Hip dysplasia is a painful condition that can make it difficult for your dog to walk, jump, and even get up again after lying down. Surgery is often the best treatment for hip dysplasia in dogs, but the procedure can cost $10,000 or more.
While certain breeds—including French Bulldogs and Golden Retrievers—are more prone to hip dysplasia than others, this is a condition that can affect any dog.
Hopefully your dog will never develop hip dysplasia, but it’s important to be familiar with the signs and treatment options so you can be mentally (and financially) prepared, just in case.
What is hip dysplasia in dogs?
Hip dysplasia is a developmental bone disorder. Dogs are generally born with hip dysplasia, but they might not show signs of it until later in life.
The hip joint, composed of a ball and socket, functions when the ball of the dog’s femur fits snugly into a socket in the pelvis.
For the hip joint to work properly, the ball and socket must develop at an equal pace. However, some puppies experience rapid growth, resulting in a too-loose hip joint. This instability leads to the stretching of ligaments and muscles around the hip joint, potentially causing discomfort for your dog.
Hip dysplasia can impact one or both of a dog’s hips. If left unaddressed, it may result in permanent damage to the hip joint. Many affected dogs develop osteoarthritis (aka degenerative joint disease), which can make movement increasingly challenging and painful.
What are the main causes of hip dysplasia in dogs?
Hip dysplasia is a hereditary condition—meaning that certain dog breeds, or dogs whose parents had hip dysplasia, are more likely to develop the condition.
While hip dysplasia is a genetic predisposition, there are certain factors that can further complicate or exacerbate the symptoms, including:
- Rapid growth: Puppies, especially large breed puppies, who grow too quickly
- Exercise: Giving a puppy too much—or too little—exercise
- Obesity: Dog obesity puts extra stress on their joints
Is hip dysplasia in dogs preventable?
Unfortunately, since hip dysplasia is hereditary, it can’t be outright prevented if your pooch is prone to the condition. But there are several ways that you can help to reduce the impact it has on your dog’s quality of life.
Since certain breeds have a higher risk of hip dysplasia, it’s a good idea to choose a breeder who performs hip testing on their breeding dogs.
The Orthopedic Foundation of Animals (OFA) provides hip scores that rate a dog’s hip radiographs. Breeding dogs with high hip scores, which indicate excellent hip conformation, can help to minimize the chance of the puppies developing hip dysplasia.
Talk to your vet about an appropriate food for your puppy. There are several puppy foods—especially for larger breeds—to encourage a more balanced growth rate.
Your vet can also recommend an appropriate amount and type of exercise for your puppy as they grow. Keep a close eye on your puppy or dog’s weight. If you think your best friend is getting overweight, ask your vet for tips to help you better manage your dog’s weight to prevent obesity.
What are some signs that my dog might have hip dysplasia?
While hip dysplasia starts when dogs are puppies, many dogs don’t show symptoms of the issue until the bone in the hip joint has been worn down over the years.
Several signs indicate that your dog may have hip dysplasia:
- Weakness, lameness, and pain in the hind legs
- A wobbly movement when standing or walking
- A “bunny hopping” gait (moving with both hind legs together)
- Reluctance to get up when sitting or lying down
- Limping with a hind leg
- Loss of thigh muscle
- Standing with the hind legs unusually close together
- Difficulty or reluctance climbing stairs
- Reluctance to jump up onto objects like the couch or into the car
If you notice any of these signs of hip dysplasia, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your vet to determine what’s causing your dog’s discomfort.
How do vets diagnose hip dysplasia in dogs?
Your vet will start with a physical examination of your dog, and may be able to feel the loose hip joint, which suggests hip dysplasia.
To confirm hip dysplasia and determine how much damage has occurred to the joint, your vet will need to take hip radiographs (aka dog x-rays). Your dog may need to be under general sedation during the x-rays.
The x-rays will allow your vet to see the hip joint as well as the condition and shape of the ball and socket. Your vet will also be able to see the presence of any arthritis or joint degeneration.
Once your vet knows just what’s going on in your dog’s hip joint(s), they can create a treatment plan for your dog, which usually involves surgery.
How much does hip replacement surgery cost for a dog?
Depending on your dog’s hip dysplasia, your vet may recommend surgery to help treat the issue, which might include a referral for a consultation with a board certified veterinary surgeon.
There are four main surgical options available, and surgery prices can vary depending on the specific procedure your dog needs.
Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO)
Cost: FHO surgery can cost between $1,200 to $2,500 or more per hip, which would include pre-surgical bloodwork, anesthesia, the surgery, and post-surgical care and medications.
What happens: During this procedure, your vet removes the ball of the femoral bone and creates a sort of false joint. This surgery can help to manage pain and is suitable for young and adult dogs.
Recovery: Your dog might need to stay in the hospital for a few hours or several days, and you will need to limit your dog’s physical activity for at least 30 days after the surgery. Complete recovery takes about six weeks.
Double or Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (DPO/TPO)
Cost: DPO/TPO surgery costs start at roughly $3,000 for both hips.
What happens: DPO/TPO is usually performed in puppies under 10 months old.
During this surgery, a vet cuts the pelvic bone and rotates the bone to improve how the head of the femur aligns with the hip socket.
Recovery: Includes limiting your puppy’s activity for several weeks, and your puppy will also need physical rehabilitation sessions during the recovery period. Most puppies recover within about six weeks.
