Medically reviewed by Dr. Paula Simons, DVM
As devoted dog owners, we want nothing more than to see our furry companions happy and healthy. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
Some dogs, including large and giant breeds, develop a painful condition known as hip dysplasia.
Things like rapid growth, improper nutrition, and excessive exercise while the dog is still growing can contribute to hip dysplasia in dogs.
Early detection is important, which is why we’ve written the 11 early signs of hip dysplasia in dogs. The earlier you can get a definitive diagnosis for your dog, the better the outcome.
Interventions like pain medication, physical therapy, and lifestyle adjustments can help your dog’s overall well-being. It may even help to prevent further joint damage.
What is Hip Dysplasia?
Hip dysplasia is a common orthopedic condition that affects dogs, especially large breeds (see below). The term refers to an abnormal development or malformation of the dog’s hip joints.
In dogs with this condition, the hip joint undergoes abnormal growth or fails to develop properly.
The hip joint is a ball-and-socket joint where the head of the femur (thigh bone) fits into the cup-shaped acetabulum (hip socket).
This can lead to a variety of problems including joint instability, joint laxity, or excessive movement in the joint, and painful osteoarthritis when the bones rub together.
Breeds More Likely to Develop Hip Dysplasia
Hip dysplasia can happen in any breed of dog (large or small); however, there are some breeds that have known risk-factors including:
- German Shepherds
- Golden Retrievers
- Labrador Retrievers
- Great Danes
- Saint Bernards
- American Staffordshire Terriers
- Old English sheepdogs
The list of breeds noted is not exhaustive and can include a number of other large or giant breed dogs.
Can a Dog Live a Normal Life with Hip Dysplasia?
Dogs can live a normal life with hip dysplasia, provided they have proper management and care. Hip dysplasia is a chronic condition that can’t be completely cured with medical treatment.
However, there are various interventions that can help ease pain, improve mobility, and enhance your dog’s quality of life.
Physical therapy, medications, supplements and (if appropriate) surgical intervention are all potential options for managing hip dysplasia in dogs.
Recently, a new drug has been approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to alleviate joint pain in dogs with osteoarthritis. The drug, known as Librela® , is explained in more detail below.
What is Librela®?
Librela® ® is the first monthly injectable antibody therapy for canine osteoarthritis pain. It has a demonstrated safety profile and effectively reduces osteoarthritis pain for up to a month.
How successful is Librela® for dogs with hip dysplasia?
Zoetis’ Librela® has now been approved by the Federal Drug Administration to alleviate joint pain in dogs with osteoarthritis.
Untreated hip dysplasia can cause osteoarthritis in dogs.
It’s impossible to say how well Librela® will work for your dog. That’s a conversation you should have with the veterinarian.
Librela® Case Studies
2 field studies designed to test its effectiveness reported a significant improvement in the dogs who received the active ingredient.
In the first study of 287 dogs (various breeds), the dog owners were asked to evaluate their dog’s pain score 28 days after treatment using a Canine Brief Pain Inventory (CBPI).
During the study, veterinarians also assessed how well the dogs could bear weight in their limbs, and whether they experienced limb pain when touched or moved.
At the end of the study, 43.5% of the dogs given Librela® showed an improvement on the pain score.
The results of the 2nd study were very similar to the first, with an increase in pain management for dogs with osteoarthritis.
How Librela® Works in Dogs with Arthritis
The active substance in Librela® is a monoclonal antibody known as bedinvetma.
Monoclonal antibodies are a type of protein that can recognize and attach to another protein known as nerve growth factor (NGF).
In simple terms, NGF influences the activation of inflammatory cells. We don’t want that to happen because the inflammation triggers pain. When Librelainjections are used, the active substance in it (monoclonal antibodies) attach to NGF and prevent them from releasing pain signals.
How Fast Does Librela® Ease Pain in Dogs?
Dog owners have reported different timelines, with some reporting positive results within a couple of weeks from the first injection.
Dogs who have a limited response to the first injection may improve after the second injection the following month.
Side Effects of Librela in Dogs
Librela® is given as an injection under the skin (subcutaneously) and the recommended dose is based on the dog’s weight. It should not be used in dogs under 12 months, animals intended for breeding, or in pregnant or lactating dogs.
The most common side effects of Librela® are mild injection site reactions (swelling and heat). Overall, there are very few side effects and the drug is well-tolerated.
If you are interested in learning more about Librela® from other dog owners, join the group on facebook for feedback.
Librela® isn’t designed to manage hip dysplasia in dogs, but we thought it was important to explain since it can manage pain for dogs already diagnosed with osteoarthritis.
Is Hip Dysplasia Curable in Dogs?
Although there is no cure for the processes that cause hip dysplasia, it can be resolved through TPO or hip-replacement surgery.
Treatment Options for Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
There are different types of surgical interventions for dogs. The type of surgery they receive will depend on their age, underlying conditions, weight, and severity of the condition.
TPO surgery, also known as triple pelvic osteotomy, is used in moderate to large-breed dogs with early signs of hip dysplasia.
The procedure involves placing cuts in the pelvic bone so that the hip socket can be rotated over the ball (femoral head). A bone plate is then used to stabilize the joint.
