Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

3 min read
Apr 23, 2024

Hip dysplasia is a common hip defect that affects the ball and socket area of a dog’s hip. The painful condition can affect dogs of all ages, but it can sneak up on pet parents as their puppy enters their golden years. Read on to learn more about hip dysplasia in dogs, from symptoms to treatment options, and discover how a MetLife Pet Insurance policy may help offset some costs.1,2

What Is Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?

In layman's terms, hip dysplasia is a defect in the hip joint that makes the ball and socket grind against the pelvic bone. This is a genetic disorder that affects dogs’ mobility as they grow up.³ Sometimes the ball and socket joint don’t grow at the same rate, causing an unstable area that looks like a “bunny hopping” gait.

Signs of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Usually, routine x-rays reveal the loss of muscle mass, but other symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs include:

  • Avoiding play or activity
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Trouble sitting or laying down
  • Limping
  • Lameness in one or both hind legs

How hip dysplasia affects dogs

As you can imagine, a defective hip can lead to plenty of problems. Dogs can experience daily pain jumping, running, or even sitting. Hip dysplasia can lead to arthritis, which can break down the head of the femur. If left untreated, these issues can interfere with your dog’s quality of life.

Risk Factors of Hip Dysplasia

While you can control some factors that impact your dog’s chances of dealing with hip dysplasia, like their exercise levels and diet, there are a few things that may predispose your dog to the condition. Here are some things that you can’t control that may impact your dog’s chances of being diagnosed with hip dysplasia:

  • Genetics: Your dog may have inherited the disorder from one of their parents.³ A DNA test may tell you what your newly adopted puppy inherited and help you prepare for future medical hiccups.
  • Age: Dogs are typically born with hip dysplasia, but signs of the condition may not be apparent until they are around 6 months of age or after they've developed osteoarthritis due to the underlying condition. Generally, dogs don't develop hip dysplasia after they are 1 to 2 years old and have stopped growing. Paying attention is critical to catch dysplasia in dogs early so it isn’t left untreated. 
  • RevisionBreed: Great Danes, golden retrievers, and German shepherds are large dogs who typically inherit hip dysplasia.³ Take a moment to peruse our dog breed articles and educate yourself about which dog breeds inherit which diseases; it can save you from huge surprises.
A happy chocolate labrador retriever walking outside.

My Dog Has Hip Dysplasia – Now What?

If your dog has been diagnosed with hip dysplasia by your veterinarian, discuss the severity of the hip dysplasia with them. Dysplasia is very common in dogs and some cases are different. Vets measure the severity of the dysplasia based on diagnostic scans and then make their suggestions accordingly.³

Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion. Your dog’s health is a top priority so if your vet recommended surgical intervention and you don’t feel comfortable with surgery, don’t do it until you have all the answers.

Choose a method of treatment

After you have a firm understanding of your dog’s medical case, you can discuss treatment for hip dysplasia with your vet. Here are a few treatment options that may be offered to you:

  • Prescription medications: Your veterinarian may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to help them cope with discomfort and pain.³  Usually, medications are paired with other treatments like exercise and physical therapy, so medication is an assistant rather than a cure.
  • Alternative therapies: Some specialists will offer alternative therapies for dogs with mild cases of dysplasia, including supplements, physical therapy, or acupuncture.³ This can be a better option for older dogs or dogs with less severe dysplasia.
  • Lifestyle changes: Moderate changes to your dog’s exercise and feeding routines can strengthen their muscles. Some pet parents find that hydrotherapy (a form of swimming as physical therapy) is an excellent, low-pressure method to improve hip dysplasia and help their pup lose excess weight.³’⁴
  • Surgery: Sometimes, surgery is unavoidable and your dog will be happier for it. There are three surgical options on the market right now: Double or Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (DPO/TPO), Femoral Head Osteotomy (FHO), and Total Hip Replacement (THR).

Discuss the pros and cons of each procedure with your vet while obtaining quotes for the procedures. These treatments are based on the age of your dog and their lifestyle, so take your time making your decision.

Consider the cost of care

The cost of hip dysplasia surgery can run up in the thousands, whereas supplements may only cost a couple hundred dollars a year. That’s why it’s important to think hard about your lifestyle, your budget, and the impact delaying treatment may have when it comes to deciding how to treat your dog.

For example, depending on where you live, total hip replacements (THR) can cost a minimum of $10,000 per hip, with a recovery time of up to 20 weeks. THR may be best if your dog hikes with you or is a competitive sportsman. On the other hand, hydrotherapy sessions can cost between $90 to $125 per session plus consultation costs.5 Hydrotherapy and other non-surgical routes may take longer to see results but, if your dog is a senior dog or a smaller breed, you can trade off the invasive procedure for time.

Take your time to consider all your options, including learning how MetLife’s pet insurance policy works; our policies may cover surgical and alternative therapies for your dog.¹’²

Preparing for the Future? Don’t Forget Dog Insurance!

No matter the severity of your dog’s hip dysplasia, understand that this defect is extremely common and treatable by most vets. You can rest easy knowing that you can shop around for a care team that will listen to your concerns and steer you toward treatment plans that match your budget and lifestyle.

Do you have a breed of dog that is prone to hip issues, like a greyhound? It’s important to get an insurance policy before they develop any serious conditions to help offset future vet costs. Consider getting a free quote for dog insurance so you can have a policy in your pet parent tool kit. At MetLife Pet Insurance, winner of the “Pet Insurance of the Year” Award, we’re committed to helping you keep your pets happy and healthy.

Dr. Hunter Finn has been paid by MetLife to discuss the importance of choosing pet insurance. He is an integrative veterinary expert first, and social media star second. America’s favorite veterinarian owns Pet Method in McKinney, Texas, where he cares for pets while prioritizing their emotional well-being. When he’s not at his clinic, he’s starring in viral videos on TikTok (2 million followers) and Instagram (500K followers) — where he’s been known to snuggle puppies and conquer the latest dance trends.


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¹ Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.

² Provided all terms of the policy are met. Application is subject to underwriting review and approval. Like most insurance policies, insurance policies issued by IAIC and MetGen contain certain deductibles, co-insurance, exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force. For costs, complete details of coverage and exclusions, and a listing of approved states, please contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC.

³ “Hip Dysplasia in Dogs,” Merck Veterinary Manual

Medical review conducted by Dr. Hunter Finn, 2024

⁴ “Hydrotherapy for Dogs,” American Kennel Club

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