One of the most common health problems that assails dogs is hip dysplasia. This disease occurs by a joint malformation or subluxation of the hip joint, which causes erosion, movement limitations and discomfort. Largely an indiscriminate disease, hip dysplasia is the single greatest contributor leading to canine arthritis. Learn more about the disease below, the causes, symptoms, and which breeds have the highest susceptibility.

What is Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a condition in which a dog’s bones fit poorly in the hip socket. Known as a malformation, the ball the bone is often misshapen, causing it to grind into the socket and wear down the connecting tissue. This inherited disorder is an abnormal formation that causes joint pain, crippling or lameness. When a dog genetically has hip muscle looseness, thin pelvic muscle mass, and tissue laxity, he is more likely to develop hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia occurs when the normally rounded hip joint fits loosely, sliding around and scraping, causing grating or friction to occur with any rigorous activity that requires the bone to move, eroding the cartilage and protective matter around the joint.

What Causes Hip Dysplasia

One of the difficulties of hip dysplasia is that it is almost impossible to avoid, if the dog is genetically predisposed to the disease. Though this disease is heritable, evidence shows that environment and experience are also contributing factors. Larger dog breeds who go on daily dog walks, running, hiking and other activities heavily rely on the joints, cause there to be inflammation and friction around the hip socket. Additionally, nutrition can affect an animal’s potential for hip dysplasia, if he is eating fattening foods, resulting in rapid weight gain or obesity. Heavier dogs (whether by weight or breed size) can negatively impact a dog’s joints by increasing the strain whenever they are used.


  • More than just standard soreness characteristic of athletic individuals, a dog might begin limping around the house when he gets back from a walk, or seem to sit to one side, favoring one leg over another.
  • Signs of an altered gait (preferring one leg, or leaning while running, trotting or walking) may also indicate that a dog is dysplastic.
  • The dog might stagger or have trouble coordinating movement when standing up, laying down, or walking. A previously energetic/active dog may hesitate before jumping, or climbing stairs, and may seem disinclined to get up once he has lain down.

NOTE: If the dog is not diagnosed and treated, the condition could severely inhibit his walking ability in the future.

Dogs most often affected by hip dysplasia:

  • German Shepherds
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Saint Bernards
  • Mastiffs (all breeds)
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Great Danes
  • Rottweilers
  • Bulldogs (all breeds)

*Note Whippets and Italian Greyhounds have almost a 0% likelihood of having any dysplastic joints.