Hip dysplasia is a genetic malformation of the hip joint that is found most often in large breed dogs. The hip is a ball and socket joint. Hip dysplasia can be caused either by having a very shallow acetabulum (socket) or having a flattened or shortened femoral head (or ball portion of the ball and socket joint, which is attached to the thigh bone). Because of the incongruity of the ball and socket in these situations, this condition results in abnormal motion of the hip joint causing excessive “wear and tear” on the joint.

Symptoms of hip dysplasia can vary from no symptoms to more significant signs. The visible signs of hip dysplasia can include: lameness of the hind leg, abnormal swaying of the hips, discomfort upon rising and reluctance to run or jump. Long term these signs can progress to near crippling pain and decreased mobility from severe arthritis. Unfortunately, there is no way to predict how it will develop in each individual.

Diagnosis is made by a combination of physical exam signs and x-rays. The problem may not always be detectable by x-ray until 2 years of age. To avoid perpetuation of hip dysplasia, affected dogs should not be used for breeding. We recommend all potential breeding dogs be OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) certified as “dysplasia free” when they reach 2 years of age.

Treatment is designed to ease the symptoms and give your pet a more comfortable life, however there is no cure for hip dysplasia. Treatment may consist of the following:

  • Medication – for stiffness and pain
  • Artificial hip replacement surgery
  • Surgical removal of the femoral head
  • Weight reduction

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