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Hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a polygenic hereditary disease (transmitted by many genes) characterized by instability of the coxofemoral articulation (hip joint) that can lead to a hip subluxation (partial separation of the joint), and lead later  to osteoarthritis (articular structure degeneration).

Genetics and reproduction

The disease is hereditary and caused by the interaction of many genes (polygenic), making its eradication is difficult. Many dogs carry dysplasia genes but do not show any sign of the disease. Therefore, it is important to be very stringent with the selection criteria of breeding dogs and the study of their pedigree; i.e. the hip status of the parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, and if possible of brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts. At this time, the only way to reduce the frequency of dysplasia is to selectively reproduce animals that are free of hip dysplasia.


A dysplastic dog can be diagnosed at a very young age by a veterinarian experienced in canine orthopedics. It is possible to palpate hip instability in a dysplastic dog as early as the age of 3 to 4 months. On the other hand, to be sure that a dog is not dysplastic, one must wait until the dog is 2 years old (age determined by the OFA - Orthopedic Foundation for Animals from the statistics on the age at which the radiographic signs of dysplasia appear). This is because some dogs, with apparently normal hips at the age of 6 or 12 months, show signs of hip dysplasia later in life.

Clinical signs

  • Variable degree of lameness, not always obvious (stiffness, abnormal gait)
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Difficulty going up the stairs or climbing into a car
  • None (some dogs that are very affected may not show any symptoms)

Radiographic exam: sedated or anesthetized animal (as early as the age of 4 to 5 months). Essential to confirm the diagnosis.


  • Medical 
    (medications, weight loss, activity control) Many dogs that are minimally dysplastic will only show minor signs as they get older.
  • Surgical
    Numerous treatments are possible to surgically treat hip dysplasia. The best treatment possibilities are for the young dog that is less than one year old, before the hip joint degenerates. For the young dog, a triple pelvic osteotomy (TPO) allows control of hip instability and prevention of cartilage degeneration. This is the best procedure, as it preserves the hip and allows the patient's normal function in the long term.. For the adult, arthroplasty or excision of the femoral head and neck allows control of the pain related to osteoarthritis, but it modifies the mechanical function of the hip and generally, the dog becomes tired faster. The hip prosthesis allows for an almost normal function, but it is a more complicated and costly procedure. Finally, a recent procedure called denervation of the articular capsule allows a dog with a severely degenerated hip to maintain a good activity level by eliminating pain through destruction of the nervous endings of the articular capsule.


The best way not to have to treat hip dysplasia is to select dogs that do not have it. It is important to be very strict when breeding and think about the long-term well-being of the race.

Dogs with "fair" hips should not be bred (just breed those that have a good or excellent status).

Don't breed a dog who has dysplastic brothers and/or sisters.

If your pet requires specialized surgery that cannot be performed in your hospital, we will transfer its file to one of our specialized surgeons working at the Centre Vétérinaire Rive-Sud, the Centre Vétérinaire Laval or at the Hôpital Vétérinaire Centre-Ville Montréal