Hip Dysplasia in Dogs: How to Manage with Rehabilitation

Hip dysplasia in dogs is a common orthopaedic condition that affects the hip joint. It is caused by an abnormal development of the hip socket, which results in looseness or instability of the joint. This can lead to pain, lameness, and arthritis.

Causes of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Hip dysplasia in dogs is a multifactorial disease which means there is no one factor that causes hip dysplasia. Whilst genetics play a major role in the development of the disease, there are several other factors that can lead to hip dysplasia in dogs. Causes can include:

  • genetics
  • environmental factors, such as over-exercising, diet and weight gain
  • an imbalance between muscle mass and skeletal development which can result in joint laxity
  • early desexing has been linked to hip dysplasia and other diseases (see Torres de la Riva et al 2013, Hart et al 2014, Hart et al 2016)

Symptoms and Diagnosis

The symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs can vary depending on the severity of the condition. Some dogs show only very mild symptoms whilst others may show severe signs. Some common symptoms include:

  • Occasional or chronic lameness
  • ‘Bunny hopping’ when running
  • Swaying hips when walking
  • Abnormal sitting position (unable to sit squarely)
  • Hesitant or incapable to jump into a car or on furniture
  • Pain in the hips or hindquarters
  • Reduced range of motion in the hips
  • Difficulty getting up or down
  • Stiffness after too much exercise
  • Muscle atrophy in the hindquarters

If your dog shows one or more of these symptoms, talk to your veterinarian and explain your concerns. The diagnosis of hip dysplasia in dogs is made by a veterinarian. They will perform a physical examination of your dog and may also order diagnostic tests such as X-rays.


The treatment for hip dysplasia in dogs depends on the severity of the condition. Dogs with mild or intermittent clinical signs be managed with physical rehabilitation, weight management, home environment and daily exercise modification, low impact strengthening exercises to stabilise the hip joint, and pain medication. More severe cases of hip dysplasia may require surgery.

Rehabilitation for Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Rehabilitation is an important part of the treatment plan for dogs with hip dysplasia. Rehabilitation can help to reduce pain, improve function, increase hip range of motion and strength, stabilise the hip joint and thus slow down the progression of osteoarthritis in the joint.

There are a variety of rehabilitation modalities that can be used for dogs with hip dysplasia. Some common modalities include:

  • Therapeutic Exercise Therapy: Low impact targeted strengthening exercises, active range of motion exercises and proprioceptive exercises are important to strengthen the muscles around the hip joint to support and stabilise the hip, improve core strength, and increase proprioception and balance (Bockstahler et al 2019, Dycus et al 2017, Prydie and Hewitt 2015)
  • Manual therapy: Manual therapy includes passive range of motion exercises to maintain or increase range of motion; soft tissue massage therapy, myotherapy and trigger point therapy to relieve tight and shortened muscles and release myofascial adhesions and trigger points that have formed due postural changes and compensatory patterns; and a stretching program to address adaptive shortening of muscles, most notably the hip flexor (Dycus et al 2017, Robertson and Mead 2013)
  • Physical modalities: can be used to support therapeutic exercises and include laser therapy, therapeutic ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) (Bockstahler et al 2019, Dycus et al 2017, Zink and Van Dyke 2018)
  • Hydrotherapy: Hydrotherapy allows active muscle contraction with minimal weight bearing on joints and bones (De Smedt 2019, Dycus et al 2017)

The specific rehabilitation modalities that are used will vary depending on the individual dog’s needs. We can help develop a personalised rehabilitation plan for your dog.

Benefits of Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation can provide a number of benefits for dogs with hip dysplasia, including:

  • Reduces pain
  • Improves range of motion
  • Strengthens muscles to support and stabilise the hip joint
  • Strengthens core muscles for balance and limb coordination
  • Slows down the progression of osteoarthritis
  • Improves flexibility
  • Improves overall quality of life

Get in Touch if Your Dog has Hip Dysplasia

If you are considering managing your dog’s hip dysplasia with rehabilitation, get in touch with us. We come to your home and assess your dog in their familiar environment, provide exercise and manual therapy, and create a personalised home exercise program for your dog.

If you would like to have a chat about your dog’s condition, give us a call on 0435 774 688 or send us a message through our contact form.