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6 Things Every Dog Owner Should Know About Hip Dysplasia


Hip dysplasia is a common debilitating disorder in dogs. Once symptomatic, it's difficult and expensive to treat. Luckily, there are steps you can take to reduce your puppy's chances of developing hip dysplasia later on.

What is Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?

Hip dysplasia is a malformation of the socket joint of the hip bone where the thigh connects to the rest of the body. Hip Dysplasia is a polygenic trait, meaning that a number of different genetic factors lead to hip joints that are too lax ("loose," weak, or unstable) to function properly; which in turn eventually causes the pain and limited mobility seen in hip dysplasia. Environmental factors play a role as well.

What are the Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?

According to Dr. Carol Beuchat of the Institute of Canine Biology, hip dysplasia symptoms can be identified as early as four months. Here's what to look for in your dog.

  • Arthritis : This is not the same as the common "arthritis" humans get in old age, but it does share the characteristics of joint pain and stiffness. Also, like human arthritis, you may hear clicks and pops when the affected joint moves.
  • Lameness or Abnormal Gait : Your pooch may have difficulty walking or even lose the ability to get around altogether, with many dogs developing a characteristic "hopping" gait. You may notice your dog having a harder time standing up or otherwise moving after rest. A dog with hip dysplasia may also have difficulty jumping and going up stairs.
  • Muscle Weakness : Muscle weakness is usually secondary and caused by disuse. Depending on the dog's behavior (i.e., reduced overall activity vs. adopting an abnormal gait), this muscle weakness may be confined to the hind legs or seen in the front legs, as well.
  • Irritability : Dogs with hip dysplasia deal with significant pain and, unlike humans, can't understand why. As a result, they may become fearful or angry and lash out. If your pooch's disposition suddenly turns negative, hip dysplasia may be the cause.

Although all these symptoms are classic signs of hip dysplasia, they can be caused by many other conditions. Be sure to bring your dog to a vet for a diagnosis.

Which Dog Breeds are Most Likely to Get Hip Dysplasia?

Although hip dysplasia is thought to be more common in large dogs, it's not because larger frames are more susceptible. Instead, it's the stress rapid growth puts on the connective tissue of the joints. Smaller breeds prone to obesity actually have the greatest risk.

According to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, popular dog breeds with the highest incidences of hip dysplasia include:

  • Pugs
  • Bulldogs
  • Norfolk Terriers
  • Mastiffs
  • St. Bernards
  • German Shepherds
  • Great Danes
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Newfoundlands
  • Rottweilers

How Can Dog Owners Prevent Hip Dysplasia?

Genetic susceptibility doesn't mean actually developing this condition is a sure thing. Environmental factors are a major factor that makes the difference between a quirk in a dog's genetic code and a painful disease. The good news? The most important environmental factor is one you can easily control as a dog owner: their diet.

How is Diet Related to Hip Dysplasia?

A classic cause of hip dysplasia is too-rapid rapid bone growth. This can occur when puppies are overfed or given diets with excessive calcium. Dog owners should stick to a balanced diet and avoid calcium supplements. Obesity can also put added stress on already overtaxed joints, leading to hip dysplasia and worsening its symptoms. A diet that is properly portioned and nutrient rich is crucial for maintaining a healthy weight. Protein content is another major dietary factor. Although some still believe that high protein diets contribute to canine skeletal diseases, this is based on outdated information that has since been refuted by more recent and scientifically rigorous studies. In fact, high protein dog foods, such as those made with natural raw ingredients, may prevent hip dysplasia.

Is Raw Dog Food the Best Diet for Preventing Hip Dysplasia?

Diet is clearly the biggest controllable influence for growing puppies. Unfortunately, commercial pet foods are high in carbohydrates, contain imbalanced nutrient profiles, and are made with questionable ingredients. That's why many dog owners today are turning to high-quality raw pet foods.

Compared with commercial alternatives, Raw Pet Food is:

  • High in protein, which helps to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Nutritionally balanced, providing just the right amount of nutrients.
  • Made with the natural ingredients dogs have adapted to thrive on.

The bottom line? Don't let low-quality foods slow your dog down!