Hip dysplasia means abnormal development of the hips. It is
a common, often crippling, disease of the hip joints in dogs. There
is a genetic basis to the disease and some breeds and blood lines
are more commonly affected (usually larger breeds). Affected dogs
usually have loose hip joints at a young age. Later on they develop
a deforming arthritis of the hip joints and a painful lameness.
Hip dysplasia is a newly recognized problem in cats as well
and is more common in Persians and main coons. Many cats show no
signs of pain, even when the disease is advanced.
Dogs may show signs at any age; however signs are mostly
evident in young adults and older dogs. Signs may be mild to
unnoticed in some cases or be very severe in others and they tend to
worsen with time. Lameness and painful walking are usually more
pronounced after exercise. Many dogs "hop like a bunny" while
running or walk on their front legs while the rear feet barely touch
the ground. Young dogs often lay on their belly with legs
outstretched behind them.
The initial presumed diagnosis is made upon examination.
Hip joint laxity is the first indication of hip dysplasia in young
dogs, then, at a later stage, pain and abnormal motion range become
noticeable. X-rays confirm the diagnosis and may show partial
occupation of the joint socket by the head of the femur (upper leg).
Dogs that are ten moths or older develop radiographic signs of
degenerative joint disease, including flattening of the head (ball)
of the femur, a shallow hip joint socket, bone spurs of the joint
components, and narrowing of the joint space.
Treatment varies depending on the severity of the
condition. Limited exercise and anti-inflammatory drugs are
indicated in less severe cases or when surgery is not possible.
Surgery can be done in cases that do not respond to medical
treatment or are extremely compromising. There are several surgical
procedures, like resection of the head of the femur, hip joint
replacement and rotation of the hip direction that are used
depending on the individual case.
Due to the hereditary nature of the disease, dogs diagnosed
with hip dysplasia should not be bred. Breeding dogs can have their
hips assessed by PennHip method or by the OFA (orthopedic foundation
If you have a dog with progressive lameness, please have
your veterinarian evaluate him/her as soon as possible. Hip
dysplasia is very painful and early treatment will alleviate your