Hip Dysplasia: Everything You Need To Know!

Golden Retriever in park

Hip dysplasia is a painful and debilitating condition that can affect any size or breed of dog. However, try not to worry – if you’re reading this blog that means you’re already several steps closer to preventing your dog from developing it and proving that your pooch has a responsible, loving pet parent!

Knowledge is power when it comes to conditions like hip dysplasia, so getting clued up on knowing the signs of hip dysplasia, how to treat it, and most importantly how to prevent it, is the most reliable and sure-fire way of making sure your furry friend has a happy, healthy, active and long life.

Firstly, what is Canine Hip Dysplasia?

The hip joint operates as a ball and socket – the socket being the pelvis, the ball being the top of the thigh bone (femur). Hip dysplasia is when this doesn’t function correctly due to the joint not developing properly or simply not fitting as it should. This causes the pelvis and femur to grind together when the top of the thigh bone should smoothly slide around. Over time this causes the bones in this area to wear down, and eventually the joint stops working completely.

Hip dysplasia is more common in bigger breeds like Saint Bernards, Great Danes, Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, Newfoundlands, Bernese Mountains, and German Shepherds, but can affect all sizes and types of dogs.

What are the symptoms of Canine Hip Dysplasia?

Golden Retriever rolling in field


Our beloved pooches can start displaying signs of hip dysplasia as early as 4 months old! However, others can start showing signs much later and usually in conjunction with developing osteoarthritis.

The signs of hip dysplasia to look out for include:

  • Limping
  • Stiffness
  • Difficulty getting up or lying down
  • Unsteady on their feet/Wobbly walking
  • Slim hips (Indicating muscle deterioration in the back legs or hips)
  • Bunny hopping (where they run with both back legs moving in unison)
  • Being protective of their hips during routine care (e.g. bathing or grooming)
  • Reluctant to exercise

If you notice any of these symptoms, however severe, your first port of call should always be your vet to obtain a diagnosis.

What causes Canine Hip Dysplasia?

Factors that can cause canine hip dysplasia in dogs are:

  • Genetics
  • Excessive Growth Rate
  • Improper weight
  • Poor Nutrition
  • Over Exercising
  • Under Exercising

Canine hip dysplasia requires life long treatment if your dog develops it. To make matters more tricky, most dogs with the condition typically develop arthritis as well later on in their life.

Although the condition can be debilitating, painful, and distressing for both you and your dog, there are many ways you can prevent and help treat canine hip dysplasia.

Get their weight in check

Healthy weight chart for dogs

Overweight or obese dogs are predisposed to having serious medical implications as well as causing and exasperating hip dysplasia. Did you know that 56% of dogs in the USA are classed as overweight or obese… That’s around 50 million dogs!

This extra weight causes unnecessary strain on dog’s joints, including their hips, whilst also increasing their risk of developing heart and respiratory diseases, diabetes, and ultimately shortening their life span. 

Assess whether your dog is overweight by simply placing your palms on either side of your pup’s chest and lightly press down to check if you can feel their ribs. This area is where they accumulate fat. You should be able to feel their ribs upon light palpitation using your hands.

If they’re overweight or obese, start by reducing their food bowl amount by 10% which they’ll barely notice, and ask your vet for further advice regarding their weight management.

Joint Support Supplements

Any vet who sees a dog with joint issues like hip dysplasia and arthritis will recommend that you boost the Glucosamine in their diet. Glucosamine helps maintain synovial fluid that lubricates joints, helping to lessen friction during movement, whether sudden or sustained, and fighting soreness and discomfort in both the short and long term. Any good joint supplement should contain Glucosamine, and these supplements are typically used for prevention or early intervention as they are safe for long term use.

Try Petlab Co.’s Joint Care Chews. Alongside Glucosamine, they also contain Salmon Oil, Turmeric Curcumin, Calcium Fructoborate, and Green Lipped Mussel which are all key ingredients for maintaining tissue pliability and joint fluid viscosity, ensuring that your dog’s joints stay flexible and lubricated - aiding comfort and promoting physicality. Our Joint Care Chews have been scientifically formulated with the sole purpose of maintaining the joint function, whilst supporting bone and joint health. They are perfect for any pet parent wanting to prevent conditions like hip dysplasia or to support a dog who’s displaying symptoms.

Strike the balance with exercise

Doodle pup laying on bed

Unless your vet recommends otherwise, regular, short walks on the leash are best suited to dogs displaying symptoms of hip dysplasia. If they are obviously in pain, rest should take precedent.

Exercise is essential to maintain your four-legged friend’s weight, but it’s important to ensure their exercise is controlled and limited so their joints are preserved and kept safe.  Avoid jumping, skidding, chasing, racing around, and try not to exercise your dog for overly long periods of time.


If your dog’s symptoms are really severe, and prescribed anti-inflammatory medication isn’t working, your vet might suggest intervention via surgery. This might seem dramatic, but if advised it’s usually because it’s the best course of action for your pet. This might involve a full hip joint replacement or a resurfacing/reshaping of the top of the thigh bone.

Surgery bills can be incredibly expensive, so consider insuring your dog as soon as you get them before any symptoms start.

Final Thoughts

As canine hip dysplasia is so often inherited, the best way to reduce the chances of it happening is screening before breeding. If you’re considering breeding your dog, screening programs are available to ensure the hip joints are healthy before you start down that road. Always consult with your vet before breeding too.

If you’re buying a breed that’s known to be prone to hip dysplasia, remember to ask the breeder about hip scores and always consult with your vet.

Also, did you know that we’re on Reddit? This completely free community is open to everyone. Dog lovers, dog owners – all people just like you!

Our Reddit page, Happy Dog Happy Life is a place for like-minded people to engage with one another, discuss things they are passionate about, and post pictures and videos, whilst learning from the community. You’ll be able to interact with like-minded dog owners within a community maintained and managed by the Petlab Co. team.

We strongly believe that happy dogs do indeed make for happy lives! 

Enjoy and explore a completely judgment-free space designed to be your first port-of-call. In Happy Dog Happy Life, there is no such thing as a silly question.



Sarah Milton

Comes from a family of animal lovers and got to grow up with a menagerie of pets! I believe owning a pet is a privilege and I love researching and creating informative, fun content for fellow pet owners to help their furry friends have the happiest and healthiest lives. When I’m not writing blogs, you can find me sharing a walk with my pet dachshund or at a yoga class!

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