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Dog Hip Dysplasia

Dog Hip Dysplasia

Hip Dysplasia in German Shepard

Dog Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a common joint disease of dogs. It results from abnormal development of the hip joint as a puppy grows. Symptoms include moderate to severe pain and stiffness in one or both hips and can appear at any age. Hip dysplasia is hereditary and is found in many animals (including cats) but it primarily affects large breed dogs such as German shepherds, Labradors, golden retrievers, Rottweilers, great Danes and St. Bernards.


The dog’s hip joint is where the femur (leg bone) attaches to the pelvis (hip bone). It is a ball and socket joint in which the almost spherical top of the femur (the femoral head) fits into the acetabulum, a cup-like depression in the pelvis. A layer of cartilage covers the joint surfaces, allowing smooth, nearly frictionless action over a wide range of motion. A fibrous joint capsule and several strong straps of tissue (ligaments) help keep everything in place. See figure.


Dogs affected by hip dysplasia are born with normal hips that then develop abnormally during rapid growth. In the dysplastic hip, the ball and socket do not meet properly. The acetabulum is too shallow and the femoral head too flat. The connective tissues supporting the joint may be lax. These abnormalities yield an unstable joint, and degenerative joint disease is the result. Abnormal motion in the joint causes accelerated wear. Cartilage damage occurs, joint tissues are inflamed, and bone spurs form. This causes pain. Degenerative changes tend to increase the instability of the hip, and a vicious cycle ensues.

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