Skip to content
Next Day Delivery £15 Available
Next Day Delivery £15 Available
Dog Hip Dislocation - A Complete Guide

Dog Hip Dislocation - A Complete Guide

What is a Dog Hip Dislocation?

A dog hip dislocation - aka hip luxation -  happens when the ball at the top of the thigh bone (femoral head) separates, slips, or pops out, from the hip joint socket (acetabulum). Hip dislocation occurs with different levels of severity.  

Dog hip dislocation shouldn’t be confused with dog hip dysplasia, which is a different orthopaedic condition, with different underlying causes. Somewhat confusingly though, both conditions have signs and symptoms which can present similarly

There can be full dislocation - when the femoral head and acetabulum have completely separated from each other - or a partial dislocation (aka hip subluxation). When the hip joint partially dislocates, it means that the displacement of the acetabulum and femoral head is incomplete i.e. the thigh bone isn’t sitting well in the hip socket. Instead, the femoral head’s position in the hip socket may have shifted, or have separated from the hip socket’s joint surface.

Generally, a dog hip dislocation won’t heal on its own and will require some type of veterinary intervention to heal.

Dog hip dislocation is usually caused by a traumatic injury, although some dogs may have a predisposition to it due to hip joint congenital abnormalities. Dog hip dislocation is a very painful condition that can profoundly affect a dog’s mobility. In particular, the pain a hip dislocation causes can really negatively impact a dog’s quality of life.

What are the Early Signs of Hip Displacement in Dogs?

If you see your dog limping, showing difficulty getting up and standing, an obvious change in gait, impaired movement, or an uncharacteristic reluctance to move, these may all point to a hip dislocation. Your dog may also be walking but with ‘toe touching’ lameness that’s obviously severe - hobbling, with the affected leg only touching the ground, but not bearing any weight. Or you may observethat your dog is carrying the affected leg in a flexed position i.e. holding it folded up, possibly slightly externally rotated, and it can look shorter than the other limb.

Even if your dog has a partial dislocation rather than a full one, it will still be very painful. Both types - full or partial dislocation - need urgent treatment from your vet.

If you see any of the above symptoms, book an appointment with your vet immediately.

What Should I Do If I Suspect my Dog has a Hip Dislocation?

If you suspect your dog’s suffering from a hip dislocation, or you know your dog’s been in an accident which has caused one, an urgent vet’s appointment is advised. In the meantime, restrict your dog’s movements as much as possible. You probably won’t have to make too much effort to police this anyway. A dog with a hip dislocation doesn’t want to move much, as it’s such a painful and debilitating condition.

Don’t wait. Any delay in treating a dog hip dislocation may result in complications which worsen the condition, and make it more difficult to treat.

What Causes a Dog Hip Dislocation?

Generally, a dog dislocates their hip because they’ve had a traumatic injury, such as fall from a height,  experiencing a forceful impact to the hip area, or a high impact collision e.g. being hit by a car. Events like these forcefully displace the femoral head from the hip socket. 

Other reasons for dog hip dislocations include congenital abnormalities, joint degeneration, muscle imbalances and weaknesses, or repetitive stress and overuse.

  • Congenital abnormalities mean that a dog’s born with, or develops, shallow hip sockets, a malformed femoral head, or lax joint ligaments. All of these make a hip dislocation more likely.
  • Joint degeneration, due to joint diseases such as osteoarthritis, results in the joint structure becoming weaker. This makes the hip joint unstable, which increases the probability of a hip dislocation.
  • Muscle imbalances and weaknesses in terms of the hip joint, mean that the muscles surrounding the hip are weak and not functioning properly.  As these muscles are responsible for keeping the hip joint stable, if they’re weak, then a dislocation - particularly during exercise - becomes more likely.
  • Repetitive stress and overuse - through agility training, extreme play, or running on hard surfaces to excess - can accelerate wear and tear to the hip joint components, making a dislocation more of a possibility.

What Happens Next?

At the vet’s, your dog will be assessed to confirm that there’s actually a dislocation and to assess its severity. Your vet will do a physical examination, including observing gait, mobility, and posture, and asking questions about your dog’s healthy history. Your vet will likely palpate the hip area too. Other orthopaedic tests assess range of motion, joint stability, and limb function.

If necessary, diagnostic imaging will be suggested. Types of imaging include X Rays, CT scans, or MRIs. Any of these might be recommended, in order to give a more complete picture of what’s going on in the hip joint. In most cases, imaging can also identify any underlying conditions, or if there’s been an additional soft tissue injury or cartilage damage.  Imaging will have to be done with your dog sedated or anaesthetised.

Once your vet has all the information needed to put together a treatment plan, a way forward will be agreed. Treatment is obviously dependent on the severity of the dislocation.

Full dislocation: The priorities for treating full dog hip dislocation are stabilising the hip joint, keeping pain and inflammation under control, and promoting healing. The different approaches to treating a full dislocation are still determined by the severity of the injury - even a full dislocation has different degrees of severity.