Total Hip Replacement surgery (THR)
Cost: Because this surgery is so significant and requires the artificial joint components to be custom made for your dog, it can cost $3,500 to $7,000 or more per hip.
What happens: Often considered the most effective treatment for hip dysplasia, THR is a major surgery performed by a veterinary surgeon and involves replacing the entire hip joint with plastic and metal hip joints. This surgery tends to remove most of the discomfort that hip dysplasia causes. It’s a good option for dogs who have significant pain or mobility restrictions.
Recovery: Your dog will be hospitalized for one to three days after the surgery, and recovery takes about 12 weeks.
Juvenile Pubic Symphysiodesis (JPS)
Cost: JPS costs roughly $800 to $1,000 per hip, which includes x-rays, the surgery, and anesthesia.
What happens: This surgery is relatively minor and offers the best results when it’s performed on puppies 14 to 16 weeks old. During the procedure, your vet will scar the growth plate on the pelvis. Then, as the pelvis grows, the cups of the hip joint will rotate and better cover the ball of the femur for a healthier joint.
Recovery: You will need to limit your puppy’s activity for about 10 days after the procedure.
Does my dog need surgery to heal hip dysplasia, or are there alternative treatments?
Your dog may not need surgery, depending on how much hip dysplasia affects their quality of life. There are several treatment options available in addition to, or in place of, surgery to help alleviate your dog’s pain that you can discuss with your vet or veterinary surgeon:
- Weight loss can help to relieve some of the stress placed on your dog’s hips
- Limiting your dog’s exercise and activity, especially on hard surfaces, can help to maintain hip health
- Physical therapy—including treatments like acupuncture—may help to strengthen and maintain your dog’s hip joints, and provide relief from the symptoms of hip dysplasia
- Joint supplements are often paired with other treatments and may help to maintain hip joint health
- Anti-inflammatory medications can help to relieve inflammation in the hip joints and reduce pain
- Laser therapy—aka low-level laser therapy (LLLT) or photobiomodulation—emits specific wavelengths of light that penetrate the dog’s skin and tissues, stimulating cellular processes that promote healing, reduce inflammation, and alleviate pain
While these treatments cannot fully repair hip dysplasia, they may help to maintain hip joint health and keep your dog comfortable and mobile. Dogs who have more advanced or severe hip dysplasia may find less relief from these treatments and may benefit most from surgery.
Your vet can evaluate your dog’s hip dysplasia and recommend options that are best for your dog. Often, dogs in significant pain or who experience reduced mobility will need surgery.
How can I help my dog fully recover after hip dysplasia surgery?
To help your dog recover after hip dysplasia surgery, carefully follow your vet’s instructions, which might include:
- Restricting your dog’s activity—like carefully supervising them, or keeping them on a leash or in a crate
- Lifting your dog into and out of vehicles
- Keeping your dog from jumping up onto—or off of—the couch
- Giving your pooch any medications as prescribed
- Carefully monitoring the incision for oozing, heat, redness, swelling, or pain
- Contacting your vet right away if you notice any issues
Your vet may prescribe physical therapy for your dog, and may also want to see your dog for a series of check-ups. Carefully following your dog’s post-surgical care plan can maximize your best friend’s chances for a full recovery.
Will pet insurance cover the costs of my dog’s hip dysplasia surgery?
A basic Lemonade pet health insurance policy will often cover the costs of your dog’s hip dysplasia surgery, minus your deductible and co-insurance.
Because hip dysplasia is a bilateral condition, which can affect both sides of your dog’s body, your insurance policy will only cover hip dysplasia surgery if your dog shows no signs of hip dysplasia on their pet medical record when you sign up for pet insurance, or during your policy’s waiting period.
If your dog has hip dysplasia in one hip, for example, that would be considered a pre-existing condition when you sign up. So if your dog later develops hip dysplasia in the other hip, your policy wouldn’t cover treatment for that second hip.
However, if your dog was already insured before showing any signs of hip dysplasia, Lemonade could help cover the costs of surgery for both hips. That’s why it’s so important to insure your dog before you actually need that insurance coverage.
You can sign your pup up for a Lemonade policy from the time they’re two months old.
While you’re at it, consider purchasing Lemonade’s physical therapy add-on, which would help to cover physical therapy costs.
What dog breeds are more prone to hip dysplasia?
Hip dysplasia is more common in large breed dogs and giant breeds, though certain small breed dogs are also genetically predisposed to hip dysplasia:
- Great Dane
- Saint Bernard
- Bernese Mountain Dog
- Golden Retriever
- Labrador Retriever
- English and French Bulldog
Managing hip dysplasia in dogs
If your dog is diagnosed with hip dysplasia, you’ll have several treatment options available, from surgery to physical therapy and more. Your vet can help you to explore the options that are best for your dog, and that are within your budget.
A pet health insurance policy can allow you to explore treatment options for your dog without worrying so much about which treatments you can afford, so you can give your dog the best chance at a recovery from hip dysplasia.
A few quick words, because we <3 our lawyers: This post is general in nature, and any statement in it doesn’t alter the terms, conditions, exclusions, or limitations of policies issued by Lemonade, which differ according to your state of residence. You’re encouraged to discuss your specific circumstances with your own professional advisors. The purpose of this post is merely to provide you with info and insights you can use to make such discussions more productive! Naturally, all comments by, or references to, third parties represent their own views, and Lemonade assumes no responsibility for them. Coverage may not be available in all states.