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Treatment & Signs of Dog Hip Dysplasia


What is Hip Dysplasia?

 Dysplasia means abnormal growth, so hip dysplasia means abnormal growth of the hips. A canine hip is a ball and socket joint. A normal hip has two thirds of the ball (femoral head) fitting snugly into the socket (acetabulum). All dogs are born with normal hips but the changes associated with hip dysplasia occur very early on as a puppy. A dog with hip dysplasia does not have this smooth fit of ball and socket. The socket can be flattened and sometimes non- existent and the ball is not held in place. This unstable joint can lead to arthritis .A healthy hip joint will move with very little friction - this is also helped via a healthy joint capsule, cartilage and joint fluid. These structures can be affected long term in dogs with hip dysplasia leading to unhealthy movement and pain. 














The disease in young dogs and old dogs

We have two groups of dogs we see the effects of hip dysplasia in. Adolescent dogs from 6-18 months old and elderly dogs.

It is thought that the dogs aged 6-18 months have pain that is due to to the hip not staying in place and this excess mobility is causing the discomfort.

Elderly dogs will not generally have much laxity in the joint due to years of fibrosis and scarring. The pain in these old dogs is coming from arthritis and boney change in the joint.

How do you tell if a dogs with hip dysplasia is in pain?

The signs of hip dysplasia can range from mild to severe. Dogs do not generally cry or whine in pain with this condition. Some owners report the dog is "lazy", there may be difficulty going up and down stairs (they may bunny hop on stairs) or they have trouble lying down or getting up.

What Causes Hip Dysplasia?

The main cause of hip dysplasia is inheritance of the disease but there other factors that come in to play. The genetics that is involved is quite complex - sometimes it may skip a generation and sometimes two normal parents may yield a litter with hip dysplasia. The other factors that can interact with genetics include nutrition, age at desexing and amount of exercise as a puppy (too much or too little can affect the course of the disease).

There are xray screening tests done on breeding dogs that may help in reducing the chance of breeding a pup with hip dysplasia.

Certain breeds that are more prone to hip dysplasia than others - these include: Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers.

If you have a breed of dog that is prone to hip dysplasia there are some things that can be done to reduce the likelihood of expression of the disease

1. Avoid ad lib free feeding and avoid overfeeding

2. Encourage moderate off leash exercise. 

3. Avoid stairs for very young puppies. As they get older leash train them on stairs so they are able to negotiate the steps without too much rolling and tumbling which can cause damage.

4. Age of desexing is a topic where more studies are needed but desexing a dog at a young seems to increase the risk of developing hip dysplasia. Speak to your vet to get their recommendation.







How Can I Find out if my Dog has Hip Dysplasia?

If you suspect your dog may have hip dysplasia then make an appointment with your vet. They will perform a physical examination and then perform a radiograph if this condition is suspected. The best radiographic view to examine the hips is with your dog on his/ her back so a short sedation or anaesthetic will be necessary to obtain a good image.


There are many conservative and surgical treatment options for hip dysplasia

A large majority of dogs with hip dysplasia can have good quality of life when treated conservatively.

Treatments offered by Balance Vet Rehab that may be beneficial for these pets include:

 A Home exercise program

A well designed home exercise program for your dog can help build strength in muscles that surround the diseased hips. This can help reduce pain and improve mobility.

 Effect of therapeutic exercise for hip osteoarthritis pain: Results of a meta‐analysis Gabriela Hernández‐Molina et al

Effects of caloric restriction and a moderate or intense physiotherapy program for treatment of lameness in overweight dogs with osteoarthritis Evamaria Mlacnik et al

Animal Biomechanical Medicine

Appropriate manual therapies from a trained therapist can help reduce pain in the hips and also assist restore normal movement to other areas of the body that are compensating.

Effects of orthopaedic manual therapy in knee osteoarthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis Shahnawaz Anwer et al


Laser therapy can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with hip dysplasia.

The effect of low-level laser in knee osteoarthritis: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Hegedus B et al

Dog Acupuncture

Acupuncture may be helpful alone or in conjunction with other therapies to help pets with hip dysplasia.

Acupuncture for peripheral joint osteoarthritis: A systematic review and meta-analysis  Y. D. Kwon et al

Effectiveness of combined acupuncture and manual therapy relative to no treatment for canine musculoskeletal pain David M. Lane et al



Not really suitable for wriggly canine patients that won't sit still but can be quite beneficial in quiet dogs that will tolerate it.

Electro-Acupuncture is Beneficial for Knee Osteoarthritis: The Evidence from Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials Na Chen et al

Pulsed Electromagnetic field therapy

There are no studies at this stage in pets which look at the benefits for hip dysplasia. Positive studies in humans, however, suggest it is worthwhile considering pulsed electromagnetic field therapy in these guys.

Effectiveness of pulsed electromagnetic field therapy in the management of osteoarthritis of the knee: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials Vavken, Patrick et al

Shockwave Therapy (COMING SOON)

Also a therapy with studies lacking in the small animal field. There are many more studies looking at benefit in horses and humans and so this is also worthwhile considering when treating dogs with hip dysplasia.

Studies: Effect of Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy Versus Intra-articular Injections of Hyaluronic Acid for the Treatment of Knee Osteoarthritis June-Kyung Lee et al

Radial shock wave therapy in dogs with hip osteoarthritis Alexandre N. A. Souza

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Normal Hips

Hip Dysplasia