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Hip dysplasia in dogs

Hip dysplasia is a common disorder in dogs. It means that the hips are abnormally shaped. This means that the femoral heads do not fit well in the hip socket. As a result, they cause pain and often problems with walking.

jumping dog

The hip joint

The hip joint of dogs, just like in humans, is made up of a hip socket in which the round femoral head of the thigh rotates. The joint is covered with cartilage and the synovial fluid inside the joint ensures that the different parts can move smoothly along each other. Around the joint is a joint capsule. A ligament and the pelvic muscles ensure that the femoral head remains firmly in the hip socket.

Dogs with hip dysplasia

Dogs with hip dysplasia, have a hip joint that is not well developed. In puppies, the ligament and pelvic muscles are often not strong enough and the femoral head is a little looser in the hip socket than with adult dogs. If there is too much leeway, problems may arise:

  • The joint capsule is stretched
  • The cartilage is damaged by incorrect movement in the joint
  • The hip socket is not growing sufficiently
  • The femoral head flattens

Because of these abnormalities, all parts of the joint fit even less well. Joint cartilage and bone breakdown (osteoarthritis) can also occur. The joint capsule becomes thicker and stiffer, making the hip joint less mobile.

How does hip dysplasia in dogs occur?

Often the predisposition to hip dysplasia is hereditary. There are several factors that are involved:

  • Too much movement as pup
  • Wrong movement as pup
  • Growing too quickly
  • Puppies with excess weight
  • Wrong nutrition

These factors may adversely affect the development of the hip joint.

At what age does hip dysplasia become visible?

The first symptoms often become visible when your puppy is between 4 and 10 months old. The symptoms may include:

  • Your puppy can become crippled.
  • Your puppy may feel less inclined to play or more often sitting/laying down.
  • Your puppy may have trouble standing up, sitting or lying down.
  • Puppies can walk unbalanced with their hindquarters.
  • ‘Bunny hopping’: lifting both hind legs simultaneously like a jumping rabbit.
  • The hind legs of the pup are often close together.

Older dogs can also suffer from hip dysplasia. Older dogs show more general symptoms that fit osteoarthritis, such as:

  • Rigid hindquarters
  • Crippled after exertion
  • Difficulty getting up
  • Less muscle development in the hindquarters
  • Difficulty jumping and climbing stairs.

These symptoms are not sufficient to make a successful diagnosis.

How is hip dysplasia diagnosed?

The diagnosis is made by the veterinarian. The diagnosis is made by the veterinarian. The diagnosis is confirmed by making x-rays of the hips. For a good assessment of the X-rays, it is advised to make these images under sedation. If your puppy has complaints, we advise you to diagnose hip dysplasia at least before the age of 6 months, because you will have the most options and the best chance of proper treatment.

How is hip dysplasia treated?

There are different ways in which hip dysplasia can be treated. Treatment often depends on the stage/age at which the disorder is detected, the weight of the dog, the changes that may or may not be present in the joint, but of course also the financial capabilities of the owner.

The treatment options are as follows:

Conservative (supportive)

Hip dysplasia causes pain. So this has to be addressed. The most commonly used medication is nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). This is for pain relief. In addition, the inflammatory reaction in the joint is also addressed. Besides the painkillers and inflammation inhibition the movement pattern of your dog must be looked at and your dog should have a healthy weight. Possibly, this treatment can be combined with physical therapy. Food supplements can be given which support the joints. Think of omega-3 fatty acids and/or glucosamine/chondroitin sulphate and products that work specifically at the moment there is cartilage damage, such as the Flexadin Advanced. A special diet can also be given to support the joints, such as the Royal Canin Mobility C2P+ or the Hill’s J/D.


Depending on the age of the dog, the size of the dog and the changes already present in the joint, surgery can be chosen to treat hip dysplasia. There are several techniques to do this:


  • Juvenile pubic symphysiodesis: This technique can be performed on very young dogs (12-18 weeks old). This procedure would adjust the growth of the pelvis so that the joint develops better. This surgery is not often performed, because puppies at this age often do not show any symptoms and the diagnosis is, therefore, difficult to make. Also, at this moment you don’t know if your puppy will actually suffer from hip dysplasia in the future.
  • Pelvic tilt (triple pelvic osteotomy or TPO): This operation is only done when no bone changes have occurred and the hips are not too far apart. The pelvis is tilted surgically in three places, so that there is a better connection between the femoral head and the hip socket. As an alternative to this procedure, the ‘double pelvic osteotomy’ can be chosen. After this operation, there will be immediately more stability in the pelvis after the operation and the dog will recover faster.
  • Femoral head ostectomy: During this surgery, the hip head and neck are removed. The muscles and capsule around the hip joint will then stabilise the hip. This operation can also be performed if there are already bone changes but is less suitable for dogs of larger/heavier breeds.
  • Artificial hip: As a last resort, an artificial hip can be placed. This is an expensive operation but can be very helpful at a time when a lot of osteoarthritis has formed inside the joint.



The main purpose of these operations is to reduce pain. Of course, every operation has risks of complications. Please also take into account that there is substantial aftercare linked to a surgical procedure. This can take several weeks. Your dog should really rehabilitate. Be well informed in advance about the pros and cons of operation, the costs and of course the prognosis for your dog.

What can I do to prevent hip dysplasia in my dog?

You have little influence on the hereditary part of hip dysplasia. There are a number of dog breeds that are particularly sensitive to the development of hip dysplasia. If you want to buy a dog of a sensitive breed, please ask the breed association for more information. Breeders often have to meet strict requirements before a dog can be bred. These dogs often have a pedigree. A pedigree dog gives no guarantee but often gives the assurance that the parents have been examined for hip dysplasia and (to some extent) free from this condition.

What can you do yourself?

  • Make sure your dog maintains or gets the correct weight: so avoid your dog from being overweight. This is of course not only important in preventing hip dysplasia, but also for many other abnormalities!
  • Make sure your puppy is moving correctly: For a dog with a tendency to hip dysplasia it is important that the pelvic muscles develop well. Exercise is therefore important but in a responsible way. Straight-line movement is preferred, such as cycling (not for very young dogs!) and swimming. Avoid movements where your dog has to twist rotate a lot, such as playing with a ball. The same goes for playing with other dogs. For puppies, playing with other dogs is, of course, important for social development, but try not to let your puppy play with oversized, heavy and wild dogs. Do not let your dog run wildly up and down the stairs, but in a slow pace. This means you have to train this. Don’t let your dog play on a slippery surface, because he can easily slip, which is bad for the joints.
  • Provide the right food for your dog, appropriate to the age and (adult) weight of your dog: A puppy of a small breed has different demands on its food than a puppy of a large breed. It is important that all nutrients are present, but also in the right proportions. Especially important for the growth of your pup is the ratio between calcium and phosphate. Suitable puppy food developed by Royal Canin and Hill’s can support your furry friend, these diets have taken your puppies requirements into account.


  • A big factor in hip dysplasia is hereditary. So make sure you are well informed before you buy a puppy, especially if you choose a hip dysplasia sensitive breed.
  • Pay close attention to your dog’s weight, movement and nutrition.
  • Pay close attention to the growth of your puppy. Go to the vet in time if you are unsure about the development of your puppy. The sooner the diagnosis can be made, the more chance your dog has for successful treatment.

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