Hip Dysplasia in Dogs – Cause & Treatment

hip dysplasia in dogs

Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

What is Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia in dogs is the abnormal development of the hip joint socket. This condition can have varying degrees of severity. In its most severe form, hip dysplasia can cripple a dog, cause painful arthritis in the joints and the dog will eventually have to be put down. Hip dysplasia is a polygenic condition which can be aggravated by other environmental and physical factors. Hip dysplasia is most common in larger dog breeds although it can manifest itself also in smaller breeds.

Normal vs Dysplastic Hip

Ia a normal and healthy developed hip joint, the thigh bone (also known as the femur) connects to the pelvis by means of a “ball and socket” joint. Such a joint would allow a 360 degrees rotational movement. A layer of material called cartilage is in between where the bones rub. Cartilage helps the bones make a tight fit in the joint as well as dampen any impact forces. Cartilage helps to keep the joint lubricated and moving smoothly.

On the other hand in a Dysplastic hip joint the ball and socket joint is not as well formed. The ball part of the joint is not as tightly fit and not as  deeply fit either. In addition the inside surfaces of the joint may not be as smooth and regular. This results in improper movement, excessive friction and faster cartilage wear. 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. This in turn causes inflammation of the joint which in turn hinders the cartilage regeneration process thereby fuelling a vicious circle.

hip dysplasia

What Causes Hip Dysplasia?

Many scientific studies arrived to the conclusion that hip dysplasia is something hereditary. However recent studies have also found out that environmental factors, especially during puppy hood, can also either bring the condition about or worsen it if already present. For example taking your puppy jogging before the age of 1 can cause hip dysplasia as the joints would still need to develop. Similarly, excess weight especially in older dogs, will significantly worsen hip dysplasia.

Hip Dysplasia – How the Body Tries to Adapt

Different dogs suffering from hip dysplasia will be in varying degrees of pain. This will cause the dog to adapt it’s movement in a way so as to minimise the pain as much as possible. The most typical behaviour that is observed is that of hopping. When dogs do this they will be trying to reduce as much as possible the actual hip joint movement as that would be the painful moving part. By shifting to hopping they would be working around the condition. In the long run this will result in other skeletal injuries such as spinal and knee injuries.

Treating Hip Dysplasia

Hip dyslasia is not something that you dog can totally cure from. It is something that you can only control and prevent from worsening. The aim of the treatment should be to enhance the quality of life of the affected dog and minimise the worsening of the condition.

Weight Control

The first and most basic approach to alleviate hip dysplasia is to regulate the dog’s body weight. Less weight means less stress on the joints and therefore less friction. This will result in less degradation of the cartilage due to less friction. The dog will be in less pain and the body will be more able to keep up with the required cartilage regeneration.

Related: Storing Pet Food Properly

Adequate Exercise

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

Related: The Dog Walk, a Dog’s Perspective

Medication & Supplements

Medication & Supplements can help the dog regenerate the worn out cartilage faster as well as reducing inflammation. This will result in less pain and a quicker recovery.


In more severe manifestations of hip dysplasia the treatment may involve surgery. The surgical approach can be either of two. 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.

Hip Dysplasia – A Summary

Hip dysplasia is a hereditary condition. Environmental factors can contribute and worsen it. In a nutshell, hip dysplasia is brought about by the improper fit of the hip ball and socket joint. A combination of weight control, adequate exercise with regular medication and supplements can be enough to keep mild hip dysplasia under control. However in severe cases the condition may require surgery to alleviate the problem.

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