Surgery to Treat Hip Dysplasia in Dogs – Read Before You Feed

Updated: June 12, 2023


Hip dysplasia is a concerning condition for owners of large- and giant-breed dogs, but it is important to note that it can affect dogs of any size or breed. This painful ailment significantly diminishes a dog’s quality of life, and witnessing their suffering can be distressing for owners. However, responsible dog ownership and gaining knowledge about potential health issues such as hip dysplasia can greatly contribute to maintaining your dog’s comfort.

Understanding the symptoms, treatment options, and preventive measures associated with hip dysplasia is crucial for all dog owners. By familiarizing yourself with these aspects, you can ensure the well-being and happiness of your beloved canine companion.

Hip dysplasia is characterized by an abnormal development of the hip joint, leading to joint laxity, pain, and discomfort. Some common symptoms include difficulty in getting up or lying down, decreased activity levels, lameness, and a noticeable decrease in the range of motion of the hip joint. If you notice any of these signs, it is essential to consult with a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis.

Treatment options for hip dysplasia vary depending on the severity of the condition. In mild cases, management techniques such as weight control, exercise modification, and joint supplements may be sufficient to alleviate discomfort and improve mobility. For more severe cases, surgical interventions like total hip replacement or joint preservation surgeries may be recommended to restore normal joint function.

Prevention plays a vital role in minimizing the risk of hip dysplasia. When choosing a dog, it is advisable to research the breed’s susceptibility to the condition and select a responsible breeder who performs health screenings on their breeding dogs. Additionally, maintaining a healthy weight, providing regular exercise, and avoiding activities that strain the hip joints during a dog’s early growth stages can help reduce the chances of developing hip dysplasia.

What Is Canine Hip Dysplasia?

Canine hip dysplasia is a developmental condition that affects the hip joint in dogs. It occurs when the hip joint fails to develop properly, leading to abnormalities in the structure and function of the joint. It is one of the most common orthopedic conditions in dogs and can cause significant pain, discomfort, and mobility issues.

In a healthy hip joint, the ball-shaped head of the femur (thigh bone) fits snugly into the socket of the pelvis (acetabulum). In dogs with hip dysplasia, this congruency is disrupted, resulting in varying degrees of joint instability and malformation. The condition can affect one or both hips.

There are two main components to canine hip dysplasia: joint laxity and secondary joint changes. Joint laxity refers to the excessive movement and looseness of the hip joint, which leads to abnormal wear and tear. Over time, this can result in secondary changes such as inflammation, cartilage damage, and the development of osteoarthritis.

Surgery to Treat Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

The exact causes of hip dysplasia are not fully understood, but it is believed to have a genetic component. Large and giant breed dogs are more prone to the condition, although it can affect dogs of any size or breed. Other factors that may contribute to the development of hip dysplasia include rapid growth, improper nutrition, excessive exercise at a young age, and environmental factors.

Symptoms of canine hip dysplasia can vary depending on the severity of the condition. Common signs include difficulty in getting up or lying down, reluctance to climb stairs or jump, decreased activity levels, lameness or limping, swaying gait, and pain or sensitivity in the hip area. These symptoms may worsen with age or after periods of physical activity.

Diagnosing hip dysplasia typically involves a combination of physical examination, X-rays, and sometimes additional imaging techniques such as hip joint aspiration or computed tomography (CT) scan. Treatment options range from conservative management approaches to surgical interventions, depending on the severity of the condition and the impact on the dog’s quality of life.

What Causes Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?

Hip dysplasia in dogs is influenced by various factors, with genetics playing a significant role. The condition is hereditary and is particularly prevalent among larger dog breeds, including the Great Dane, Saint Bernard, Labrador Retriever, and German Shepherd Dog. However, other elements such as rapid growth, exercise patterns, weight management, and nutrition can contribute to the development of hip dysplasia, especially when combined with genetic predisposition.

Certain puppies require specific nutritional considerations, and they benefit from specially formulated food designed for large-breed puppies. These specialized diets help regulate their growth rate, preventing excessive growth that could strain their developing skeletal system. By allowing the joints to develop at a controlled pace, these foods help reduce the risk of skeletal disorders such as hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia, as well as other joint conditions.

Surgery to Treat Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Inadequate nutrition can also increase the likelihood of hip dysplasia in dogs, as can improper exercise levels. Obesity, in particular, places significant stress on a dog’s joints, exacerbating any existing conditions, including hip dysplasia, and potentially leading to its development. Consulting with your veterinarian about the most suitable diet for your dog and determining the appropriate amount of exercise can help maintain their physical well-being and minimize the risk of hip dysplasia.

