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                                       Hip Dysplasia

As with ANY lameness, you should consult your Veterinary Surgeon for Advice. 

Hip dysplasia

Causes of hip dysplasia are considered to be multifactorial; including both hereditary and environmental factors. Rapid weight gain and growth through excessive nutritional intake may encourage the development of hip dysplasia. Mild repeated trauma causing joint lining inflammation may also be important.


A good video explaining HD 

Signs and Symptoms

The clinical signs of hip dysplasia are lameness, reluctance to rise or jump, shifting the weight to the forelimbs, loss of muscle mass on the rear limbs, and pain when the hips are manipulated. Dogs may show clinical signs at any stage of development of the disease, although many dogs with hip dysplasia do not show overt clinical signs. Some dogs are painful at 6 to 8 months of age but recover as they mature. As the osteoarthritis progresses with age, some dogs may show clinical signs similar to people with arthritis such as lameness after unaccustomed exercise, lameness after prolonged confinement, and worse problems if they are overweight.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for CHD include breed (genetic), rapid growth, and nutrient excesses.

What is hip dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is a common developmental disease of the hip. As a puppy grows the soft tissue support for the hip may become loose (lax) and this can allow the head of the femur (the ball of the ball and socket joint) to slip in and out of the acetabulum (socket). This abnormal laxity of the hip can damage the tissues of the joint leading to osteoarthritis.

Below - a radiograph showing severe hip dysplasia
notice how the head of the femur is not fitting well in to the acetabulum

Hip Dysplasia

What sort of dogs are affected?

Hip dysplasia occurs most commonly in medium-large breed dogs of any breed. Some breeds are commonly affected whereas others are rarely affected (e.g. Greyhound). However, hip dysplasia can occur in smaller dogs and also sometimes in cats.

What causes these diseases?

The cause of hip dysplasia is not fully understood. Certainly there is a complex genetic basis and it is likely that several different genes are involved. It is also likely that environmental factors (exercise, growth rate, nutrition) play a role and obesity will worsen the condition. At Liverpool we are investigating the genetic basis of the disease in collaboration with colleagues at CIGMA at the University of Manchester.

What are the signs of these diseases?

Hip dysplasia can cause pain and lameness although in some dogs the disease may remain clinically silent for many months or years. Often in puppies there is a swaying hindlimb gait and some dogs may sit down at exercise because of the discomfort. Usually the condition occurs in both hips and so signs may relate to joint stiffness in both hindlimbs. Later in life, the osteoarthritis initiated by hip dysplasia may progress to cause pain, stiffness and lameness.

How are these conditions diagnosed?

A clinical examination by a veterinary surgeon is the first step in diagnosis. Certain clinical tests can indicate if hip dysplasia is present but it may be necessary to perform these tests under heavy sedation or anaesthesia. If hip dysplasia is suspected, radiographs (x-rays) such as the one above are the most usual initial step in making a diagnosis.

What can be done to treat the condition?

The treatment of hip dysplasia in young dogs is controversial. Certainly only those dogs that have disability should be treated - many dogs with hip dysplasia never need treatment. Conservative treatment involves exercise restriction and possibly pain-relieving medication and can be very effective. As an affected dog matures the pain associated with hip dysplasia can subside although the hip will be prone to osteoarthritis which may cause stiffness and pain in later life. Some veterinary surgeons advocate surgical treatment in puppies. In older dogs where the osteoarthritis of the hip is causing intractable pain that does not respond to medical treatment and weight loss, one might consider a total hip replacement. This operation is similar to that performed in people and can relieve pain and provide excellent function. Careful specialist evaluation of the dog is required prior to such a surgery. At Liverpool we use the Biomedtrix canine hip system, which is probably the most widely used hip system for dogs in the world today.


The information in this paget has been designed to provide a comprehensive, but brief overview of the many factors involved in the discussion of canine hip dysplasia. The status of your animal, and the need for any diagnostic or therapeutic intervention, can only be determined by careful and individual evaluation by your veterinarian or other consultation with a board-certified veterinary orthopaedic surgeon.


Further Information can be found on the following links:




KCBVA (Kennel Club)

HIP DYSPLASIA (University of Liverpool)


International Hipscore Comparison Chart

 The information above has been written by by Professor John Innes RCVS Specialist in small animal surgery (orthopaedics)


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