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What is Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?

Hip dysplasia in dogs is a common canine disease where the ball and socket joint in the dog’s hip is malformed.

A dog’s hip joint is composed of a ball and socket, which allows them the kind of range of movement they need for mobility. During normal circumstances, the ball and socket joint should slide smoothly during motion.

When hip dysplasia occurs, the ball and socket joint lose their proper form and causes the two joints to no longer meet properly. This results in the joint no longer having a sliding motion but a grinding and rubbing motion instead. This failure of the joint bones to develop normally will continue gradually deteriorating as the dog gets older, which will lead to limited and eventually loss of function of the hip joints.

It is a common disease for dogs, especially for large and giant breeds such as German Shepherds, Great Danes, Labradors, and Saint Bernard. Although very rare, hip dysplasia may also occur in smaller breeds. A dog’s gender does not seem to be a factor as it affects both male and female dogs. Genetics is a key factor as some breeds are more predisposed to the disease. It may start while a dog is still very young, as early as four months old. There are also cases were onset occurs later in a dog’s life usually due to other skeletal problems such as osteoarthritis.


Symptoms depend on the degree of malformation and the duration of the disease.
• Decreased in activity
• Difficulty in rising
• Reluctance to run, jump, or go up and down stairs
• Weakness in back-limbs especially after exercise
• Constant hopping or swaying gait
• Back legs are unnaturally close together when standing
• Pain in the hip joints
• Grating sound during hip movement
• Decreased range of motion in the hip joints
• Loss of muscle mass in thigh muscles
• Enlargement of shoulder muscles due overcompensation for the lack of movement in back legs

If you suspect your dog may be suffering from hip dysplasia, bring them for a check up to your vet as soon as possible. It will also help your veterinarian in diagnosing your dog’s symptoms if you can give them a thorough history, including overall health, symptoms, recent injuries or accidents. The dogs parents history are also very helpful information in diagnosing hip dysplasia.

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