It is crucial to provide your dog with a balanced diet and to monitor their weight to ensure they remain at a healthy level. Your veterinarian can guide you in selecting the right type and amount of food to support your dog’s specific needs. Similarly, they can recommend an exercise regimen tailored to your dog’s breed, age, and overall health. Regular exercise helps maintain joint health, muscle strength, and overall fitness, while avoiding excessive strain that could contribute to hip dysplasia.

The Role of Surgery in Treating Hip Dysplasia

Surgery plays a significant role in the treatment of hip dysplasia, particularly in more severe cases where conservative measures have not provided sufficient relief or when the condition significantly impairs a dog’s quality of life. Surgical intervention aims to address the underlying anatomical abnormalities of the hip joint and alleviate pain, improve joint function, and enhance the dog’s mobility. There are several surgical options available for the management of hip dysplasia:

  1. Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (TPO): TPO is typically performed in young dogs (around 6 to 12 months of age) before the onset of osteoarthritis. In this procedure, the pelvic bone is cut and repositioned to provide better coverage and stability to the hip joint. TPO can help prevent or delay the progression of hip dysplasia and improve joint congruity.

  2. Femoral Head and Neck Excision (FHO): FHO involves the removal of the femoral head (the ball-shaped part of the hip joint) and neck. This procedure eliminates the painful bone-on-bone contact and allows the formation of a functional “false joint” with scar tissue. While FHO results in some loss of joint function, it can provide pain relief and improved mobility, particularly in smaller dogs or those with other health issues that make more extensive surgeries challenging.

  3. Total Hip Replacement (THR): THR is considered the gold standard for severe cases of hip dysplasia. It involves the removal of the arthritic joint surfaces and the implantation of prosthetic components to recreate a functional hip joint. Total hip replacement provides long-term pain relief, restores near-normal joint function, and can greatly improve a dog’s quality of life. It is typically reserved for larger dogs or those with advanced hip dysplasia.

The choice of surgical procedure depends on various factors, including the dog’s age, size, overall health, the severity of hip dysplasia, and the expertise of the veterinary surgeon. A thorough evaluation and consultation with a veterinary specialist are essential to determine the most appropriate surgical approach for each individual case.

It’s important to note that surgical intervention for hip dysplasia is typically combined with post-operative rehabilitation, including physical therapy, exercise modification, and pain management, to optimize the dog’s recovery and long-term outcomes.

Glucosamine for Dogs With Joint Disease

Glucosamine is a popular supplement often used in the management of joint disease in dogs. It is a naturally occurring compound found in the body, particularly in the cartilage and synovial fluid surrounding the joints. Glucosamine plays a crucial role in maintaining the health and integrity of joint tissues.

In dogs with joint diseases such as osteoarthritis or hip dysplasia, the cartilage that cushions the joints can deteriorate over time, leading to pain, inflammation, and reduced mobility. Glucosamine supplementation aims to provide the building blocks necessary for cartilage repair and maintenance, potentially alleviating symptoms and improving joint function.

When given as a supplement, glucosamine is usually derived from shellfish or synthesized in a laboratory. It is available in various forms, including tablets, chews, liquids, and powders, making it convenient for dog owners to administer to their pets.

Glucosamine works by stimulating the production of substances that help repair damaged cartilage and maintain its structural integrity. It also aids in the production of synovial fluid, which lubricates the joints and reduces friction during movement. By supporting these essential processes, glucosamine may help reduce inflammation, promote joint mobility, and improve overall comfort for dogs with joint disease.

It is important to note that while glucosamine has shown promising results in many dogs, its effectiveness can vary. Some dogs may respond better to glucosamine supplementation than others, and the degree of improvement can differ. Additionally, the benefits of glucosamine may take time to become noticeable, and long-term use may be necessary to maintain its effects.

Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO) Surgery

Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO) surgery is a surgical procedure commonly used to address hip dysplasia and alleviate associated pain and mobility issues. FHO is often considered when other surgical options, such as total hip replacement, are not feasible or appropriate due to factors like the dog’s size, age, or concurrent health conditions.

During an FHO procedure, the femoral head (the ball-shaped end of the thigh bone) and its associated neck are surgically removed. By removing the femoral head, the bone-on-bone contact that causes pain and discomfort in an arthritic hip joint is eliminated. This allows scar tissue to form, creating what is called a “false joint” or pseudoarthrosis. Over time, the surrounding muscles and tissues provide support and stability to the hip joint.

