Hip Dysplasia


Hip dysplasia is an extremely common deformation/dysfunction of the hip joint.   It is progressive in nature and usually but not exclusively affects the larger breeds (German Shepherds, Great Danes, Labrador Retriever etc).


There are two types of hip dysplasia:

  • Early onset (congenital)

  • Late onset (environmental)


In both cases the issues relate to the looseness of the hip joint within the socket.   The femoral head and the acetabulum do not “fit” properly leading to excessive play within the joint.  This leads to degeneration and degradation of the cartilage covering the surface of the bones.  Eventually the joint capsule will deform becoming thickened and enlarged.  Osteophytes (bony deposits) will also begin to appear.


With late onset hip dysplasia there are factors such as rapid weight gain and obesity , improper exercise can be a precursor to the condition developing as additional loads are placed through the hip joints.


The symptoms for this condition can vary greatly.  There may be minimal pain and no obvious signs to a complete inability to use the hind limbs.  The most common symptoms are:


  • Unwillingness to exercise and play

  • Narrow stance to the hindlimbs

  • Sitting in the “frog” position

  • Wobbling, weaving or generally unsteady gait

  • Bunny hopping when walking or ascending/descending stairs

  • Swaying gait

  • Stiffness – especially after laying

  • Muscle wastage to hindlimbs, possible over-development to forelimbs.


If unmanaged the disease could eventually lead to dog being completely unable to use its hindlimbs.  In this instance hip replacement surgery is the only likely outcome to restore the dog’s quality of life.

Massage can be extremely useful in the management of hip dysplasia and incorporated in a rehabilitation plan can bring:


  • Improved flexibility and mobility

  • Reduction in pain

  • Increase in range of motion

  • Reduce muscular imbalance/compensation

  • The ability for the dog to continue exercising and the improvement in their general mood that this can bring