Hip Dysplasia in Dogs – Understanding and Treating the Disease

Hip dysplasia in dogs, also known as Canine Hip Dysplasia, can drastically reduce your dog’s quality of life and it’s also painful for us humans to watch. But with a little education on prevention and treatment, you can go a long way toward keeping your dog active and comfortable for years.

What is Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?

According to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons:

“Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD) is a condition that begins in dogs as they grow and results in instability or a loose fit (laxity) of the hip joint.” – Canine Hip Dysplasia, American College of Veterinary Surgeons. [1]

It’s a common skeletal condition, especially in large or giant breed dogs, although it can occur in smaller breeds, as well.

Hip dysplasia can be painful and lower the quality of life for your dog

A dog’s hip joint is a ball and socket joint. Hip dysplasia occurs when there’s something not right with either the hip socket or the rounded part of the femur bone: the hip socket could become too shallow or the femur head is could get deformed. This can cause problems with friction and cartilage wearing. Instead of sliding smoothly, consistent grinding will cause problems later on.

What Causes Canine Hip Dysplasia?


Genetic and hereditary factors are one of the main reasons for hip dysplasia.

“Hip dysplasia is largely hereditary and is especially common in large breeds, such as the Great Dane, St. Bernard, Labrador Retriever, and German Shepherd Dog.” – American Kennel Club [2]

Hip dysplasia can have several causes

Environment and Upbringing

If your dog’s breed is predisposed to hip dysplasia, environmental factors may exacerbate the conditions. Not having optimal nutrition, obesity, rapid growth, and too much exercise can be contributing factors.

Aging Conditions

With a lifetime of activity, there could be a lot of wear and tear of the joints. As a dog ages, he or she could be more prone to hip dysplasia, and it can often lead to arthritis.

Diagnosing Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

At your dog’s checkup, your veterinarian would do a physical exam that includes checking for canine hip dysplasia. If it’s suspected, he or she would do an x-ray to confirm.

Only an x-ray and a vet can effectively diagnose hip dysplasia. But there are some signs that you can be on the lookout for in your daily routine.

Signs of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

There’s a wide range of symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs. There are two camps for dogs that are prone to hip dysplasia. It can occur while still a puppy, usually around four or five months old; and in older dogs with osteoarthritis, a type of joint inflammation, are also prone to it.

In both cases, there are quite a few symptoms of hip dysplasia that large dog breed owners should be wary of (hip dysplasia can sometimes occur in smaller breeds too).

  • A swaying gait: the hips shift side to side more than the norm.
  • Using both back legs at the same when running: both feet hit the ground at the same time.
  • Bunny Hopping (when running, both hind legs hit the ground at the same time. Also, the hindquarters ride higher than the shoulders)
  • Difficulty standing up, lying down or climbing stairs
  • Limping
  • Sitting in a frog-like position with one hip splayed out
  • A narrow stance with his back legs closer together than his front ones
  • Loss of thigh muscle mass
  • Noticeable enlargement of shoulders (due to compensating for the loss of thigh muscle mass)
a narrow stance can be a sign of hip dysplasia

A Labrador Retriever standing with hind legs close together to compensate for weak hips caused by an altered gait from hip dysplasia.

Source: Malinaccier, Wikimedia Commons

Prevention and Home Treatment for Dog Hip Dysplasia 

There are many ways you can treat hip dysplasia to make your dog’s life more comfortable. In addition to your vet’s recommendations, treating your dog naturally can have far-reaching benefits.


Many dog owners make the mistake of feeding their dogs a high protein, high-calorie diet. This is wrong, and it can especially have negative consequences for breeds that are prone to hip dysplasia. Rapid weight gain would increase the chances of hip dysplasia because the bones and muscles would grow too quickly.

A balanced diet could help stave off hip dysplasia, along with so many other benefits.


Large breeds that are predisposed to hip dysplasia shouldn’t do too many high-impact activities like long distance running or jumping. Exercises and activities that can excessively strain the hind legs should be kept to a minimum because this could lead to deterioration of the joints.

Low impact activities such as swimming and walking are ideal. Walking on inclined surfaces is an easy way to help develop and strengthen the muscles. Upward inclines work the rear legs, downward inclines work the front legs.

Light exercises, like walking, can benefit your dog

We get it. We’d love nothing more than to have our pooches share in our active outdoor adventures, and it can be so tempting to push them, just as like how we push ourselves. They can always tag along and enjoy scenery and activities, but it’s best to not push too hard for the sake of your dog’s comfort and quality of life.


If you have a swimming pool, hydrotherapy would be an excellent and fun way to exercise. The buoyancy of water makes your dog lighter, reducing the pressure on your dog’s hip joints. This would allow your dog to exercise more freely and with less pain. As the rear muscles tone and strengthen, they can regain some of their mobility.


Dogs can feel cold just like people, so making sure your dog has a sweater or a warm blanket at night would help ease the pain of those joints.

Hydrotherapy is a good way to treat hip dysplasia

Supplements for Dogs with Hip Dysplasia

As we’ve mentioned before, feeding a healthy, well-balanced diet is key for your dog’s overall health. However, if your dog has hip dysplasia, there are supplements that can improve her quality of life. Proper diet and exercise are most important, but a little extra help can go a long way.

  • Just like with people, glucosamine helps lubricate and cushion joints, and this is especially beneficial for those suffering from hip dysplasia.
  • Commonly paired up with glucosamine, chondroitin can help with hip dysplasia by helping the production of newer cells and aiding in strengthening cartilage of the joints.
  • Turmeric can also significantly reduce swelling to ease their discomfort and increase mobility.

Our Active Chews Hip & Joint Treats for Dogs were created to help our canine friends who are suffering from joint issues including hip dysplasia and arthritis, so they could lead healthy, active lives. Out treats include both glucosamine and chondroitin that cushion and lubricates your dog’s joints, thereby reducing swelling and pain from hip dysplasia. We use human-grade ingredients with no harmful side effects, and a no-heat, no-cook process to retain maximum potency!

Your Dog Can Still be Active and Happy

Remember that canine hip dysplasia is an inherited condition, so there is no product that could completely prevent it. It’s also a chronic condition, so surgery is not a 100% guarantee. It’s a condition that you and your pal need to live with.

With so many ways to treat hip dysplasia in dogs, we’re fortunate to be living in modern times. We have instant access to nutritional information, exercise ideas, supplements and advancing medical technology, your furry BFF can still be active alongside you and your family. Just be sure to check in with her during activities, and take things easier when she shows signs of discomfort.

Even with hip dysplasia, your dog can still be active and happy


American College of Veterinary Surgeons, Canine Hip Dysplasia

Anne Burke (2017, May 31) American Kennel Club Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

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