My Dog Has Bad Hips…Help!
24 January, 2012

I know that a lot of older dogs, just like older adults, are plagued by bad hips.  Some dogs, such as Labradors, are pre-genetically disposed to this condition.    I thought I would do some research on this condition to help my friends with Labradors and other big dogs to get to the bottom of it.

First of all, the hip joint is composed of the ball and the socket. The development of hip dysplasia is determined by genetic and environmental factors. Hip dysplasia is the failure of the hip joints to develop normally and they gradually deteriorate and lead to loss of function of the hip joints.

Hip dysplasia is one of the most common skeletal diseases in dogs. Gender does not seem to be a factor, but some breeds are more likely to have the genetic predisposition for hip dysplasia than other breeds. Large breeds, such as the Great Dane, Saint Bernard, Labrador Retriever, and German Shepherd are most commonly affected.  It is rare for smaller breed dogs to have the condition.

I think my hips are OK!

Hip dysplasia often begins while a dog is still young and physically immature. Early onset usually develops after four months of age.


Some of the symptoms are difficulty in getting up; your dog’s reluctance to run, jump, or climb stairs, and limping after running.


Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical exam on your dog, including a blood chemical profile, a complete blood count, an electrolyte panel and a urinalysis. Inflammation due to joint disease is usually noted in the complete blood count.

As part of determining the physical symptoms, your veterinarian will also need a thorough history of your dog’s health, onset of symptoms, and any possible incidents or injuries that might have contributed to your dog’s symptoms. Any information you have on your dog’s parentage will be helpful as well.


Your dog might be treated on an outpatient basis as long as it does not require surgery. The decision for whether your dog will undergo surgery will depend on your dog’s size, age, and intended function (i.e., whether your dog is a working dog, as many large breeds tend to be). It will also depend on the severity of joint looseness, degree of osteoarthritis, your veterinarian’s preference for treatment, and your own financial considerations.

A total hip replacement is done in mature dogs that are not responding well to medical therapy and that are suffering from severe osteoarthritis. In this surgery the ball of the hip joint is removed, leaving muscles to act as the joint.


Exercise can decrease joint stiffness and help strengthen your dog’s muscles. Swimming is an excellent form of physical therapy, encouraging joint and muscle activity without increasing the severity of joint injury.

Weight control is an important aspect of recovery and is recommended to decrease the pressure applied to the painful joint as the dog moves. You and your veterinarian will need to work together to minimize any weight gain associated with reduced exercise during recovery.  Futher, special diets designed for rapidly growing large-breed dogs may decrease the severity of hip dysplasia.

I hope your dog never has to encounter bad hips, especially as a puppy!

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