Hip dysplasia in dogs

Written by Dr Andrew Miller MRCVSDr Andrew Miller MRCVS is an expert veterinary working in the field for over 10 years after graduating from Bristol University. Andy fact checks and writes for Pure Pet Food while also working as a full time veterinarian. Pure Pet FoodPure Pet Food are the experts in healthy dog food and healthy dogs featured in media outlets such as BBC, Good Housekeeping and The Telegraph. Working with high profile veterinary professionals and nutritionists, Pure Pet Food are changing dog food for the better. - Our editorial process

Dog’s hips go through a lot, they hold most of the weight from a dog’s upper body, alongside dealing with the impact from the running, jumping, and playing dogs get up to on the daily.

A condition that parents of large dogs are often warned about, hip dysplasia is a degenerative illness that can cause your dog a lot of pain. Although larger breeds are more prone to the condition, small breeds can suffer with it too, even more so if they are overweight.

What is hip dysplasia in dogs?

Dysplasia basically means ‘abnormal development’ and to understand hip dysplasia, you need to know how the anatomy functions in a dog’s hip to enable movement: The joints in the hip work as a ball and socket which should slot together perfectly, allowing your dog to move with ease.

However, when the ball and socket have not developed sufficiently, they won’t fit together as they should and will begin rubbing and grinding against each other. This causes a lot of friction.

Consequently, the hip joints will become painful and progressively decline causing the degenerative condition of hip dysplasia. Usually, this starts to occur whilst a puppy is growing and will cause your pooch a lot of pain, stiffness and eventually arthritis. Hip dysplasia and arthritis are connected, because if your dog has hip dysplasia, they will almost always develop arthritis as a result.

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What causes hip dysplasia in dogs?

Hip dysplasia is primarily considered as a hereditary illness, meaning it only really occurs through breeding dogs with this condition. However, other external factors can influence the early onset and worsening of hip dysplasia for dogs with the predisposed genetics for it. For example:

  • Rapid growth rate as a puppy so the joints don’t have the chance to develop fully

  • Obesity adding extra, unnecessary pressure to the hips

  • Joint trauma

  • Too much or too little exercise as a youngster

  • Poor nutrition/diet

Dog breeds prone to hip dysplasia

Generally, large and giant dog breeds are the most likely to develop hip dysplasia due to the extra weight that’s placed on their joints. Breeds such as the Great Dane, German Shepherd, Newfoundland, Bernese Mountain Dog and Golden Retriever are just a few of the bigger dogs prone to hip dysplasia.

Surprisingly, it is not just the large dogs that are susceptible to the condition. For instance, Pugs and French Bulldogs are susceptible to hip dysplasia even though they are relatively small dogs.

As these dogs are prone to being overweight, it can cause them to develop this debilitating condition due to their joints not being equipped to hold the added weight. Nutrition and lifestyle are key to preventing the onset of hip dysplasia in all dogs.


  • 'Bunny-hopping' - running with both back legs together

  • Decreased activity and a reluctance to go on walks

  • Difficulty rising, jumping, getting up the stairs

  • Pain

  • Stiffness

  • Bigger shoulder muscles from compensating for hind end

  • Limping

  • Lameness in back end

If you think your dog is displaying any of these symptoms, consult your vet for a diagnosis and they may perform an x-ray to determine if it is hip dysplasia. Typically, the symptoms will begin when your pup starts growing.

However, some dogs have an incredibly minor case, so they may not show any signs of the condition initially. It’s not uncommon for some dogs to show no indication of dysplasia until they are much older, it can often take a long time before your dog to becomes symptomatic.

How to treat hip dysplasia in dogs

Hip dysplasia requires lifelong treatment and many dogs do extremely well if you are attentive to your dog’s needs. Hip dysplasia is incurable, however with constant management there are multiple ways to ensure your dog lives a happy and comfortable life. For example:

  • healthy diet that includes all the necessary nutrients

  • Weight control as obesity adds extra pressure to the joints

  • Controlled exercise routines

  • Physical therapy

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) prescribed by your vet

  • Several rest periods when needed

  • Hydrotherapy

Most dogs with hip dysplasia will eventually develop arthritis in their hips, so it’s really important that you try to manage this condition the best that you can, to ensure your dog gets the best quality of life. Your dog might not be able to do everything they once could, so be understanding and patient with your furry friend.

If daily management isn’t effective at all, your vet could recommend surgery to help your dog’s condition.

Can hip dysplasia in dogs be prevented?

As it’s a genetic condition, it can only be fully prevented by stopping breeding dogs that are known to have dysplasia. Screening is available to determine a dog’s hip score, which is a system used to determine if a dog has hip dysplasia.

The hip score is compared against the Breed Specific Statistics and your breeder should be aware of your pup’s hip score. Beware of breeders that are not reputable - if you’re getting a puppy, make sure you ask them about their hip score.

Even though it’s predominantly hereditary, keeping your dog at a lean, healthy weight is essential to helping hip dysplasia. Obesity can worsen the condition immensely by creating additional strain on the joints.

Therefore, giving your dog a healthy, nutritious diet alongside a controlled exercise routine will help prevent the symptoms of hip dysplasia getting worse and causing the hip joints to deteriorate entirely.

What's the best dog food for hip dysplasia?

Yes, giving your dog the best quality of life starts with their food. Great dog food will drastically improve the symptoms of hip dysplasia whilst also making sure your dog is healthy in all aspects.

Ultra-processed dog food that is enhanced with artificial colours and flavours will be more damaging for your dog in the long run than you may realise. All the nasty, artificial ingredients pumped into foods such as kibble will leave your dog nutrient deficient and feeling hungry.

As a result, they will want to eat more food which will lead to weight gain and as we know, obesity is one of the biggest external factors that influences the worsening of hip dysplasia. Ingredients and portion control are key to preventing this.

Pure is real, balanced dog food that’s full of natural ingredients to ensure your pooch gets all the nutrients they require alongside feeling fuller for longer. After telling Pure all about your dog, we’ll create a personalized menu that caters for all of your dog’s dietary needs alongside recommending the perfect portion size for your pup.

Key to aiding overall joint mobility and hip dysplasia are joint supplements. Omega 3 oils, glucosamine, and chondroitin are packed into Pure for this very reason.

Omega 3 is necessary to reduce the inflammation and swelling in the joints that causes hip dysplasia to be so painful for your pooch.

Additionally, Pure contains glucosamine and chondroitin which are incredibly useful ingredients for dogs with dysplasia as they work to decelerate the breakdown of cartilage. Cartilage protects the ends of the bones, allowing them to move smoothly past each other without any friction. The less damaged the cartilage is, the less joint and bone deterioration there is.

Choosing a healthy dog food can considerably help to prevent hip dysplasia, or improve the impact that the condition is currently having on your furry friend. Our dogs are part of the family, and nobody wants to see a member of the family in pain, so make sure you are managing their hip dysplasia the best you possibly can.

  1. Hip Dysplasia Scheme Breed Specific Statistics Canine Health Schemes, 2019
  2. Emerging insights into the genetic basis of canine hip dysplasia Veterinary Medicine (Auckland), 6, May 2015, 193-202, https://doi.org/10.2147/VMRR.S63536
  3. Diagnosis, prevention, and management of canine hip dysplasia: a review Veterinary Medicine (Auckland), 6, May, 2015, 181-192, doi:10.2147/VMRR.S53266