How to Tell if Your Dog Has Hip Dysplasia

Is your dog showing signs of old age well before his time? There could be an underlying cause to your pup’s aches and pains.

Canine hip dysplasia not only affects older dogs and can be a major health issue if left untreated.

We take a look at what canine hip dysplasia is, whether your dog is vulnerable to it, and what signs to look for that may indicate your dog has it.

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dog has hip dysplasia

What is Canine Hip Dysplasia?

Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD) is the result of abnormal development of the hip causing uneven wear of the hip joint, socket and cartilage.

Eventually, this medical condition will lead to the development of arthritis, commonly called osteoarthritis (OA) and lead to the deterioration of the hip joint.

The hip is a ball and socket joint joined together with tendons, ligaments, and cartilage that allow for fluid movement of the hip and leg. Abnormal development of the joint often begins during the growth phase (the first year) of a dog’s life.

Symptoms can appear as early as 5 months of age and certain factors can increase the risk of developing this disorder. This condition is degenerative, and should not be left untreated. It can cause your dog severe pain and lameness and debilitation can result.

Increased Vulnerability to CHD

Certain factors increase the probability a dog will develop hip dysplasia. These factors include:

Genetic Disposition

This medical condition is often the result of a genetic disorder. If one or both parents carry the gene for CHD, the probability of any offspring developing the same condition is greatly increased.

Individuals looking to purchase a puppy from a breeder should inquire about the medical history of both parents.

Breed Size

Large breed dogs are at increased risk of developing hip dysplasia, medium breeds are at slight risk, and small dogs have virtually no risk.

This disorder most commonly impacts the health of the German Shepherd, St. Bernard, Labrador Retriever, Pointers, and Setters.

Medium and small dogs can develop CHD as well even with their decreased vulnerability.

Purebred versus Mixed Breed

Purebred dogs are at increased risk of developing the condition. It is essential that you inquire about the genetic history and breeding practices before purchasing any dog from a breeder.

Mixed breed dogs are at decreased risk, but should be monitored, especially if they are a large breed dog.

Excess Weight

Regardless of breed or size, a dog that carries excess weight will increase the probability of the development of CHD and other medical problems. This is due to increased stress on the joints and other internal organs.

How to Tell if Your Dog Has Hip Dysplasia

Depending on the severity and speed of the onset of this condition the symptoms of hip dysplasia can vary.

Common signs of this disorder include:

  • Limping or the development of a “bunny hop” run in an attempt to avoid discomfort.
  • Difficulty getting up from a lying position or getting onto furniture.
  • Discomfort or trouble settling when resting.
  • Pain indications.
  • Changes in gait. Gait changes will increase in visibility when a dog is running. Look for indications of pain, favoring a leg, signs of lameness.

A veterinarian should check the condition of your dog’s hips during yearly examinations, especially if your dog is at increased risk of hip dysplasia.

Discovering this disorder in the early stages is vital to a dog’s health and successful treatment.

Diagnosis of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Canine hip dysplasia can be diagnosed through an x-ray performed by a veterinarian during an exam. A mild anesthetic may be needed to obtain the clearest image possible.

Any degenerative changes or abnormal shape of the hip joint will be visible and the degree of severity can be determined. Also, this could reveal an alternative cause for the symptoms such as fractures, tumors or back problems.

Treatment of Canine Hip Dysplasia

Dog owners have access to both non-medical and medical treatment of CHD depending on the severity of the disorder.

Non-medical treatments include weight management, moderate exercise, providing a warm and comfortable sleeping area to avoid joint stiffness, and gentle massage of the joint area.

Medical treatments provided by a veterinarian can include the administration of anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s), Glucosamine, Vitamin C, or injections. Surgery may be recommended if the dog is younger or in more severe cases.

Have Your Dog Checked for Hip Dysplasia

It is crucial to your dog’s health that you monitor your pup for any signs of discomfort or pain and seek medical attention as soon as possible. Health conditions like hip dysplasia can be treated and you can learn how to care for your dog at home.

For more on the health of your dog, see these articles:

Blue-Green Algae Toxicity in Dogs – How to Protect Your Dog

Excessive Panting in Dogs at Night

What to Expect with an Aging Dog