Hip Dysplasia; Description and Treatments

Hip dysplasia is a common musculoskeletal disease seen in dogs. There is no gender predilection, but certain large breeds are most likely to be predisposed such as Labrador Retreivers, Great Danes, Saint Bernards and German Shepherds. Hip dysplasia can be seen in any size dog but large breeds are more likely to show clinical signs and lameness. Any age dog can develop hip problems but it is usually seen in either young dogs with congenital dysplasia or older dogs with developemental dysplasia.

Hip dysplasia in younger dogs with congenital dysplasia, often present after 4 months of age with non specific hind limb lameness which is worse after exercise, lack of muscle tone and are reluctant to run, jump or climb stairs. They often show difficulty in rising, narrow hind limb stance and often “bunny hop” when running. The early signs of the disease are often related to the looseness and laxity in the hip joint. Radiographically the first signs of juvenile dysplasia are femoral head subluxation and slow development of the acetabular rim(http://cal.vet.upenn.edu/projects/saortho/chapter_83/83mast.htm). Later changes show more severe subluxation(poor fit of the ball and socket joint) and remodeling of the bone and cartilaginous surfaces. This remodeling causes the degenerative joint disease and inflammation to occur.

normalhip1                                                             severlysubhip1

Normal Hip                                                                                         Severely sub luxated hip with bone remodeling and cartilage damage

Developmental Dysplasia occurs in older dogs that develop dysplasia from degenerative changes in the cartilaginous surfaces, remodeling of the bones and laxities that occur in the hip musculature that stabilize the hip joint. These dogs will present with lameness of varying degrees, especially after exercise, and will often resist extension and adduction of the hip joint. Muscle atrophy of varying degrees is often present.

How can I prevent hip dysplasia?


A growth rate that is too rapid and excessively fast weight gain can increase the risk for hip dysplasia in dogs that are genetically predisposed. This is particularly true in very large breeds. When puppies grow too quickly, the structure of their bones and joints cannot keep up with the rapid growth in their muscle mass, weight and strength. This can cause inconsistencies in the stability of the hip joint. Feeding your dog a balanced nutritious diet is important. There are many opinions on food but feeding a diet that is lower in calcium and fat is important.


In large breed dogs, selecting puppies from parents that are in good physical shape, show no outward signs of lameness, and have been certified by OFA as being dysplasia free. If possible, look at the parents and watch them move around, looking for signs of “bunny hopping” as they run or muscle atrophy in the rear legs.


Exercise is very important in your new puppy. We want to focus on low impact exercise that will build up good muscle tone. Strengthening the muscles of the hip joint but not over working the muscles will help, remember hip dysplasia can be brought on by instability in the joint. By building good symmetrical muscle tone in the gluteal muscles, we can avoid instabilities that will result in trauma to the cartilage and bone structures.

Adequan® and Hip Dysplasia

Research done at Cornell University’s Baker Institute for Animal Health prior to 1990 investigated the hypothesis that administration of Adequan (gylcosaminoglycan polysulfates) would lessen the signs of incipient hip dysplasia. The dogs in the study were Labrador Retrievers, bred from dogs of normal and dysplastic hip conformation. Adequan was administered twice monthly, from 8 weeks of age to 8 months of age. The results indicated that early treatment of susceptible pups reduced signs of incipient hip dysplasia. In a nutshell, the puppies in this study showed less signs of hip dysplasia than puppies that did not receive adequan.

How can I tell if my dog has hip dysplasia?

You can have an examination done by your veterinarian who will palpate the hips and likely recommend radiographs.

Treating the Dog with Hip Dysplasia

There are surgical and medical management options for treating your dog with hip dysplasia. If the dog is severely painful and medical options are not enough, surgical intervention may be required. Surgical options include a total hip replacement and femoral head and neck osteotomy.

Medical management has to be a multimodal approach and is the most common form of therapy used and we will briefly discuss several options.

Joint Supplements

Joint supplementation is very important and includes both oral products and products given by injection. The products we recommend at this time include oral products such as the Synovi G4®, Dasuquin® and injectable products such as injectable hyaluronic acid and Adequan®.

Synovi G4®


Synovi G4® softchews are available from us for your pet, some information from their website is included here:

With Synovi G4®, getting older doesn’t have to mean that pets feel older. Synovi G4® is a unique multimodal formulation developed to help maintain joint health and flexibility in dogs as they age.

Key Benefits
Synovi G4® is based on our established Synovi® support matrix of joint health agents and blend of antioxidants, and it is enriched with Boswellia serrata and Turmeric to support overall joint health
First step in a total joint health management protocol
Supports joint health in dogs as they age
Contains antioxidants and joint health ingredients
Palatable soft chew

For use in dogs only. Recommended to support joint function and flexibility. http://www.bayerdvm.com/show.aspx/synovi-g4-soft-chews



What is Dasuquin®?

We have combined over ten years of clinical use and research on our joint health supplement Cosequin® with our research in advanced joint health ingredients in developing Dasuquin®, a cost-effective formulation for dogs, available only through your veterinarian.

Dasuquin combines NMX1000®* ASU (avocado/soybean unsaponifiables) and decaffeinated tea with Cosequin’s FCHG49®* glucosamine hydrochloride and TRH122®* low molecular weight chondroitin sulfate to provide the most comprehensive joint health management formula available for dogs.

Dasuquin is a dual synergistic formula: its specific glucosamine hydrochloride and low molecular weight chondroitin sulfate have demonstrated synergy in stimulating cartilage matrix production,1 while ASU also acts synergistically with glucosamine. http://www.nutramaxlabs.com/dog/dog-joint-bone-health/dasuquin-for-dogs



Numerous studies show that Adequan® Canine (polysulfated glycosaminoglycan) can slow the cartilage from breaking down and actually supports the repair process. And unlike nutritional supplements, Adequan® Canine is FDA-approved* so you can be assured of its effectiveness. Adequan® Canine (polysulfated glycosaminoglycan) is a prescription, water-based, intramuscular, polysulfated glycosaminoglycan (PSGAG) that helps prevent the cartilage in your dog’s joint from wearing away. It helps keep the cartilage healthy and intact, so that the bone in the joint cannot touch other bones. No other drug for arthritis can do that. http://www.adequancanine.us/about/en/product_description.shtml

Pain Management is an integral part of management of hip dysplasia for the well being and comfort of our pets. This is usually achieved by the use of a non-steroidal anti- inflammatory medication. There are many of these and their uses are a matter of preference to the client and practitioner. We won’t discuss individual medications as each case is different and NSAID therapy should be prescribed for the individual instead of the disease.

Class IV or Low Level Laser Therapy

Therapy laser is a modality that uses light to favor and accelerate the body’s natural healing processes. The laser beam is moved over the skin so that the light energy (photons) penetrates the tissue where it interacts with various molecules (chromophores) that cause different biological effects. It produces a photochemical, photothermal and photomechanical effect. When you have a partially torn cruciate ligament we can use the benefits of anti-Inflammatory effects, analgesic effects, accelerated tissue repair and cell growth, improved vascular activity and increases in metabolic activity to benefit the joint and improve healing. Laser therapy provides a “viable chance to avoid an expensive surgery”. The alternative is to try medical management and start laser treatment immediately. If it is going to work well, the result is evident within six weeks. Surgery can always be done later if the patient is one of the few that does not respond favorably to this approach. The frequency of treatments depends on the extent of the injury and will be recommended to you at the examination and subsequent rechecks.