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Hip Dysplasia in Puppies? It Happens, Here's What to Do

How To Care for a Puppy with Hip Dysplasia

By Meredith Alling. October 30, 2013 | See Comments

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    PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian

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Puppies Running In A Field

Most pet parents probably believe that proper joint health is something they won't have to worry about until their pup reaches their senior years. The truth is, hip dysplasia can occur in puppies as young as five months old. Learn more here.

Hip dysplasia is a painful condition that occurs as a result of improperly formed hip joints. When the hip joints are malformed, the hind legs are able to move around loosely in the hip socket, leading to uncomfortable wear and tear. This condition can affect any breed at any time, though it is most common in larger, older dogs. However, hip dysplasia in puppies can also develop as young as five months old, and it is important to identify and treat the condition before it gets worse.

Hip Dysplasia Causes in Puppies

The primary cause of hip dysplasia is genetics. A puppy born to parents with hip dysplasia is twice as likely to develop the condition. However, it is also possible for the condition to skip generations. This means that a puppy with affected parents will not always develop hip dysplasia, but they may carry the gene and pass it on to later generations.

Diet and exercise can also be factors in the development of hip dysplasia. A high-calorie diet during puppyhood can cause rapid weight gain and place stress on the hip joints. Because of this, puppies should be fed a quality diet that is appropriate for their age and size.

Improper exercise during the period when bones develop can also exasperate a predisposition. Puppies and young dogs should be discouraged from jumping and landing on their hind legs, and they also shouldn’t run on pavement, as these actions cause a pounding effect on the hip joints.

Hip Dysplasia Symptoms in Puppies

Dogs who have hip dysplasia are born with hips that appear to be normal, but as the dog grows and the muscles and skeleton develop, joint abnormalities result in structural problems.

The symptoms of hip dysplasia in puppies can vary, and some puppies may show no symptoms at all until the condition has progressed. Keep an eye out for the following:

  • Limping, waddling, or unsteadiness when walking
  • Swiveling hips when seen from behind
  • Running or jumping with hind legs together in a “bunny hop”
  • Clicking sound when walking or running
  • Difficulty getting up, lying down, or going up stairs
  • Reduced activity

Diagnosing Hip Dysplasia in Puppies

The first step in diagnosing hip dysplasia in a puppy is a physical examination. Your veterinarian will most likely extend your puppy’s hind legs to check for pain, watch them walk around the room, and check for a “pop” when the dog is on their back and the leg is moved away from the body. If your veterinarian suspects hip dysplasia, x-rays will be ordered to confirm the diagnosis. In most cases the puppy will need to be sedated to minimize the discomfort caused by this procedure.

Hip Dysplasia Treatment for Puppies

While there is no cure for hip dysplasia, there are ways to make your puppy’s life more comfortable:

  • Feeding a healthy diet, maintaining a normal weight, and avoiding activities that put pressure on the joints can keep the condition from getting worse
  • Massage, joint supplements, warm bedding, and anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving medications can manage day-to-day symptoms and improve mobility
  • In some cases, surgery may be appropriate, especially for puppies who are within a certain growth window

Your veterinarian will help you decide on the course of action that is right for your puppy.

More on Hip Dysplasia

Treat Your Dog's Hip Dysplasia through Diet
Two Common Causes of Dog Hip Pain
How Healthy Dog Weight Can Prevent Disease

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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Hip Dysplasia at a glance

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  • 1Hip dysplasia is the result of improbably formed hip joints
  • 2Puppies as young as five months old can develop hip dysplasia
  • 3While the primary cause of hip dysplasia is genetics, diet and exercise can also be factors
  • 4There is no cure for hip dysplasia, but there are ways to make your dog’s life more comfortable