What Breed Of Dog Gets Hip Dysplasia?

What Breed Of Dog Gets Hip Dysplasia?

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Hip dysplasia is one of those sneaky health issues that many dog owners worry about, especially if they have larger breeds. It’s basically a form of arthritis where the ball and socket joint of the hip don’t fit together perfectly. This leads to pain and mobility issues. This condition can significantly affect a dog’s quality of life, challenging even simple activities like running, jumping, or climbing stairs.

So, which pups are most at risk? Well, hip dysplasia is famously more common in bigger breeds. Here’s a quick rundown on the breeds and the causes behind it. 

Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Before getting into the details, let’s know the symptoms of this condition in dogs: 

Lameness or Limping: This is often one of the first signs. A dog with hip dysplasia may limp or show difficulty moving the rear legs after exercise or first thing in the morning.

Difficulty Rising or Jumping: Dogs with hip dysplasia often have trouble standing up from a sitting or lying position and may struggle to jump onto furniture or into a car.

Loose or Wobbly Joints: A dog’s hip joints may appear loose or wobbly due to the poor fit of the hip joint components.

Pain: As the condition progresses, the discomfort can become evident, with dogs often showing reluctance to be touched around the hip area.

Reduced Activity: Dogs may become less active, appear lethargic, or be less willing to participate in activities they once enjoyed, such as running or playing.

Muscle Mass Loss: Due to decreased activity and pain, muscle wastage in the hind legs can occur.

Grating in the Joint During Movement: In severe cases, you may hear a grinding sound as the dog moves, which is caused by the deteriorating joint.

Changes in Gait: The dog’s walking style may change, often showing a ‘bunny-hopping’ gait, where both hind legs move together.

Large Breeds With Risk Of Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is more common among larger breeds. Here’s a brief overview of some of the top breeds that tend to be affected:

German Shepherds:

Due to their genetic predisposition, German Shepherds are highly susceptible to hip dysplasia. Their active lifestyle also exacerbates the wear and tear on an improperly formed hip joint. The breed’s structure, characterized by a relatively long body and high activity demands, puts additional stress on the hips.

German Shepherds

Labrador Retrievers:

Labrador Retrievers are another breed that is particularly prone to developing hip dysplasia. Labs are generally very active and often carry more weight, which can further stress the hip joints. The breed’s popularity has also led to less careful breeding practices in some cases, increasing the prevalence of genetic predispositions to hip dysplasia.

Labrador Retrievers

Golden Retrievers:

Like Labradors, Golden Retrievers are at risk due to their size, weight, and genetics. They are known for their friendly and active nature, which can be hindered by the onset of hip dysplasia. Regular screening and careful breeding practices are recommended to minimize the risk.

Golden Retrievers

Giant Breeds

Saint Bernards:

The massive size of Saint Bernards puts a significant amount of pressure on their joints, including the hips. Their rapid growth as puppies and overall body mass as adults contribute to the development of hip dysplasia.

Saint Bernards

Great Danes:

Like Saint Bernards, Great Danes are also affected by their enormous size and weight. They grow very quickly, and without proper management, including adequate nutrition and controlled exercise, they are highly susceptible to joint problems, including hip dysplasia.

Great Danes

Medium Breeds

Border Collies:

Although not as large as previously mentioned breeds, Border Collies can also suffer from hip dysplasia. This breed is extremely active and requires a lot of exercise, which can be challenging if hip dysplasia sets in. Genetic factors also play a role, making responsible breeding practices vital.

Border Collies

Standard Poodles:

Standard Poodles, while generally healthier regarding joint issues compared to some other breeds, can still develop hip dysplasia. The risk is partly genetic and partly due to their active nature, which can stress the hips over time.

Diagnosis of Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia in dogs is diagnosed through a combination of clinical examination and imaging techniques. Early detection is particularly crucial as it allows for earlier intervention, which can significantly improve the quality of life of the affected dog.

Clinical Examination

The initial step in diagnosing hip dysplasia often involves a thorough physical examination by a veterinarian. During this exam, the vet will look for signs of discomfort or pain in the hip area, check for any limitations in range of motion, and observe the dog’s gait. One common method used during these examinations is the Ortolani test, which helps to detect looseness in the hip joints by manually manipulating the hind legs and listening for any clicks or clunks that indicate abnormal movement within the hip socket.

Imaging Techniques

Following the physical exam, imaging tests are typically recommended to confirm the diagnosis and assess the extent of the joint damage:

  • X-rays: Radiographs are the most common and effective way to visualize the bones and joints of the hips. X-rays can show the alignment of the hip joint, the fit of the ball and socket, and any signs of arthritis or degeneration resulting from the dysplasia. For accurate diagnosis, several views might be required to see the degree of hip luxation and arthritic changes.
  • Computed Tomography (CT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): In more complex cases or when more detailed imagery is required, CT scans or MRI might be used. These imaging techniques provide a more detailed look at both the bone and soft tissues around the hips, offering a comprehensive view of the joint’s health.

Treatment Options for Hip Dysplasia in Dogs.

The treatment and management of hip dysplasia in dogs vary based on factors like the severity of the condition, the dog’s age, and overall health. Effective management often combines both non-surgical and surgical approaches, tailored to provide the best quality of life for the affected dog.

Non-Surgical Treatments

Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for dogs with hip dysplasia. Excess weight stresses the joints, exacerbating pain and mobility issues. A diet formulated for joint health, often enriched with omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and chondroitin, can help reduce inflammation and support cartilage repair.

Physical therapy is an essential component of managing hip dysplasia. Specific exercises can help strengthen the muscles around the hip joints, thereby stabilizing the joints and reducing their burden. Hydrotherapy, or swimming, is particularly beneficial as it allows dogs to exercise without putting weight on their hips.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly prescribed to reduce pain and inflammation in the joints. Other medications might include pain relievers and, in some cases, supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin, which are believed to support joint health.

Surgical Treatments

According to the Veterinary Speciality Center of Tuscon, multiple surgical options are available, such as Double or triple pelvic osteotomy (DPO/TPO), Total Hip Replacement (THR), and Femoral Head Osteotomy (FHO). We will discuss a few of them here. 

Total Hip Replacement (THR):

This surgery involves replacing the entire hip joint with artificial components and is considered the gold standard for treating hip dysplasia in severe cases. THR can dramatically improve the quality of life for dogs by eliminating pain and restoring full mobility.

Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO):

This procedure involves removing the femoral head (the ball part of the ball-and-socket joint), eliminating the painful rubbing of bone against bone. FHO is often recommended for smaller dogs or when THERE is not feasible due to cost or other factors.

Preventative Measures

Prevention of hip dysplasia is primarily focused on genetic and lifestyle factors:

Responsible breeding is critical in reducing the prevalence of hip dysplasia. Breeders can use genetic testing and screening methods like OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) or PennHIP assessments to evaluate the hip health of breeding dogs. Only dogs with good hip scores should be bred to minimize the genetic transmission of the trait.

For puppies and young dogs, particularly breeds prone to hip dysplasia, careful exercise management is important. Avoiding high-impact activities that strain the joints, such as jumping or running on hard surfaces, is recommended. Additionally, ensuring that growing dogs do not climb stairs excessively can help prevent the early onset of hip dysplasia symptoms.


In conclusion, managing hip dysplasia in dogs requires a comprehensive approach that includes medical intervention and lifestyle management. Early diagnosis and treatment are key to slowing the progression of the disease and maintaining the dog’s quality of life. For breeders and owners of at-risk breeds, preventative measures can be crucial in reducing the impact of this debilitating condition. 

Read more about canine health at VetGen Pharmaceuticals.