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How to Tell If Your Dog Has Hip Problems

Slowing down and becoming less active are all signs your senior dog is getting older. But how can you tell the difference between old age and your dog having hip problems? A dog’s hip joint is composed of a ball (the femur head) and socket. The ball and socket allows the joint to move and easily rotate the back legs. A dog with a bad hip may experience hip subluxations, when their hip joint pops in and out, or arthritis which can make every step painful.

Common Signs of Canine Hip Conditions

Typical clinical signs your dog has a hip condition include hind end weakness or signs of joint pain when your pet walks. Hip dysplasia and arthritis are most common in geriatric dogs, but it’s not uncommon for the signs of dysplasia to show in young puppies as well.

Puppies at risk for developing hip dysplasia will be routinely monitored during their annual checkup for signs that the condition is worsening. But, how do you spot the signs of hip problems in an older dog? Here are a few signs that your dog’s hips are hurting:

  • Dog appears wobbly or unsteady on their feet
  • Reluctance to stand up
  • Limping or struggling to climb the stairs
  • Slow movement or limited mobility
  • One-sided limps, often caused by the hip joint stiffening in one leg
  • Difficulty getting up after laying down for a long period of time
  • Loss of muscle or atrophy in the back legs

Hip Dysplasia Mobility Support

corgi wheelchair
Walkin’ Wheels Dog Wheelchair
German Shepherd DM harness
Buddy Up Harness

Common Hip Problems in Dogs

Some of the most common hip problems in dogs include: hip dysplasia, arthritis, hip dislocation, and hip fractures. Read on to learn more about these common canine hip conditions:

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is an inherited condition and puppies are born with hip dysplasia. Often confused with arthritis, the two conditions are different. Hip dysplasia occurs when the femur head does not fit properly into the hip joint. The severity of the dysplasia varies and may worsen over time. Your veterinarian will identify the signs of dysplasia during regular checkups and advise you on the right treatment plan for your pet. Proper exercise and diet are important to keep hips healthy. The addition of a dog hip brace may be recommended to support the joint and alleviate hip pain as the dog stays active. 


The most common form of arthritis in dogs is age-related and degenerative in nature. Degenerative joint disease (DJD) or osteoarthritis occurs as dogs age and the natural wear and tear on their body from constant activity. As dogs get older, the cartilage in their joints becomes thin and cells die which causes inflammation in the hip joint. In severe cases, the cartilage deteriorates making it harder for the joint to function as normal. This ongoing joint inflammation leads to painful hips, swelling in the joint, and loss of strength. If an arthritic dog becomes less active, their muscles may begin to atrophy making it harder for them to move. Canine arthritis can be medically managed with joint supplements, physical therapy, and even massage. 

Hip Dislocation

A dog’s hip is typically dislocated following a traumatic injury, most often occurring after being hit by a car or taking a big fall. The dislocation occurs when the trauma displaces the femur head out of the hip socket, causing it to pop out of place. A dislocated hip will result in sudden lameness and a great deal of pain. Hip dislocations are painful. Pain will be relieved only when the hip can be returned into its proper position and the joint is reduced. In extreme dislocation cases, the hip will need to be repositioned during surgery. Although most hip dislocations do not require surgery and are treated manually by a veterinary professional.

Hip Subluxation

Similar to a dislocated hip, a hip subluxation occurs when the femoral head pops out of the hip joint in a partial separation of the joint. The main difference between a dislocation and a subluxation is that when a dog’s hip subluxates it pops back into place. Often a popping or clicking sound can be heard each time the dog takes a step. Surgical treatment is an option, however a multi-modal approach of therapy, exercise, has also proven effective for managing joint subluxation.

Hip Fractures

Joint fractures can lead to lameness, pain, swelling at the hip joint. In young dogs, fractures most commonly occur at the growth plate during development. Since the growth plate is typically weaker than the rest of the bone, making it more apt to break. Proper hip alignment is key to the injury healing correctly. During hip surgery, pins and screws are placed inside the joint to stabilize the fracture.

If a dog can not stand or walk on their own a brace may not be enough, in these advanced cases a dog wheelchair is recommended for continued mobility.

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