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Sandra September 26, 2023

Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Hip dysplasia is a common orthopedic condition that affects many dogs, especially larger breeds. It can lead to discomfort, pain, and reduced mobility, significantly impacting your furry baby's quality of life. 

What is Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is typically a common skeletal condition where the hip joint doesn't develop properly. Instead of fitting snugly into the hip socket, the ball-and-socket joint of the hip becomes loose and unstable. Over time, this leads to excessive wear and tear on the joint, causing pain and discomfort.

Why Does Hip Dysplasia Happen?

  1. Genetics: Hip dysplasia is hereditary and is often seen in certain breeds, such as German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Great Danes and Saint Bernards. Dogs with affected parents are more likely to develop this condition.
  2. Obesity: Inadequate nutrition can impact the probability of a dog developing hip dysplasia, just as providing a dog with excessive or insufficient exercise can. Obesity, in particular, places significant strain on your dog's joints, potentially worsening an existing condition like hip dysplasia or even contributing to its development. It's advisable to consult your veterinarian to determine the most suitable dietary plan for your dog and to establish the correct daily exercise regimen to maintain optimal physical well-being.
  3. Growth Factors: Rapid growth during puppyhood can increase the risk of hip dysplasia. Feeding a balanced diet and maintaining an ideal weight can help mitigate this risk.
  4. Environmental Factors: Environmental factors, such as excessive exercise at a young age or hard surfaces for a pup to walk on, can contribute to hip dysplasia.
  5. Age: While hip dysplasia often becomes apparent in dogs between six and twelve months of age, it can develop at any time, especially in older dogs.
Lambo has hip dysplasia in his right hip, and our dog osteopath said he believes it's genetics in his case, even though he is a small breed dog. 


  • Decreased activity
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Difficulty or reluctance rising, jumping, running, or climbing stairs
  • Lameness in the hind end
  • Grating in the joint during movement
  • Loss of thigh muscle mass and even enlargement of the shoulder muscles as they compensate for the back end
  • Noticeable pain
  • Stiffness in the area
  • Limping when walking
  • Swaying, “bunny hopping” 

How to Help Your Dog with Hip Dysplasia

  1. Switch to Fetch-Friendly Frisbees: Instead of playing fetch with a regular ball, consider using soft, lightweight frisbees. These put less strain on the hips and are easier for dogs with hip dysplasia to catch and carry.
  2. Supplements: Consult your veterinarian about supplements that can support joint health. Glucosamine is a common supplement that can help reduce inflammation and promote joint lubrication. (We got this for Lambo!)
  3. Physiotherapy: Physical therapy can improve your dog's mobility and reduce pain. A trained therapist can recommend exercises that strengthen the muscles around the hip joint and improve the overall range of motion.
  4. Hydrotherapy: Swimming is a low-impact exercise that can help build muscle without putting too much pressure on the hip joint. Many dogs with hip dysplasia benefit from regular hydrotherapy sessions.
  5. Weight Management: Keeping your dog at a healthy weight is crucial. Excess weight puts additional stress on the hip joint and can worsen the condition. Consult your vet for a tailored diet plan.
  6. Medication: In some cases, your veterinarian may prescribe medication to manage pain and inflammation. 
  7. Orthopedic Beds and Ramps: Provide your dog with a comfortable orthopedic bed that supports their joints. Additionally, use ramps to help your dog navigate stairs and high surfaces with ease.
  8. Surgery: In severe cases of hip dysplasia, surgery may be necessary. 

Hip dysplasia can be a challenging condition for both dogs and their owners, but with proactive management, you can help your furry companion enjoy a comfortable and active life. Remember that early detection and intervention are key to providing the best care possible. Consult with your veterinarian to create a customized plan that addresses your dog's specific needs, and consider implementing the strategies mentioned above to improve your dog's overall well-being. Your dog will thank you with a wagging tail and lots of love.