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Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

hip dysplasia
Pictured: Older dog wearing a hip brace


Dog Hip Dysplasia Overview

Hip dysplasia is a hereditary disorder that occurs when your dog’s hip joints don’t grow properly. This abnormal development can cause pain, arthritis and in some cases crippling lameness. In other words, if your dog’s hip dysplasia is severe he or she will be unable to walk or run.

Clinically speaking, hip dysplasia occurs when your dog has abnormal looseness between the ball (femoral head) and socket (acetabulum). When the ball and socket don’t fit snugly, they tend to rattle around, eventually deforming the bone and causing arthritis and pain.

Hip dysplasia is most commonly found in large breed dogs but can affect even the smallest breeds as well.


Facts: Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

  • Canine hip dysplasia occurs in 50% or more of some of the larger breeds of dogs
  • From 1974 through December 2010 over 72% of English Bulldogs examined by OFA were dysplastic
  • Hip replacement surgery costs $5,000 but can be far more depending on the type of breed and where you live
  • There are 25 dog breeds with a 1 in 4 chance of being dysplastic

Source: Baker Institute for Animal Health


Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs are usually mild and subtle because the disease worsens over time. Early signs include mild to moderate lameness that does not seem to improve. You may also notice your dog favoring one side or the other to compensate for the pain in one of the hip joints. Other symptoms include stiffness, difficult moving, lethargy, irritability or licking of the hip area.

Clinical Testing and Diagnosis

dog at veterinarian
Pictured: Young dog getting examined


If you suspect your dog may be suffering from hip dysplasia your veterinarian can run tests for you. The most common way to diagnose hip dysplasia is to take x-rays. Your veterinarian will also perform hip scores, which help evaluate your dog’s hip flexibility and pain levels in that region. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals has created a hip grading system to assist veterinarians on the diagnosis and treatment of hip dysplasia in dogs.

There are seven classifications defined by the OFA. Three classifications are non-dysplastic, one is right in the middle, and the last three are dysplastic (hip dysplasia is the diagnosis).

  • Excellent – This classification is the best rating a dog can get regarding hip structure and health.
  • Good – Slightly less than excellent but still a very healthy ball and join structure in the hips.
  • Fair – There are minor irregularities in the hip joints. Could be normal for some breeds but a yellow flag for others.
  • Borderline – This is the line between your dog being diagnosed as dysplastic or not. Typically 50% of the dogs classified as borderline do not see deterioration in the hip.
  • Mild – The ball is partially out of the hip socket, which is creating some joint space. Your vet will keep an eye on deterioration over time.
  • Moderate – There is a significant amount of subluxation and the ball is only barely sitting in the socket. Left untreated the arthritis in the hip will deteriorate over time.
  • Severe – This is where the ball is partly or completely out of the socket. Typically there are significant amounts of cartilage build up and arthritis around the joint.

PennHIPP Program

PennHIPP is a not-for-profit program wholly owned and operated by the University of Pennsylvania. Their mission is to develop and apply evidence-based technology to direct appropriate breeding strategies aimed at reducing in frequency and severity the osteoarthritis of canine hip dysplasia.

PennHIP incorporates a new method for evaluating the integrity of the canine hip. It is accurate in puppies as young as 16 weeks of age. It has great potential to lower the frequency of CHD when used as a selection criterion.

Dog Hip Dysplasia Treatment

Once your dog has been diagnosed with hip dysplasia the changes are irreversible. They key to successful treatment is to help your dog manage pain and reduce the stress factors. Depending on the classification and age of your dog, treatments for dog hip dysplasia can range from simple weight reduction and exercise to full hip replacement surgery.


If your dog suffers from mild hip dysplasia then weight reduction and exercise management may be enough to reduce pain and allow your dog to live a normal life. Some canines might also benefit from a dog hip brace to help alleviate the pain associated with the miss formed joint. For milder cases of hip dysplasia, medications range from $20 to $30 per month.


Dogs that are classified as moderate dysplastic will also benefit from weight reduction and exercise management, however they may need physical therapy or alternative therapies to manage the pain and other symptoms. There are also anti-inflammatory medications that can help manage pain. Some medications are oral and others are injected into the hip region on a regular basis by a licensed veterinary professional. Physical therapy can range from $100 to over $1,000 depending on the number of sessions needed and the type of treatment required.


In cases of severe hip dysplasia your dog may need surgical treatment. Sometime corrective surgery is enough to reduce the pain and discomfort. In these situations a surgeon will shave the cartilage and bone matter to provide a more functional ball and socket formation in the hip. In other cases a full hip replacement surgery may be needed. Depending on your dog’s size and where you live, the average cost for hip replacement surgery is between $4,000 to $6,000 per hip.

Cost to Treat: $4,000 to $6,000 per hip


Dog Hip Dysplasia Incidence Rates by Breed

The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals was founded to promote the health and welfare of companion animals through a reduction in the incidence of genetic disease. Here is a list of the top 10 most affected dog breeds.

  1. Pug
  2. English Bulldog
  3. Olde English Bulldogge
  4. Dogue de Bordeaux
  5. Neapolitan Mastiff
  6. Brussels Griffon
  7. St. Bernard
  8. Otterhound
  9. Clumber Spaniel
  10. Black Russian Terrier

Source: OFA Database

The OFA is guided by the following four specific objectives; to collate and disseminate information concerning orthopedic and genetic diseases of animals, to advise, encourage and establish control programs to lower the incidence of orthopedic and genetic diseases, to encourage and finance research in orthopedic and genetic disease in animals, to receive funds and make grants to carry out these objectives.


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