Hip Dysplasia in Dogs: All-in-One Guide

Tiffany Tupler, DVM, CBCC-KA
By Tiffany Tupler, DVM, CBCC-KA on Nov. 3, 2020
german shepherd dog looking at the camera inquisitively

Pet parents of large-breed dogs fear the words “hip dysplasia,” but it can happen to dogs of any size.

So, what exactly is hip dysplasia, and why is it such a concern for pet parents? Here’s everything you need to know about hip dysplasia in dogs—from signs and symptoms to treatments and care.

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What Is Hip Dysplasia in Dogs and Puppies?

Hip dysplasia is a condition that occurs during the growth stage in dogs. It results in the loosening of the hip joint, which causes dysfunction and pain.

As the dog grows, the cartilage and bone of the hip begin to wear down. Over time, this causes arthritis, muscle atrophy, and limited mobility.

It most commonly affects large-breed dogs, and research shows that it is hereditary.

What Are the Signs of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs and Puppies?

Although hip dysplasia in dogs may sometimes go undetected, common signs include:

  • Chronic or occasional lameness

  • Limping with no previous trauma or injury

  • Cracking and popping sounds from joints

  • “Bunny hopping” when running

  • Having trouble standing

  • Abnormal sitting positions

  • Having trouble getting on and off furniture, going upstairs, or jumping into cars

Dogs can be very stoic and may not show all of these clinical symptoms. However, this condition is very painful, regardless of whether your dog has symptoms.

Which Breeds Are Prone to Canine Hip Dysplasia? 

German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, and Labrador Retrievers are the most commonly affected breeds, but any large and giant breed dogs are at risk for canine hip dysplasia.

If you have a large or giant-breed dog, set up monthly checkups between 8 weeks and 10 months of age to help determine if surgical options are needed.

How Do You Treat Dog Hip Dysplasia? 

Early diagnosis of the disease can decrease or even prevent the long-term arthritis that is caused by hip dysplasia in dogs. There are several options for treating canine hip dysplasia, including a few surgical options as well as managing the condition through medications. 

Your vet will consider many factors before recommending the proper treatment for your dog. Your pet should have a complete orthopedic evaluation before determining if surgery or medical management is right for you.

Surgical Options

There are many factors to consider before choosing a surgical option. In many cases, surgical intervention has a good prognosis and can return dogs to normal function for a normal life.

Prior to 18 weeks of age, dogs can have a joint-saving procedure called juvenile pubic symphysiodesis. Dogs younger than 10 months can have a procedure called a triple pelvic osteotomy.

For adult dogs that are skeletally mature and have increased joint pain and limited mobility, the most common procedures are total hip replacements and femoral head osteotomies.

Talk to your primary care veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary surgeon to determine the best options for your pet.

What's the Cost of Surgery for Dogs With Hip Dysplasia?

Surgery can eliminate pain that sometimes even life-long medical management cannot. It may decrease the risk and cost of lifelong medications, and sometimes, in the long run, it can end up being the more affordable option.

The cost of surgery varies tremendously and is based on many factors, such as:

  • Procedure type

  • Location

  • Your dog’s age, size, breed, and pre-existing conditions

  • Type of clinical setting (academic, private practice, referral clinic, non-profit, or government agency

To give an example of how much variation there is in cost, some insurance claims for total hip replacements can range from $1,500–$7,000.

But if you compare this to the cost of medical management, which includes pain medications and joint supplements, surgery can end up being much less expensive over time, and could be more effective.

For example, for a dog that lives 10 years that shows signs at age 2, you might spend $4,800–$19,200 over their lifetime for medications to manage the condition:

  • $50–$200: Cost of medications per month (Healthy Paws Pet Insurance estimate)

  • $50 x 12 = $600 per year / $600 x 8 years = $4,800

  • $200 x 12 = $2,400 per year / $2,400 x 8 years = $19,200

This cost does not even include any prescription joint health diets that might be recommended.

Medical Management

Medical management consists of following a multimodal approach to pain management while maintaining joint and muscle health.

Oral joint supplements commonly include ingredients like omega fatty acids, glucosamine, methylsulfonylmethane and chondroitin.

Injectable therapies such as polysulfated glycosaminoglycan injections can also help with joint health.

You can also speak with your primary care veterinarian about a prescription dog food for joint health that can replace daily joint health supplements. Some of these options include:

Depending on your dog’s pain level, prescription pain medications (such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are commonly used to decrease inflammation, which is major cause of pain.

Complementary Treatment

These treatments can be used alongside other treatments.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy and low- to moderate-impact daily exercise encourage joint health and mobility, muscle health, and weight loss.


Acupuncture has been shown to increase muscle strength and joint mobility and also decrease pain.

Weight Management

Regardless of surgical or medical management, any dog suffering from joint pain should be kept at an ideal weight. Keeping your dog at an ideal body condition will ensure that your dog does not have excess weight on his or her joints.

Speak to your primary care veterinarian about a weight-management plan. A healthy weight prevents the joint pain caused by increased weight.

How Long Can a Dog Live With Hip Dysplasia?

With proper surgical and medical management, a dog with hip dysplasia can live a normal, healthy life.

Your dog should see your veterinarian every six months for a physical examination to ensure joint health and promote muscle strength and mobility.

How to Prevent Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

At this time, there is no known way to prevent hip dysplasia in dogs. It appears to be a hereditary condition, and many dogs, especially large and giant breeds, are born with it.

It’s recommended to start joint supplements for high-risk dogs as early as 3 months of age to ensure good joint health and protect the cartilage of the joints.

You should also work with your vet to make sure that you keep your dog at a healthy weight. Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the amount of stress on a dog’s joints.

Tiffany Tupler, DVM, CBCC-KA


Tiffany Tupler, DVM, CBCC-KA


Dr. Tiffany Tupler is a graduate from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine with a certificate in shelter medicine and...

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