Juvenile pubic symphysiodesis. It’s a mouthful, but it describes a short, simple surgical procedure for very young puppies in breeds with a high likelihood of developing hip dysplasia. It is a preventive procedure, often combined with a neuter or spay.
  9. Total hip replacement. This is an option in dogs with especially severe hip dysplasia and can really increase quality of life if successful.

This list isn’t comprehensive – there are a variety of other procedures and recommendations, and your veterinarian will be the best resource in determining what is right for a dog diagnosed with hip dysplasia. With the right treatment and management, hip dysplasia can often be managed successfully and allow for a healthy, happy life for the dog.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

Watch the video: does my rottie pup have hip dysplasia? (July 2021).