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Canine Hip Dysplasia – Could your dog have it?

04/28/2016 by Colleen Williams
April 28th, 2016 by Colleen Williams

dog hip dysplasia

An x-ray of a dog with hip dysplasia. Photo courtesy of

Has your beloved pooch been limping, hopping or getting up slower lately? If so, he or she might be exhibiting symptoms of canine hip dysplasia, a genetic disease of the hip joint. Dogs with this condition have ball-and-socket joints that don’t fit quite right, causing discomfort when they walk around.

Hip dysplasia is a genetic condition, which means that certain dogs are more likely to get it than others. Larger dogs have about a 50% chance of acquiring it, and it usually occurs in purebreds, although mixed breeds can have it too. German shepherds, Labrador retrievers, Rottweilers, Great Danes, and Golden Retrievers all have a higher risk of hip dysplasia.

If you believe your pup is more likely to get hip dysplasia, talk to your veterinarian. She may  recommend the following steps to lessen the chance that your dog will develop it:

  1. Rapid growth and weight gain is thought to increase an animal’s risk of hip dysplasia, as a bigger dog will put more strain on its joints. Avoid overfeeding. Feed your puppy 3 to 4 times a day, but an adult dog only twice per day.
  2. Avoid rough play, such as jumping, long runs, and sliding on floors. These activities put strain on a dog’s hind leg joints.

Even these preventative measures may not completely protect your pet. Since the disease is caused by poorly-formed hip joints, it is present at birth, but symptoms may not be visible until middle or late life. Keep an eye out for the following symptoms of hip dysplasia in both your dogs and cats (yes, they can get it too!):

  • An altered gait – limping, hopping, etc.
  • Refuses to jump, run, or walk up stairs
  • Slow or stiff to rise from lying down or sitting

Your veterinarian is the only person who can determine whether or not your dog has hip dysplasia. Hip x-rays and a physical exam are needed to accurately diagnose your pet’s condition. Veterinarians will choose one of two courses – treatment with medications or surgery. Both options are typically very expensive for pet parents.

As an aside, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance covers hip dysplasia treatments in pets as long as the condition is diagnosed after the pet is insured, after any waiting periods, and as long as the pet is insured by the age of six. Many insurance companies don’t cover this and many other genetic conditions that often develop in pets over their lifetimes, so be sure to read any insurance policies carefully.

Non-surgical treatment is for dogs showing mild symptoms of hip dysplasia, and aims to control and reduce side effects rather than eliminate them. Your dog would likely take medications, often on a daily basis, and could cost more than surgery over time. These medications can range from $50 to several hundred dollars per round of doses, depending on the type and duration. A drawback to this treatment is that even with medication, the disease can continue to progress, and surgical treatment may be necessary.

There are two common major surgical treatments that are used to help dogs with hip dysplasia. A Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (TPO) is performed on young dogs with less advanced forms of the disease. The pelvis is reconstructed, which allows the femur to fit better inside the joint and relieves pain. A Total Hip Replacement (THR) replaces your pet’s hip joint with a prosthetic one and costs from $2,000 to $4,000. Even if both your dog’s joints have dysplasia, generally only one will need to be replaced, as it will greatly reduce the stress in the other.

Canine hip dysplasia is a fairly common ailment, but with the appropriate preventative and medical treatments, your dog can live a healthy, happy life!


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