Canine Hip Dysplasia

Canine Hip Dysplasia is the abnormal development of the hip joint socket. This condition can manifest itself in dogs in varying degrees of severity and as early as puppy hood. In its most severe form, Canine Hip Dysplasia can cripple a dog, cause painful arthritis in the hip joints and eventually lead to possibly having to put your pet down. Canine Hip Dysplasia is genetically inherited; however, it can also be onset or further aggravated by environmental factors.

Dogs prone to Canine Hip Dysplasia

Larger dogs are more prone to develop this condition in comparison to smaller breeds. Breeds that are known to be more susceptible to develop Canine Hip Dysplasia are the; Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, German Shepherd, Great Dane, Mastiff, Rottweiler, American Staffordshire Terrier, Bulldog and Pug to name a few. You can view the complete Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) Canine Hip Dysplasia statistics here.

What is Canine Hip Dysplasia?

In a normal and healthy hip joint, the femur (thigh bone) connects to the pelvis by means of a “ball and socket” joint. A layer of resilient elastic tissue called cartilage is in between where the bones rub. This cartilage helps the bones make a tight fit, dampen impact forces and keep the joints lubricated and moving smoothly.

In a Dysplastic hip joint, the ball and socket is not as well formed and the joint fits less tightly and less deeply. In addition the inside surfaces of the joint may not be as smooth and regular. All these factors create improper movement, excessive friction and abnormal stresses and strains to the joint. This in turn leads to inflammation and degeneration of the cartilage tissues. Although the body will try to repair the cartilage, the rate at which it is worn out will far exceed the repair rate, resulting in an overall degradation of the hip joint.

canine hip dysplasia examples

What Causes Canine Hip Dysplasia?

Many scientific studies have arrived to a conclusion that Canine Hip Dysplasia is a polygenic hereditary condition. Polygenic means that the action of several genes must combine to produce the disorder. This makes the elimination of Canine Hip Dysplasia through testing the mother and father prior to mating somewhat difficult. Professional dog breeders for breeds prone to Canine Hip Dysplasia will also test their new puppy litter for this condition. On another note, recent studies have also found that environmental factors, especially during puppy hood, can also onset Canine Hip Dysplasia or worsen it if already present. For example taking your puppy jogging before the age of 1 can cause Canine Hip Dysplasia as the joints would still need to develop. Similarly, excess weight especially in older dogs, will significantly worsen Canine Hip Dysplasia.

How the Body Tries to Adapt

Dogs suffering from Canine Hip Dysplasia will try to adapt their movement in a way so as to minimize the pain as much as possible. The most typical behavior is a change in the dog's gait to what is sometimes referred to as 'bunny hopping'. When dogs do this they will be trying to reduce the hip joint movement to limit the pain as much as possible. By shifting to hopping they would be working around this condition. In the long run this will result in other skeletal injuries such as spinal and knee injuries.

Treat & Prevent

Canine Hip Dysplasia is not something that your dog can totally cure from. Once present it remains throughout the life of your pet. For this reason, it very important to prevent the onset of Canine Hip Dysplasia in dog breeds prone to it. In the event that your dog already has Canine Hip Dysplasia it is important to treat it and control it from worsening. The aim of the treatment should be to enhance the quality of life of the affected dog and minimize the rate of joint degradation.

Weight Control

The most basic approach to prevent and alleviate Canine Hip Dysplasia is to regulate the dog’s body weight. Less weight will cause less stress on the joints and therefore less friction and deterioration of the cartilage. The dog will be in less pain and the body will be more able to keep up with the required cartilage regeneration.

Adequate Exercise

Reducing the amount of exercise will reduce the wear on the joint. This will also allow the body to keep up with the cartilage and joint maintenance and the dog will be in less pain.

Medication & Supplements

Medication & Supplements can help the dog regenerate the worn out cartilage faster as well as reducing inflammation. As a result of this your dog will be in less pain and reduce joint degeneration.


In more severe cases of Canine Hip Dysplasia the veterinarian may suggest surgery. There are two surgical approaches. One approach is to reshape the original ball and socket joint so that it can fit and function better. The second approach involves replacing the whole joint completely with an artificial one.

In Conclusion

Canine Hip Dysplasia is brought about by the improper fit of the hip ball and socket joint. It is a hereditary condition which can be also onset and worsened by environmental factors. A combination of weight control, adequate exercise and regular medication and supplements are suggested by veterinarians to keep mild Canine Hip Dysplasia under control. In severe cases, the condition may require surgery to alleviate the problem. This is intended as an informative article only and we highly suggest that you consult your vet if you have specific concerns about your dog.

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