This procedure is usually performed on dogs less than 1 year of age. Dogs over 30 pounds that are older than 5 months but younger than 1 year are considered good candidates for the surgery.
Total Hip Replacement Surgery
Total hip replacement surgery is usually the first choice of treatment for dogs. It is the most effective, but it’s also drastic and expensive.
Femoral Head Ostectomy
This type of orthopedic surgery is recommended for small dogs under 45 pounds. The procedure involves removing the head of the femur. In doing this, mobility can be restored without the pain.
Pain management isn’t considered the treatment of choice for dogs with hip dysplasia. It can help relieve pain before surgery is performed, but it only disguises the problem.
If pain medications are prescribed, they are usually in the form of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS). If the pain is caused by the development of osteoarthritis, ask the veterinarian about Librela monthly injections.
Joint supplements won’t provide pain relief for dogs with hip dysplasia. They may be recommended by a veterinarian for dogs with arthritis.
Ultimately, surgery is the best choice for dogs with hip dysplasia.
That said, there may be times when supplementation is appropriate. Always speak with a veterinarian before administering supplements to your dog.
What Causes Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?
Hip dysplasia occurs when the hip joint becomes loose. When the femoral bone (the top part of the hip) doesn’t fit snugly into the socket, it causes excessive wear and tear in the bone.
As the bone wears down, the hip joint becomes more unstable causing pain and mobility problems. Over time, this dysfunction can cause osteoarthritis to develop in the joint.
Reducing the risk of hip dysplasia should start at the puppy stage. The following are a few things to keep in mind:
Too Much Exercise in Large-Breed Puppies
Young dogs go through significant physical changes in a short period of time. A little exercise can strengthen their bodies. Too much exercise can put unnecessary strain on the joints and bones, leaving the dog vulnerable to future problems.
Read this for more information on puppy exercise guidelines: Puppies: How Much Exercise is Too Much?
Every extra pound on a dog causes unnecessary strain on the joints. If your dog has been diagnosed with hip dysplasia the last thing you want to do is start her on a big exercise program.
The best way to manage obesity is through a healthy diet formulated specifically for dogs with hip dysplasia.
Follow your veterinarian’s advice on when and how to introduce more exercise into your dog’s routine.
If your dog has been experiencing pain and stiffness, the first step might be physiotherapist to build muscles that have weakened.
Some breeds are predisposed to hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and other conditions from birth.
Proper nutrition plays a crucial role in a dog’s overall health, growth, and development. A healthy skeletal system is dependent on a balanced diet. Overfeeding or feeding an imbalanced diet that leads to rapid growth or excessive weight gain may increase the risk of hip dysplasia.
There is some evidence to suggest that neutering (spaying or castrating) a dog at an early age may impact the risk of hip dysplasia.
Hormones such as estrogen and testosterone play a role in the development and closure of growth plates in your dog. Neutering before the closure of growth plates may alter the timing of skeletal development.
That said, the specific impact of neutering on hip dysplasia can vary among different breeds and individual dogs.
11 Early Signs of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
There are at least 11 signs and symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs, each of which are detailed below.
Keep in mind that, in some cases, your dog may not show any of these signs but could still have hip dysplasia.
The wear and tear that causes osteoarthritis is sometimes the result of years of undiagnosed hip dysplasia.
1. Difficulty getting up
Dogs with hip dysplasia may struggle to get up from a lying or sitting position.
Dogs with stiffness in the hind limbs may have difficulty stretching or extending their legs fully.
Watch your dog for signs of lameness. Your dog may limp or favor one leg while walking.
4. Decreased Activity
Your dog may not want to engage in high-impact activities or will show less enthusiasm for activities they used to love.
5. Bunny Hopping
Some dogs with hip dysplasia develop a hopping gait. This happens when they use both hind legs at the same time, and it looks like a bunny hop.
6. Reduced Range of Motion
You may notice your dog has trouble climbing stairs, jumping onto furniture, or performing normal movements. This could be due to limited mobility in the hips.
7. Discomfort or Pain
Signs of pain in dogs with hip dysplasia include flinching when you touch the hip area. They may also vocalize or show signs of aggression when the hips are manipulated.
8 Muscle Atrophy
Over time, muscle wasting, or loss of muscle mass may occur in the hindquarters. This is because your dog can’t get enough exercise due to pain. As a result, the muscles begin to waste away.
9. Altered Posture
It’s difficult for a dog to maintain a normal posture when there is pressure and pain on joints. As a result, the dog may have a swayed back or will stand with their feet close together.
10. Difficulty in Jumping
Dogs with hip dysplasia may not be able to easily jump into the car or onto a bed, for example. It’s possible that your dog will eventually jump up, but only after some hesitation.
11. Grating or Clicking Sound
You may be able to hear a grating or clicking sound when your dog walks. This is probably coming from the hip joint and is a clear sign that your dog needs to see a veterinarian.
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Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO) in Dogs | VCA Animal Hospitals. (n.d.). Vca. Retrieved April 3, 2023, from https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/femoral-head-ostectomy-fho-in-dogs
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