Hip Dysplasia


The hip is a ball and socket joint. In a healthy joint the nicely rounded head of the femur should sit snugly in the acetabulum of the pelvis.

Quite simply, dysplasia refers to an abnormal grosgrain or development in the body. So hip dysplasia is where the femur head doesn’t sit snugly in the acetabulum. This may be that the socket is too large, or too shallow, or that the femur head is uneven or roughly shaped. This can mean that there is too much movement or laxicity in the joint, or alternatively the muscles can form a protective splint to compensate leading to restricted range of movement. Over time the friction between the bones of the joint where they don’t fit snugly can lead to the wearing away of the cartilage, causing arthritic changes which then make symptoms worse.

What causes hip dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is largely genetic with it being fairly common in certain larger breeds like Labradors and Rottweilers, although it can occur in any breed. It can be aggravated and potentially made worse by a number of factors. These include -

  • Over exercising when young
  • Poor nutrition while growing
  • Repetitive ADL’s such as stairs, jumping on and off furniture, slipping on laminate flooring
  • Obesity
  • Trauma

Symptoms -

  • Bunny hopping when running
  • A swaying gait
  • Difficulty rising from a sit
  • Unable to achieve or maintain a square sit
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Struggling to climb stairs, jump on the sofa or into the car
  • Reluctance to be petted or groomed
  • Atrophied hindlimb muscles

The following image shows and x-ray of a normal hip, one with mild dysplasia and one with servere dysplasia  Image courtesy of Healthy and Happy Dog)

x ray dysplasia

How can massage help?

While some severe cases may require hip replacement surgery, in most cases hip dysplasia can be managed by keeping your dog fit and at a good weight, building muscle, and keeping the muscles in good condition. Massage can help to keep the muscles functioning well enough to stabilise the joint. Massage -

  • Relieves areas of overcompensation
  • Breaks down protective splinting
  • Improves muscle tone
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Helps to relieve pain
  • Increases mobility and flexibility
  • Improves gait