Hip Dysplasia in Dogs: Treatment and Prevention

Hip dysplasia is treated both medically and surgically. Medical treatment includes restricting activity and giving an NSAID analgesic such as Rimadyl, and a joint chondroprotectantsuch as Cosequin or Adequan to relieve pain and inflammation and to repair damaged cartilage. Weight loss and moderate exercise are also important.

It is important to exercise lame dogs on a leash and not allow them to run, jump, or play as long as they exhibit pain. Swimming is an excellent exercise that improves muscle mass and joint flexibility without overstressing the hips.

After reviewing the X-rays, your veterinarian may recommend hip surgery. Early surgery in selected puppies can prevent some cases of degenerative joint disease. Surgery is also indicated for dogs who continue to experience pain and lameness despite medical treatment.

There are five surgical options; technical factors govern the choice. Triple pelvic osteotomy and femoral osteotomyare two operations performed on puppies who do not have degenerative joint changes. The goal of both is to position the femoral head more deeply in the acetabulum. Normal joint function is thus maintained and arthritis may not develop, although this is not always the case.

Pectineus myectomy isa relatively simple operation in which all of the pectineus muscle is removed on both affected sides. This operation does not slow the progress of joint disease but does relieve the pain for some time.

Femoral head and neck excision arthroplasty isan effective operation that provides relief for intractable hip pain. The head of the femur is removed, allowing a fibrous union to replace the ball-and-socket joint. The operation is usually reserved for dogs who weigh less than 36 pounds. Total hip replacement isthe most effective procedure for dogs 9 months and older who have disabling degenerative joint disease in one or both hips. The operation removes the old joint and replaces it with a new, artificial joint. The procedure requires special equipment and is usually performed by an orthopedic specialist. Good results are obtained in more than 95 percent of cases.

Dorsal acetabular rim arthroplasty-building up the acetabular rim with bone from other sites in the body to create a deeper socket-is another surgical option that is currently the subject of investigational studies.


Preventing excessive weight gain in puppyhood and keeping the puppy from placing undue stress on the hips will delay the onset of hip dysplasia in many dogs with a genetic predisposition. It may also lead to a less severe form of the disease. Feed puppies a quality food in amounts appropriate for normal (but not accelerated) growth. Puppies at risk for hip dysplasia should be fed a calorie-controlled diet. Overweight puppies should be given a calorie-restricted diet. Discuss this with your veterinarian. Vitamin and mineral supplements have no proven benefit in preventing or treating hip dysplasia, and may even be detrimental if given in excess.

Preventing hip dysplasia in a bloodline is based on selective breeding practices. Hip dysplasia is a moderately heritable condition.It is twice as common among littermates who have one dysplastic parent. Experience shows that repeatedly using only dogs with normal hips for breeding stock significantly reduces the incidence of hip dysplasia in susceptible bloodlines.

Information on breed risk is available through the OFA and PennHip. In breeds in which hip dysplasia is a particular problem, prospective puppy buyers are advised to check pedigrees for OFA, PennHip, or GDC certifications, particularly for sires and dams. Ideally, you will also be able to find evaluations of littermates of the sires and dams, as well as the grandparents.

This article is excerpted from “Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook” with permission from Wiley Publishing, Inc.