Hip Dysplasia: Frequently Asked Questions

WHAT CAUSES HIP DYSPLASIA?

There are two primary causes of hip dysplasia, genetic and diet. The genes involved have not been conclusively identified, but it is believed to involve more than one gene. New advances in nutritional research reveal that diet plays an important role in the development of hip dysplasia. Large breed puppies should be fed a special diet during the first year of life to reduce this risk.

WHAT SYMPTOMS SHOULD I LOOK FOR?

Weakness and pain in the hind legs are the usual clinical signs. The dog appears wobbly and is reluctant to rise from a sitting or lying position. This can be seen in puppies a few months old but is most common in dogs one to two years of age.

Dogs with mild hip dysplasia on x-ray may develop minimal arthritis without clinical signs until they are older. Clinical signs in older dogs are difficulty rising, jumping differently, and exercise intolerance.

I HAVE BEEN TOLD THAT MY DOG HAS HIP DYSPLASIA BUT THERE IS NO LAMENESS. CAN THE DIAGNOSIS BE CORRECT?

In young dogs there is laxity of the hip joint that leads to degenerative joint disease or arthritis, which is the body’s attempt to stabilize the loose hip joint.

The degree of lameness that occurs is dependent on the extent of these arthritic changes and may not be correlated with the appearance of the hip joint on x-rays. Some pets with significant signs of hip dysplasia on x-ray may not exhibit any clinical signs while others with minimal changes may experience severe pain and lameness.

HOW IS IT DIAGNOSED?

A hip x-ray is the preferred method for diagnosing hip dysplasia. Clinical signs and palpable joint laxity may also indicate hip dysplasia. Any pet suspected of having hip dysplasia should be x-rayed as soon as possible.

IF IT IS HEREDITARY, ARE CERTAIN BREEDS AFFECTED MORE THAT OTHERS?

Yes, although any dog can be affected, it is predominantly seen in larger dogs such as German Shepherd, St Bernard’s, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and Bulldogs. Mixed-breed large dogs are also at risk for developing hip dysplasia and should be fed a special large breed growth diet the first year.

WHAT IS THE TREATMENT?

This depends upon the pet’s clinical signs and amount of discomfort. There are very effective non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) that have minimal side effects. The choice of medication is made on an individual basis and various drugs may be tried before finding the most effective one.

WHAT IF NSAIDS DON’T HELP?

The alternative to NSAID therapy is surgery. There are several surgical procedures available to treat hip dysplasia. The two most surgical techniques for hip dysplasia are triple pelvic osteotomy in young animals, and femoral head ostectomy (FHO) in older dogs. The choice of surgery will be determined by your pet’s condition and lifestyle.

I ORIGINALLY INTENDED TO BREED MY DOG. WHAT SHOULD I DO?

Hip dysplasia is a genetic or inherited disease. We do not recommend that any pet showing any signs of hip dysplasia be bred! Hip dysplasia is a painful, debilitating disease hard on dogs, and difficult for owners to manage.

WHAT ELSE CAN I DO TO REDUCE THE RISK OF HIP DYSPLASIA?

Large breed or at-risk puppies should be fed a special large breed growth diet their first year of life. We will give you specific feeding guidelines to ensure that you are providing the best care for your dog.

IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE I OUGHT TO KNOW?

If you decide to purchase a large breed puppy, make sure that the parents are certified not to have hip dysplasia. The Orthopedic Foundation of Animals (OFA) can certify dogs. If both parents of the large breed puppy you are interested in aren’t OFA-certified, we recommend choosing another breeder.

For more information on selecting a large breed puppy or hip dysplasia, feel free to contact us at any time!

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