FHO surgery aims to provide pain relief and improve mobility in dogs with hip dysplasia or other conditions that cause hip joint instability or degeneration. While FHO results in the loss of the natural joint, many dogs can still regain good function and mobility after recovery. FHO is particularly suitable for small to medium-sized dogs, cats, or dogs with concurrent health issues that may make more extensive surgeries challenging.

Post-operative rehabilitation and physical therapy are crucial components of FHO surgery. They help strengthen the surrounding muscles, improve range of motion, and facilitate the formation of scar tissue for a stable pseudoarthrosis. Your veterinarian may recommend a tailored rehabilitation plan that includes exercises, controlled activity levels, and pain management strategies to optimize the dog’s recovery and long-term outcomes.

It’s important to note that FHO surgery may result in some changes in the dog’s gait and range of motion. However, most dogs can still lead active and comfortable lives following the procedure.

As with any surgical intervention, there are potential risks and complications associated with FHO surgery, such as infection, implant migration, or formation of excessive scar tissue. It’s essential to discuss these risks with your veterinarian and follow the recommended post-operative care instructions to minimize complications and ensure a successful recovery.

Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Hip dysplasia can manifest in dogs at various stages of their lives. Some dogs may exhibit signs as early as four months old, while others develop the condition alongside osteoarthritis as they age. Regardless of the timing, it is important for owners to recognize the common symptoms associated with hip dysplasia. The specific symptoms experienced by a dog can depend on factors such as the severity of the disease, the level of inflammation present, the extent of joint laxity, and the duration of the dog’s experience with hip dysplasia.

The symptoms of hip dysplasia can range in intensity. In milder cases, dogs may exhibit subtle signs such as occasional stiffness or difficulty in rising after rest. As the condition progresses, more noticeable symptoms may arise. These can include lameness or limping, reluctance to participate in physical activities or exercise, decreased mobility and range of motion in the affected joint, and an altered gait characterized by a bunny hopping or swaying motion.

  • Decreased activity
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Difficulty or reluctance rising, jumping, running, or climbing stairs
  • Lameness in the hind end
  • Swaying, “bunny hopping” gait
  • Grating in the joint during movement
  • Loss of thigh muscle mass
  • Noticeable enlargement of the shoulder muscles as they compensate for the hind end
  • Stiffness or limping

Pain is a common aspect of hip dysplasia, and it can vary in severity depending on the individual dog. Some dogs may display overt signs of discomfort, such as vocalization or difficulty lying down and getting up. Others may exhibit more subtle signs, such as a reluctance to be touched in the hip area or behavioral changes indicative of pain, such as decreased appetite or irritability.

Diagnosing Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

During your dog’s regular checkup, your veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical examination. In some cases, this examination alone may raise suspicions of hip dysplasia. However, in other instances, it is important for owners to communicate any signs of discomfort or abnormal behavior that their dogs may be experiencing.

One of the initial steps your veterinarian may take is to manipulate your dog’s hind legs, assessing the looseness of the joint and checking for indications of grinding, pain, or reduced range of motion. Additionally, blood work may be conducted as part of the physical exam to evaluate any inflammation associated with joint disease, which can be detected through a complete blood count. Your veterinarian will also gather information about your dog’s health history, including any previous incidents or injuries that might have contributed to the symptoms, as well as details about your dog’s parentage if available.

Surgery to Treat Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

To obtain a definitive diagnosis, radiographs or X-rays are usually required. Your veterinarian will capture images of your dog’s hip joints to assess the degree and severity of hip dysplasia, which will help determine the most appropriate treatment plan for your dog.

By conducting a comprehensive physical examination, considering the dog’s symptoms and history, and employing radiographic imaging, veterinarians can accurately diagnose hip dysplasia and devise a tailored approach to address the condition effectively. Open communication between owners and veterinarians is vital in providing the best care for dogs with hip dysplasia.

Juvenile Pubic Symphysiodesis (JPS) Surgery

Juvenile Pubic Symphysiodesis (JPS) surgery is a surgical procedure primarily performed on young dogs to address certain types of hip joint abnormalities, including hip dysplasia. It is commonly recommended for puppies between 16 and 20 weeks of age, before the growth plates in the pelvis close.

During JPS surgery, a portion of the pubic symphysis, which is the cartilage connecting the two pelvic bones at the front, is surgically removed or partially fused. This procedure aims to alter the growth pattern of the pelvis, allowing for improved hip joint alignment and stability as the puppy continues to grow. By altering the growth trajectory, JPS surgery can help prevent or minimize the development of hip dysplasia and associated joint problems.

The goal of JPS surgery is to promote a more normal hip joint conformation and reduce the risk of hip dysplasia progression. By providing early intervention, JPS surgery can potentially help avoid or reduce the need for more extensive surgical interventions later in the dog’s life, such as total hip replacement or femoral head ostectomy.