  • Surgical reduction: This is when the hip dislocation is severe enough to warrant surgical intervention. A surgical reduction is only undertaken when it’s not possible to replace the femoral head by physical manipulation alone. Sometimes a Femoral Head Osteotomy (FHO) may be necessary. This is a salvage procedure i.e. it’s not going to cure the problem, rather it’s an operation to stop the damage being done by the dislocation and alleviate pain. Post-surgery FHO will need committed and extensive rehabilitation.  Other reparative surgeries to reconstruct the joint or joint capsule, fix the femoral head to the hip joint with a suture called a ‘hip toggle, or reposition the deep gluteal tendon, may also be recommended. Suggestions will all depend on your dog’s age, condition, and overall fitness. Post-surgical care will be needed in all cases and will be pretty much the same as a conservative management approach.
  • A closed reduction: Your vet will manipulate the bone back into the socket by hand. Your dog will be under anaesthetic or sedation for this. A closed reduction’s only possible when the there isn’t significant damage to the surrounding soft tissue. After the bone’s been replaced in the socket, a bandage is often used to keep the hip joint stabilised, and prevent re-dislocation. This bandage is called an Ehmer Sling. It restricts movement in the hip joint, while maintaining hip flexion, and is typically used continuously for 7-10 days. Sometimes it can be removed for short periods to allow the dog to exercise, depending on a specific dog’s condition. Ehmer Slings should only be used in conjunction with a vet’s supervision. Your vet will also monitor your dog’s progress and be able to advise when your dog can stop wearing the bandage.
  • Conservative management: In cases of less severe full hip dislocations, your vet may suggest that it’s best to follow a conservative management approach. This includes: pain management; physiotherapy; restricted activity; weight control; nutritional support; joint supplements; use of therapeutic heat and cold; and possibly a hip brace

Whichever one of these treatment plans is followed after your dog’s had a full hip displacement, there’ll need to be adequate follow up with your veterinarian. This is to ensure that healing is progressing well, and that your dog’s mobility is being restored as much as possible.

Partial dislocation: If a dog has a partially dislocated hip, it’s likely that your vet will advocate a conservative management approach (see above).

Can I Do Anything to Prevent My Dog Developing a Dog Hip Dislocation?

If your dog’s experienced a hip dislocation because of a traumatic injury or accident, these can be very hard, even impossible, to prevent. Obviously no dog owner wants to see their dog injured or in pain.

However, to a certain extent, the risks of a dog experiencing the type of hip dislocations which are hastened by particular activities can be managed.

  • Maintain the right weight for your dog. This helps joint health. Weight can be controlled through correct nutrition and regular, appropriate exercise.  A lean dog isn’t adding any extra strain to the hip joints
  • Avoid high impact activities such as jumping off from height onto hard surfaces, rough play or excessive fly ball.
  • Omega 3s and Joint Health Supplements will support your dog’s joints, and help lower any inflammation.

What Breeds and Ages Commonly Suffer from a Dog Hip Dislocation?

Dog hip dislocation can happen to any breed of dog, at any age. Traumatic injuries don’t discriminate against breed or age. However, younger dogs, because of their energy and excitability, may be more prone to getting themselves in the kind of accidents that result in hip dislocations. Younger dogs may also experience the development abnormalities which result in a higher probability of a hip dislocation happening.

It’s also been observed that, because of their inherited genetics and anatomy, German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, and Pugs are statistically more vulnerable to hip dislocations than other breeds.

Help Around the House

As hip dislocations are so painful, prioritising your dog’s comfort is key.  Post-surgery it’s very likely that your dog will have to be on crate rest. If this is the case, you want to ensure that your dog has a comfortable, supportive, orthopaedic dog bed. Combating boredom is also a good idea - you might want to keep your dog entertained and mentally stimulated with a snuffle or lick mat.

Once your vet has given the go-ahead, working with a physiotherapist to rehabilitate your dog will be necessary. Your vet/physio may also give you some passive range of motion exercises you can perform on your dog yourself e.g. regular movement of the toes to start with, progressing  to passive range of motion movements on the hip joint.

Ask your vet or physio whether a rear lift harness might be appropriate to aid your dog during the early stages of recovery. These harnesses mean you can support your dog’s hindquarters, so that their back legs are barely bearing any weight. Later on in their recovery, a rear lift harness might also be helpful for your dog getting in and out of the car e.g. preventing them from landing too heavily when they jump in and out of it.

If you have slippery or wooden floors, putting down rugs or giving your dog non-slip socks to wear is sensible. If your dog’s back legs slip out from underneath them because of a slide-ey floorwhile recovering from a hip dislocation, it might really set them back in their recuperation. Non Slip socks are a really simple solution to this. They have grips on the soles to give a dog’s paws more purchase on slippery surfaces.

A dog hip brace may also be a good idea. These can be part of conservative management strategy, but may also give your dog a sense of their hips being supported and held in place. These could also be suitable a little further on in their recovery and can be used long term. Speak to your physiotherapist or vet about whether one of these will be helpful for your dog’s individual situation.


Dog hip dislocations are serious and can cause your dog a lot of pain and distress, as well as significantly impacting their ability to move. However, when treated early enough, and correctly for the level of displacement, a good outcome can be expected.

The statistics show that “If the femoral head has been successfully replaced, the correct post-operative treatment has been adhered to, and the hip remains in place after 14 days, it is unlikely that the hip will dislocate again. The prognosis after most surgical re-placements is good”.

When salvage surgery (FHO or Total Hip Replacements) is necessary, it’s likely your dog will have a permanent limp and ongoing physiotherapy is recommended in these cases. However, these procedures aim to reduce or eliminate pain, thereby restoring your dog’s quality of life.

Previous article Dog Hip Dysplasia Stance - What is it?
Next article My Dog Drags His Back Paws Damaging His Nails and Skin. What Should I Do?

What is Hip Dysplasia in Dogs? Causes, Prevention and How to Help

Hip dysplasia is a painful condition that causes the hip joint to develop abnormally

Read About Hip Dysplasia

Best Dog Hip Braces

Your dog might have started to show signs of hip dysplasia by crossing their back legs, tripping / falling over or having difficulty standing up

Best Hip Braces
Looking for help with your dog?

Looking for help with your dog?

We can help find the right solution for your dog

Feel free to give us a call on 01730 622544

or email us at