Recognizing Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

By: Mo


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As dog owners, we always want our furry friends to be happy, healthy, and pain-free. Unfortunately, hip dysplasia in dogs is a very common condition, especially in larger breeds. To keep our dogs safe and provide them the care they need, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of hip dysplasia and recognize it in time.

What is Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is a common orthopedic condition where an abnormality in the hip joint results in the joint not fitting into its socket.

The hip joint is like a ball and socket, where the ball is the head of the femur bone, while the socket is the pelvic bone. In normal growth of these bones, the head of the femur sits very snugly in the pelvic bone. In dogs with hip dysplasia, the growth and development of the hip joint is impacted, which results in the joint moving in and out of the socket.

This constant movement of the bone can cause damage to the cartilage around it, and even severe cases of arthritis in dogs as young as one year old. Hip dysplasia is a lot more common in larger breeds of dogs due to the extra weight and pressure placed on the hip joint, but small dogs can also be affected by it. 

The condition can develop over time as a result of the cumulative effects of genetics, diet, exercise, and other environmental factors. While some dogs may show signs of hip dysplasia at a young age, others may not develop symptoms until later in life, as the joint degenerates and the condition worsens over time. 

It’s also important to stay on top of your dog’s diet and vet checkups to minimize the risk, detect any symptoms and intervene at an early stage. 

Identifying Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Hip dysplasia can be painful, so you’d want to get your dog treated for it as soon as possible. To do that, you have to first identify that your dog is suffering from the condition to begin with. Here are a few signs to keep an eye out for. 


Lethargy and lack of activity is a common symptom for hip dysplasia. Since the condition can be painful, dogs who suffer from it don’t want to stand up and move around unless necessary. 

If your dog is less active than they used to be, it may be a sign that something is wrong. Keep in mind though, that lethargy on its own is not necessarily a sign of the condition. You’d have to keep an eye out for other symptoms as well.

Difficulty in Movement

Because of the pain they feel, dogs with hip dysplasia will also have difficulty moving around, and will likely also have a decreased range of motion. They may have trouble jumping, running and climbing stairs – things that dogs usually do not have trouble with. 

They may also struggle with lifting their legs or extending them fully due to the pain. 

Lameness in the Hind End

A very strong indicator that your dog may be suffering from this condition is hind end lameness. This is when the back end of the dog’s body becomes very hard to move, and can even freeze up. 

Hind end lameness usually develops in the later stages of hip dysplasia, and is not associated with many other conditions. If you notice hind end lameness in your dog, there is a high chance they may be suffering from this condition. Still, it’s always best to ask a vet for a better diagnosis.

Unusual Gait & Posture

One of the most common signs of hip dysplasia is a change in your dog’s gait. If you notice that your dog is limping or having difficulty getting up, this could be a sign that they are experiencing pain in their hip joint. Your dog may also appear stiff or have a wobbly gait when they walk.

Dogs with hip dysplasia may also adopt a different posture than usual. They may stand with their back legs closer together or sit with their legs splayed out to the sides. They may also appear to be hunching or arching their back when they walk.

Both of these things tend to stand out a lot more in comparison to other symptoms, so you are most likely to notice it immediately.

Affected Thigh Muscles

Because hip dysplasia is painful, dogs suffering from the condition usually tend to put their weight in their front legs when walking. As a result, the muscles of their hind legs tend to get weaker, and may even result in atrophy. This will usually become very noticeable over time. 

On top of that, because the front legs will be used a lot more, there is a high chance of muscle strain and fatigue, which can cause your dog even more pain.

Behavioral Changes

Dogs with hip dysplasia are also likely to be more aggressive, irritable and withdrawn because of the pain they feel. Dogs suffering from the condition may also have trouble finding a comfortable position to sit or lie down in, which may translate to pacing and restlessness. If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, it’s best to get them to a vet as soon as possible. Keep in mind that most of these symptoms are also associated with other conditions, so unless you notice them in combination, they do not necessarily indicate hip dysplasia. It’s always a good idea to ask your vet for a professional diagnosis.

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