After JPS surgery, the puppy will require a period of restricted activity and careful monitoring during the recovery phase. Close follow-up with the veterinarian is essential to ensure proper healing and assess the progress of the hip joint development.

It’s important to note that JPS surgery is not suitable for all cases of hip dysplasia or hip joint abnormalities. The eligibility for JPS surgery depends on several factors, including the dog’s age, breed, severity of the condition, and the veterinarian’s assessment.

Treating Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

  1. Weight Management: Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for dogs with hip dysplasia, as excess weight can exacerbate joint stress. Your veterinarian may recommend a balanced diet and portion control to help your dog achieve and maintain an optimal weight.

  2. Exercise Modification: Adjusting the intensity and type of exercise can help minimize strain on the affected joints. Low-impact activities such as swimming or walking on soft surfaces may be encouraged, while high-impact activities like jumping or rough play should be avoided.

  3. Physical Therapy: Physical therapy can be beneficial in managing hip dysplasia. Techniques such as range-of-motion exercises, hydrotherapy, and therapeutic massage may help improve joint mobility, reduce pain, and strengthen supporting muscles.

  4. Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be prescribed to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation associated with hip dysplasia. Other medications, such as joint supplements (e.g., glucosamine and chondroitin), may also be recommended to support joint health.

  5. Assistive Devices: Assistive devices like orthopedic beds, ramps, and harnesses can assist your dog in everyday activities, reducing strain on the affected joints and enhancing their mobility.

  6. Nutritional Supplements: Specific supplements may be recommended to support joint health and cartilage integrity. Omega-3 fatty acids, for example, have anti-inflammatory properties that can benefit dogs with hip dysplasia.

In cases where hip dysplasia is severe or if conservative treatments do not provide sufficient relief, surgical options may be considered. Surgical procedures can range from joint repositioning and stabilization to total hip replacement, depending on the individual dog’s condition and the expertise of the veterinary surgeon.

Preventing Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Preventing hip dysplasia in dogs requires a proactive approach that encompasses several key aspects. While it may not be entirely possible to eliminate the risk, these preventative measures can help minimize the likelihood of its occurrence or reduce its severity:

  1. Responsible Breeding: If you are considering getting a dog, choose a reputable breeder who conducts health screenings for hip dysplasia and other genetic disorders. By selecting dogs with good hip scores and without a history of hip dysplasia in their lineage, you can reduce the chances of passing on the condition to future generations.

  2. Balanced Nutrition: Providing a well-balanced diet is crucial for proper growth and development, including the skeletal system. Feed your dog a high-quality, age-appropriate diet recommended by your veterinarian. For large and giant breed puppies, consider specially formulated food that supports controlled growth to reduce the risk of skeletal abnormalities.

  3. Maintain a Healthy Weight: Obesity puts additional strain on the joints, increasing the risk of hip dysplasia and worsening its symptoms. Keep your dog at a healthy weight through proper portion control, a balanced diet, and regular exercise.

  4. Appropriate Exercise: Regular exercise is important for maintaining overall health and muscle strength but should be balanced to avoid excessive stress on developing joints. Avoid activities that involve repetitive high-impact movements or jumping, especially in young dogs. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the appropriate exercise routine for your dog’s age, breed, and individual needs.

  5. Environmental Modifications: Provide a safe and comfortable environment for your dog. Use orthopedic bedding to cushion their joints, avoid slippery surfaces that can cause falls or strain, and provide ramps or stairs for easy access to elevated areas.

  6. Regular Veterinary Check-ups: Schedule routine check-ups with your veterinarian, especially during your dog’s growth stages. Regular examinations and X-rays can help identify any potential issues early on and allow for prompt intervention.

  7. Joint Supplements: Consult with your veterinarian about the potential benefits of joint supplements, such as glucosamine and chondroitin. These supplements may support joint health and reduce the risk of developing hip dysplasia or alleviate symptoms in dogs already affected by the condition.

While these preventative measures can significantly reduce the likelihood of hip dysplasia, it is important to remember that some factors, such as genetics, cannot be completely controlled. However, by implementing these strategies, you can provide the best possible environment for your dog’s musculoskeletal health and overall well-being.

Prognosis for Dogs With Hip Dysplasia

The prognosis for dogs with hip dysplasia can vary depending on several factors, including the severity of the condition, the age of the dog, the presence of any concurrent health issues, and the chosen treatment options. It’s important to note that hip dysplasia is a chronic condition, and while it cannot be cured, it can often be managed to improve a dog’s quality of life.

