Pet Education

Canine Hip Dysplasia

It’s all in the hips: In simple terms, Canine Hip Dysplasia is an instability in the ball and socket joint of the hip. This causes hip laxity, or subluxation of the femoral head out of the socket. This eventually leads to injury of the cartilage, causing osteoarthritis of the hip joint. The result is joint pain and lameness.

Canine Hip Dysplasia

What causes Canine Hip Dysplasia?

There are multiple causes of Canine Hip Dysplasia, the most important of which is genetic. Several genes are involved that affect the anatomy and that also regulate environmental factors such as nutrition. It is well known that overfeeding increases the trait expression in genetically susceptible dogs.

What breeds are affected?

Canine Hip Dysplasia can affect all breeds of dogs, but is more common in large breeds, e.g., Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, and Rottweilers.

When and how is it diagnosed?

This is probably the most important factor in determining a treatment plan. Canine Hip Dysplasia can be diagnosed in young dogs – as early as 4 or 5 months of age. We recommend radiographs (standard and/or Penn Hip Radiographs) and palpation of the hips when the pet is spayed or neutered at 5 or 6 months of age. A common misconception is waiting to obtain radiographs at 2 years of age. The Orthopedic Foundation of America recommends radiographs at 2 years of age in order to screen adult dogs for breeding purposes. A dog that is free of hip dysplasia at 2 years of age is unlikely to develop the problem and would be a good candidate for breeding. The take home message is: don’t wait to make the diagnosis – do it early to maximize the treatment options.

How is Canine Hip Dysplasia treated?

New restricted puppy diets have been developed for large breed dogs to decrease the effect of diet. Surgical procedures are available that may prevent ongoing degenerative joint disease and improve the conformation of the hip in young dogs. After degenerative joint disease has developed, options include medical and surgical treatments such as total hip replacement. Consult your veterinarian or a surgical specialist to discuss the options available for your pet. Responsible breeding to eliminate the genetic transmission of Canine Hip Dysplasia is important in the long term control of this debilitating orthopedic disease.

by Stephen A. Bilbrey,
DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVS


Animal Specialty Group

DVM, MS, Diplomate American College of Veterinary Surgeons

Dr. Stephen Bilbrey has received multiple awards for academics and teaching, and has authored numerous scientific papers for veterinary surgery publications and textbooks. As a board-certified surgeon since 1991, his special interests include thoracic, abdominal, oncologic, plastic, and reconstructive surgery.