Hip Dysplasia in Dogs – Signs, Symptoms and Solutions

Unfortunately, hip dysplasia in dogs is a very common problem, especially among large breeds. But do not let that stop you from enjoying the companionship of a Golden Retriever or any other big buddy out of fear for what the future might hold. Here's what you need to know.

What is Hip Dysplasia?

The word "dysplasia" literally means abnormal development. It happens when looseness in a dog's hip joint keeps the ball at the top of the thighbone from fitting snugly into the socket in the hip. It may be in only one hip, or both of them.

The constant friction caused by this misfit historically damages the joint. This damage tends to get worse with time, and the dog often develops arthritis, as well. Old age just is not much fun for a dog suffering from this joint problem.

Signs and Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

How did this happen, anyway? If a dog is going to be afflicted with this problem, he's usually born with it – though it may not develop for several years. It can show up sooner if a large breed dog grows too quickly as a puppy, or if it does a lot of jumping and running on slick floors or concrete at an early age.

Here are some symptoms to watch for:

  • Having difficulty standing up after sitting or lying down
  • Having difficulty walking, jumping, or going up and down stairs
  • Preferring to sit with both legs together on one side of his body
  • Letting you know it hurts when you touch his rear legs and hips
  • Doing the "bunny hop" when he runs, by keeping both rear legs together

An x-ray is the only sure way to diagnose canine hip dysplasia. The best age for a definite diagnosis is between 12 and 18 months. Some affected dogs do not show any symptoms at all for several years. (They're the "tough guys," I guess.)

Solutions for Canine Hip Dysplasia

So can anything be done for these poor pooches? Well, that depends on how bad the problem is. If your dog has a mild case, you can keep him reliably comfortable with weight control, moderate exercise, and pain relievers (from your vet) when he needs them.

In more severe cases, the best treatment for hip dysplasia is surgery to repair some of the damage and lessen the pain. In fact, the hips can even be replaced with Teflon hips, though that's a more expensive route to go, as you can imagine.

Here are a few ways to help your dysplastic dog be more comfortable:

  • Work with your vet to monitor your puppy's growth
  • Keep your adult dog at a healthy weight
  • Help your dog get a moderate amount of exercise, either from gentle walks or easy swimming sessions
  • Dish out the pain relievers when you can see your dog is hurting

Work with your vet to make sure your canine companion is as comfortable as possible, no matter how mild or severe his symptoms might be. Hip dysplasia in dogs does not need to destroy your pooch's quality of life.