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Hip Dysplasia in Dogs


Joseph Harari

, MS, DVM, DACVS, Veterinary Surgical Specialists, Spokane, WA

Reviewed/Revised Nov 2020 | Modified Oct 2022
Topic Resources

Hip dysplasia is a multifactorial abnormal development of the coxofemoral joint in dogs that is characterized by joint laxity and subsequent degenerative joint disease. It is most common in large breeds. Excessive growth, exercise, nutrition, and hereditary factors affect the occurrence of hip dysplasia. The pathophysiologic basis for hip dysplasia is a disparity between hip joint muscle mass and rapid bone development. As a result, coxofemoral joint laxity or instability develops and subsequently leads to degenerative joint changes, eg, acetabular bone sclerosis, osteophytosis, thickened femoral neck, joint capsule fibrosis, and subluxation or luxation of the femoral head.

Clinical signs are variable and do not always correlate with radiographic abnormalities. Lameness may be mild, moderate, or severe and is pronounced after exercise. A “bunny-hopping” gait is sometimes evident. Joint laxity (Ortolani sign), reduced range of motion, and crepitation and pain during full extension and flexion may be present.

Radiography Radiography of Animals Radiography (generation of transmission planar images) is one of the most commonly used diagnostic tools in veterinary practice even though other imaging modalities such as ultrasonography,... read more Radiography of Animals is useful in delineating the degree of arthritis and planning of medical and surgical treatments. Standard ventrodorsal views of sedated or anesthetized animals can be graded by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, or stress radiographs performed and joint laxity measured (Penn Hip). A dorsal acetabular rim view is used by some surgeons to evaluate the acetabulum before reconstructive surgery. Modified ventrodorsal and dorsoventral projections have also been proposed in an effort to mimic the normal standing posture of dogs. Recent reviews of American and international radiographic screening programs have failed to identify a "gold standard." An evaluation shift toward genome screening may yield more promising results in the future.

Treatments are both medical and surgical. Mild cases or nonsurgical candidates (because of health or owner constraints) will benefit from weight reduction, restriction of exercise on hard surfaces, controlled physical therapy (eg, hydrotherapy) to strengthen and maintain muscle tone, and anti-inflammatory drugs (eg, aspirin, corticosteroids Corticosteroids in Animals Two classes of steroid hormones, mineralocorticoids and glucocorticoids, are naturally synthesized in the adrenal cortex from cholesterol. (Also see The Adrenal Glands.) Mineralocorticoids ... read more , NSAIDs Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs in Animals The importance of pain management and the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in animals has increased dramatically in recent decades, and use of NSAIDs in companion animals... read more Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs in Animals ). Joint fluid modifiers (glucosamines) and acupuncture may be useful in some patients, although most reports are anecdotal.

Surgical treatments include pectineal myotenectomy to reduce pain, triple pelvic osteotomy to prevent subluxation, pubic fusion to prevent subluxation, joint capsule denervation to reduce pain, dorsal acetabulum reinforcement to reduce subluxation, femoral head and neck resection to reduce arthritis, and total hip replacement for optimal restoration of joint and limb functions. Additionally, femoral corrective osteotomies can be performed to reduce femoral head subluxation, although degenerative arthritis may persist.

Prognosis is highly variable and depends on the overall health and environment of the animal. In general, if surgery is indicated and performed correctly, it is beneficial. Animals on which surgery is not performed may require a change in lifestyle to live comfortably.

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