For dogs with mild to moderate hip dysplasia, conservative management approaches such as weight management, exercise modification, physical therapy, and the use of pain medications or joint supplements can help alleviate symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease. With appropriate care and lifestyle adjustments, many dogs can lead active and comfortable lives.

In more severe cases or when conservative treatments do not provide sufficient relief, surgical interventions may be considered. Surgical options can range from joint repositioning techniques to total hip replacement. These procedures aim to improve joint function, reduce pain, and enhance the dog’s mobility. The success of surgery depends on various factors, including the skill of the veterinary surgeon and the individual dog’s response to the procedure.

It’s important to note that even with surgical intervention, complete resolution of hip dysplasia may not be possible. However, surgical procedures can often provide significant improvement in pain relief and mobility, allowing dogs to lead more active and comfortable lives.

While hip dysplasia is a lifelong condition, early detection and appropriate management can significantly impact a dog’s prognosis. Regular veterinary check-ups, adherence to treatment plans, and a commitment to maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle can greatly improve a dog’s overall well-being.

Frequently Asked Question

What are the surgical options available to treat hip dysplasia in dogs?

Surgical options for hip dysplasia include Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (TPO), Femoral Head and Neck Excision (FHO), Total Hip Replacement (THR), and Juvenile Pubic Symphysiodesis (JPS) in some cases.

How do I know if my dog needs surgery for hip dysplasia?

The decision for surgery is typically based on the severity of the condition, the dog’s age, overall health, and the extent to which it affects their quality of life. A thorough examination and consultation with a veterinary specialist are necessary to determine if surgery is the best course of action.

What is the success rate of hip dysplasia surgery?

The success rate varies depending on the procedure performed, the individual dog’s response to surgery, and post-operative care. Overall, surgical intervention can significantly improve a dog’s pain relief, mobility, and quality of life.

Are there any risks or complications associated with hip dysplasia surgery?

Like any surgical procedure, there are potential risks, including infection, implant-related issues, or complications during recovery. However, these risks are generally low when performed by experienced veterinary surgeons.

How long is the recovery period after hip dysplasia surgery?

The recovery period can vary depending on the procedure and the dog’s response to surgery. It typically involves a period of restricted activity, physical therapy, and pain management. Full recovery can take several weeks to months.

Will my dog need rehabilitation after hip dysplasia surgery?

Yes, post-operative rehabilitation is crucial for successful outcomes. Physical therapy and rehabilitation exercises help strengthen muscles, improve range of motion, and aid in the dog’s recovery and return to normal activities.

Can my dog lead a normal life after hip dysplasia surgery?

Yes, many dogs can lead active and comfortable lives following hip dysplasia surgery. While there may be some adjustments in their activities or limitations, surgical intervention aims to improve their mobility and quality of life.

What is the cost of hip dysplasia surgery?

The cost of surgery can vary based on factors such as the procedure performed, geographical location, veterinary fees, pre-operative evaluations, and post-operative care. It’s best to consult with a veterinary specialist to get an accurate estimate of the costs involved.


Surgery plays a vital role in the treatment of hip dysplasia in dogs, especially in moderate to severe cases where conservative measures are insufficient. Surgical interventions aim to alleviate pain, improve joint function, and enhance a dog’s overall quality of life.

There are various surgical options available, depending on factors such as the dog’s age, size, overall health, and the severity of the condition. Procedures like Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (TPO), Femoral Head and Neck Excision (FHO), and Total Hip Replacement (THR) are commonly used to address hip dysplasia.

TPO is often performed in young dogs to reposition the pelvic bone and improve joint stability. FHO involves removing the femoral head and neck, creating a “false joint” that reduces bone-on-bone contact and provides pain relief. THR is considered the most advanced option, replacing the entire hip joint with prosthetic components to restore near-normal joint function.

The choice of surgery depends on careful evaluation and consultation with a veterinary specialist. Post-operative rehabilitation, including physical therapy, controlled activity, and pain management, is essential to optimize recovery and long-term outcomes.

While surgery can provide significant benefits, it is important to note that it may not completely cure hip dysplasia. However, it can greatly improve a dog’s quality of life by reducing pain, enhancing mobility, and delaying the progression of the disease.



Paula patton is an avid dog lover and pet enthusiast with a wealth of knowledge in pet food and treatment. With her vast experience, she has gained valuable insights into the world of pets and their needs. Through her writings, Paula shares her expertise, helping fellow pet owners make informed decisions for their furry companions. Her passion for animals shines through every word, making her a trusted source for all things related to pets.

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