Golden Labrador on the beach

Hip dysplasia in dogs

Hip dysplasia is a genetic condition found in dogs from an early age, which can cause a lot of pain and stiffness, leading to arthritis of the affected joint.

What is hip dysplasia?

Dysplasia, meaning ‘abnormality of development’, is when a dog’s hip joint grows abnormally so there is unusual wear and tear on the joint surfaces.  This can cause inflammation which creates swelling and pain for your dog.

Hip dysplasia can affect all dogs, but more medium to large breeds suffer from the condition, which can be made worse if your pet is overweight due to the increased strain this puts on their joints.

How do you know if your dog has hip dysplasia?

Dogs will usually show signs of hip dysplasia between six to 12 months old. This is because, while this is a genetic condition controlled by multiple genes and passed from generation to generation, the hip joint is still developing in young dogs.

Although the problem arises from ‘bad’ genes, development can be affected by how much exercise your dog receives as a puppy, their weight and their general bone development.

The key symptoms of hip dysplasia can vary but include:

  • stiffness
  • difficulty moving around (especially when getting up or lying down)
  • limping on one or both legs
  • lack of motivation to exercise – doesn’t want to, or is reluctant to play or go out for a walk
  • unsteady on their feet
  • protective of their hip(s) during routine care such as bathing
  • poor muscle development over the rear end 

Dogs are very good at hiding their pain, especially when at home, so it’s important to keep an eye on them and take them to a vet if you see them displaying any of the above symptoms.

Are there specific breeds that are more prone to hip dysplasia?

While any dog can develop hip dysplasia, it is more often seen in medium to large breeds and, in particular, pedigree dogs such as:

  • Labradors
  • Golden retrievers
  • German shepherds
  • Rottweilers 

How is hip dysplasia treated?

Non-surgical procedures

  • Your vet may give you anti-inflammatories to help your dog with the pain
  • If your dog is overweight, your vet may suggest a diet with a gentle exercise routine to help alleviate the strain on your dogs’ joints
  • Physiotherapy 
  • Plenty of rest - with limited, controlled and regular exercise - when your dog’s hips are causing them pain

Though the above non-surgical treatments will help alleviate some of your dog’s discomfort, the symptoms of hip dysplasia can be seen throughout their lives and may need ongoing treatment such as routine use of anti-inflammatories, exercise management, physiotherapy, hydrotherapy or acupuncture.


In severe cases, when your dog doesn’t improve and is still in pain, your vet may opt to carry out surgery. The vet will discuss a few different options with you.

The options will vary, but all procedures will aim to stabilise the hip to reduce pain. 

— Page last updated 26/05/2023