Hip Dysplasia Can Cause Arthritis in Dogs and Cats

Hip Dysplasia can CAUSE arthritis in dogs

With the advent of many, MANY, MANY veterinary drugs designed to treat canine arthritis (Not sure I should name them all here), much has been said by Big Pharmaceuticals about arthritis treatment, but very little is published about how to prevent arthritis in the first place. Until now. Read on, dog lovers!

Arthritis in dogs is one of the most common conditions treated by veterinary clinics

But it’s not all bad news. At least old age means that our companion animals are living longer! However, just like in older humans, older dogs (and cats) start to develop age-related changes and conditions they wouldn’t develop when they were young.

What I’m going to describe to you is why Hip Dysplasia, which is something some dogs are born with, can lead to arthritis years and years later. Your understanding of how this happens can help you prevent arthritis in your old dog by making changes in how you raise your young dog. There are actions we can take to prevent Hip Dysplasia from turning into arthritis

Dysplasia in its purest form is a malformation of the hip joint on one or both sides, leading to a femur that does not fit correctly into the pelvic socket, and/or poorly developed muscles in the pelvic area. Remember it is not arthritis! Rather, arthritis forms because of the looseness of the hip joint caused by the congenital and environmental disease.

It’s very important to your dog’s health that you understand the difference!

The causes of hip dysplasia are considered heritable, but new research conclusively suggests that environment also plays a role. Meaning, if your puppy grows up too quickly, or gets injured, or you overwork the hips with too much exercise too early, the hips may either not have time to develop properly, or will be literally forced by repeated motion into developing improperly. Research into environmental causes or contributions to hip dysplasia are ongoing, so my recommendations here must by definition remain generalized, but hopefully you’ll get the idea. Just because your dog has Hip Dysplasia does not mean she will develop arthritis

What happens, then, if your dog has a poorly developed hip joint, is that she starts to subconsciously move differently to compensate and reduce pain. She may either “bunny hop”, where both legs move together, or she won’t run as much, or she’ll be stiff all the time. Since the hip cannot move fully, the body compensates by adapting its use of the spine, often causing spine, knee or muscle / joint problems to arise.

Chronic mechanical misuse of the hip, spine and knees then leads to arthritis, which is simply inflammation within a joint.

So what do we do to prevent Hip Dysplasia from turning into arthritis? Here’s a short list, we can talk about the details more when you call our office for an in-person appointment:


Bone surgery, for instance the Triple Pelvic Osteotomy or TPO can be performed by a board-certified veterinary surgeon, if the dysplasia is caught before 18 months of age, to reposition the joint over top of the femur so that the joint can move more naturally. X-rays performed at your local veterinary office can determine if Hip Dysplasia is present.


Large breed puppy food, which is lower in calories, can help your large breed dog grow more slowly, giving the joints adequate time to develop.


Physical therapy and low-impact exercise like long walks on the beach, swimming… exercise is good for the body, and good for the soul. In moderation, of course.


Prevent excessive weight gain. While it is widely known that helping an overweight, arthritic dog lose weight is extremely important to relieve pain, it’s less proven – but no less obvious – that keeping a dog skinny as she grows up will prevent the development of arthritis in the first place.


It is known that supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin and Omega-3 fatty acids like those found in fish oil help keep joints lubricated and reduce joint inflammation. It is less known whether or not these supplements can prevent arthritis from developing in the first place, in otherwise normal joints. In dogs with Hip Dysplasia, however, since it is rational to expect arthritis may develop in the future, it is also rational to expect that supplements may help prevent or slow down the progression of that arthritis. In other words… it can’t hurt. (unless your dog is allergic to shellfish, of course, in which case these supplements should be avoided)

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