Dog hip X-ray.

Most pet owners have heard the term hip dysplasia, but not many truly know what that diagnosis means. It is definitely something that dog lovers should understand, though. Animal Medical Center has the information that you need about hip dysplasia in dogs.

What Is Hip Dysplasia, Anyways?

Our canine companions have two hip joints. The hip joint, known in the medical community as the coxofemoral joint, is a ball and socket joint. The pelvis itself forms a socket called the acetabulum that receives the ball end of the top of the femur. The ball and socket formation gives the coxofemoral joint a pretty impressive range of motion. 

The term dysplastic means abnormally formed. Hip dysplasia occurs during development and literally refers to the malformation of the ball and socket joint. This occurs during puppyhood, but is often not symptomatic until later in life.

A dysplastic hip does not allow a smooth, full range of motion due to its abnormalities. Sometimes the hip may even pop out of socket, which results in a subluxation. Over time, hip dysplasia can lead to a decreased range of motion, joint instability, pain, and the development of arthritis. 

Who Is At Risk

Anything with a coxofemoral joint can develop hip dysplasia. There do seem to be several factors that contribute to its occurrence, though. Factors that lead to hip dysplasia in dogs include rapid growth rate, genetic influences, nutritional imbalances, confirmation, and rate of weight gain.

Breeds who seem to be predisposed to hip dysplasia include:

  • Labrador retrievers
  • German shepherds
  • Great Danes
  • St. Bernards
  • Bulldogs

Pet Owner Pearls of Wisdom

Once hip dysplasia develops, its effects are not reversible (although there are some surgeries to help improve function). It is ideal to avoid hip dysplasia where possible. You can decrease the odds that you will need to contend with this disease process by:

  • Researching the odds of hip dysplasia in your breed of choice
  • Choosing a puppy without a genetic history of hip dysplasia
  • Consider using a breeder who certifies their breeding stock 
  • Feed your large breed puppy a diet formulated for large breed growth
  • Do not supplement your puppy’s diet with additional protein or vitamins
  • Do not free feed large breed puppies
  • Discussing the best age to spay or neuter your pet with your veterinarian

If your pet is diagnosed with hip dysplasia, however, it doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. With some effort, it is often a very manageable condition. Weight management, joint support, pain management, and strengthening through exercise and focused rehabilitation therapy can result in a very functional and happy pup. 

Advocating for your pet and letting us know if you feel like something isn’t quite right is key to managing many health conditions. Hip dysplasia in dogs is no different. Perfect hips or not, we are in this together.