Signs and Diagnosis of Canine Hip Dysplasia

German shepherd puppy

Hip dysplasia is a degenerative condition of the hip joints in pups that is the most prevalent cause of rear-end lameness in dogs. Canine hip dysplasia is most commonly observed in big breeds such as German Shepherd dogs, Saint Bernards, and Greater Swiss Mountain dogs, although it can afflict dogs of any size and gender.

Canine hip dysplasia has no recognized etiology. Hip dysplasia is assumed to have a hereditary component, and with the disorder should not be bred. Hip dysplasia is more common in pups born to parents who have the disorder than in puppies born to parents who have normal hips. Hip dysplasia may affect with normal parents as well.

What Is Canine Hip Dysplasia?

The head of the femur (thigh bone) is cradled by the pelvis in a cup-like socket of bone that forms the hip. are normally born normal, but as they get older, their hip joint alignment deteriorates.

If the alignment of a young pet's joint isn't just correct owing to bone abnormalities or laxity of the ligaments and muscles that keep the joint together, the misalignment causes wear and strain. Puppies with dysplasia generally have a shallow socket and/or loose joints. When the bones rub together, they experience abnormal tension and wear, leading to greater joint deterioration and discomfort. When bones are stressed, they thicken, making the fit even worse. This injury predisposes the dog to and aching joints as it ages.

Signs and Symptoms

Severe hip dysplasia can appear as early as four months of age, although it is most common in puppies aged nine months to one year. Limping, limb favoring, and difficulty rising, sprinting, or jumping are all symptoms of this painful ailment. When walking, dysplastic puppies may have a strange wobbling stride, and when running or climbing stairs, they may "bunny hop," which may assist to relieve joint tension. Stairs can be especially difficult for these dogs, and stiff hips and discomfort can cause hostility, prompting the puppy to snap or recoil when touched.

There are, however, different levels of severity. Mild instances may go untreated until the dog reaches middle age or beyond. The activity level of the puppy influences how soon or how much deterioration happens. While healthy, normal hips are unlikely to be harmed by hard labor or excessive play, dogs with mild to severe hip dysplasia acquire more obvious indications more rapidly when these joints are overworked. Fortunately, only a tiny fraction of pets are affected by the most severe and incapacitating form of the disease.

Veterinarians classify hip dysplasia as "polygenetic," meaning that numerous genes can impact the disease's genetic component. Lifestyle, nutrition, body weight, and exercise level may all have an impact on the illness.


Although outward symptoms may indicate a problem, X-rays are taken while the puppy is sedated to provide a definitive diagnosis. The veterinarian places the puppy on its back and examines it for arthritic changes and joint subluxation (laxity). Some changes may not be noticeable until the puppy is two years old, although experts say there can be significant alterations between 6 and 9 months and one year.

That's why canines can't be screened and certified by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) until they're two years old. The OFA offers a consultation service to purebred dog owners and breeders, in which it examines hip X-rays submitted by the owner to assess the dog's conformation and certifies that the dog is normal.

Dr. Gail Smith, a veterinary orthopedic expert at the University of Pennsylvania, created the PennHip testing procedure, which involves placing the pet on its back and then inserting a metal and acrylic shape called a "distracter" between the animal's hips. To mimic what happens when standing, this brace places the pup's back legs in a frog stance. The ensuing X-ray aids in determining the pet's laxity score, often known as the "distraction index," and allows doctors to assess the degree of joint looseness even before bone injury occurs. It will have whatever laxity or looseness it has at four months for the remainder of its existence.

Reputable breeders get their dog parents checked for hip dysplasia before to breeding to ensure they do not have the ailment and to limit the risk of it in puppies. By sending acceptable X-rays to either the OFA registry or the PennHip registry, dogs can be certified free of hip dysplasia. Because just one X-ray is taken, the OFA is less expensive. Three radiologists assess the hips and give them a fair, good, or exceptional rating. The X-rays are compared to all other dogs of that breed in the PennHip registry using computer analysis.

Management of Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia has no known treatment. The goal of treatment is to reduce discomfort and improve joint function. The effectiveness of treatment is determined by the severity of the condition.

Mild to moderate hip dysplasia may usually be controlled with light exercise, a nutritious diet, and prescription pain medications such or Rimadyl. Moderate activity helps the puppy's muscle tone remain stable and improves, reducing joint wear and strain.

Encourage your dysplastic dog to accompany you on short walks. Swimming is a great workout, but leaping and sprinting for lengthy periods of time should be avoided. Maintain a lean puppy; fat causes joint strain and can exacerbate the issue. can also improve the dog's mood.

In severe forms of hip dysplasia, surgery that rebuilds or removes bone or changes the muscles and tendons to relieve discomfort may be beneficial. Although such therapies may not completely restore joint function, they can improve the dog's mobility and overall quality of life.