9 signs your dog may suffer from this debilitating condition

There’s nothing more heartbreaking than seeing our beloved pets unable to enjoy being active and playful.

Unfortunately, when our dogs are suffering, they can’t tell us what’s bothering them. But our pet parent intuition knows when something is up.

There are many conditions that cause our dogs to avoid activity but hip dysplasia is particularly debilitating.

This is a condition that affects mostly large and giant breed dogs like Saint Bernards, Great Danes, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers, and German Shepherds. But small and medium-sized breeds can get it too.

In simple terms, hip dysplasia is an abnormally formed hip socket. The ball and socket don’t meet each other properly causing the joint to rub and grind instead of sliding smoothly. This causes pain and lameness. In its most severe form it can cripple your dog.

Hip dysplasia is one of the most common skeletal diseases seen in dogs.

Here are 9 signs your dog may suffer from this debilitating condition:

Decreased activity

Difficulty getting up

Reluctance to run or jump

Won’t climb stairs

Lameness in hind legs

Bunny hopping

Back legs are unnaturally close together

Loss of muscle mass in thigh muscles

Enlarged shoulder muscles from taking excess weight off hips

Hip dysplasia may affect both hips or just one. And it can start when your dog is young… sometimes as early as 5 months. Or you may notice a problem as your dog is aging and the joint is degenerating. Without early intervention, hip dysplasia will cause osteoarthritis.

If your dog is suffering from early onset hip dysplasia, the symptoms they experience will relate to the looseness or laxity in the joint. Later disease results in problems caused by degeneration of the joint and the ensuing arthritis.

Causes of hip dysplasia

There is a very strong genetic component to this orthopedic disease.

If you buy a large purebred dog from a breeder, the first question to ask is if the parents and grandparents are OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) certified. And ask to see the certifications.

Parents and grandparents with good hips are less likely to have puppies with bad hips, but it’s no guarantee they won’t.

If you rescue a dog, it’s a crapshoot. Selective breeding is the only prevention… and there’s still no guarantee.

Nutrition plays an important role. If a dog predisposed to hip dysplasia grows too quickly, gains weight too quickly or is obese, they have an increased likelihood of developing the disease. If you feed a lower fat, lean diet to a large breed puppy it will promote slower growth.

And feeding a premium food like Husse Valp Maxi (for large breed puppies), Optimal Giant and Lamm & Ris Giant may improve the odds. These foods are formulated to provide the nutrition required to minimize the health concerns associated with large breeds.

In addition, these three foods contain salmon oil. The Omega-3s in fish oil are a natural anti-inflammatory and provide many other health benefits. You can learn more about these benefits in my article Omega-3 Fatty Acids…Your Pet Needs Them Too!

And for the doggy already suffering from hip dysplasia, your vet may suggest adding fish oil to their diet.

Exercise can play a role too. And this one’s a double-edged sword. A young dog that’s over-exercised and is predisposed to the disease has a greater likelihood of developing it. But dogs with greater muscle mass are less likely to get it.

Hmmm!  The answer is exercise your dog but don’t overdo it.

Treating hip dysplasia

Once diagnosed, your vet’s treatment recommendation will depend on many factors such as your dog’s age, severity of the disease, your dog’s activity level and its size.

Surgery is an option, but it’s expensive. For most people, medical management is the likely choice.

Many medications are on the market today that will halt the degeneration of the joint. But any deformity or degeneration that exists will not go away.
Besides anti-inflammatories and pain meds, medical management may include:


Weight management

Warm and comfortable sleeping area

Physical therapy

Supplements including glucosamine, chondroitin, and Omega-3s

Your vet will want to follow-up with regular exams and possibly new x-rays to evaluate the progression.

This is one of those conditions that may mean lifestyle adjustments for your dog. But if caught early, it’s possible to slow the progression and enable your baby to have a good quality of life.

Does your dog suffer from hip dysplasia? How have you treated it? Share in the comment section at the top of the page.


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