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Dog Hip Dysplasia Stance - What is it?

Dog Hip Dysplasia Stance - What is it?

So What Actually is the Dog Hip Dysplasia Stance?

It’s a posture, or way of standing, that a dog adopts in order to try and alleviate some of the discomfort caused by hip dysplasia. It’s one of the overt and obvious symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs, if you know what you’re looking for. These are some of the defining and recognisable features of the dog hip dysplasia stance:

  • A Narrow Stance - Hip dysplasia often causes a dog to stand with their hind legs more narrowly positioned than usual. The dog is doing this because they’re doing their best to alleviate some of the pressure on their hip joints that’s caused by the dysplasia. The dog may not even be able to keep their hips the normal distance apart, because it’s physically difficult and simply too painful. The narrow stance is an indication that your dog needs pain relief.
  • Unusual Gait - Hopping, swaying back and forth when walking, or anything that is out of the ordinary for your dog’s normal gait should be investigated by a vet, in case hip dysplasia is the cause.
  • Hunched / Arched Back - Another way a dog will use to try and alleviate the discomfort that they’re feeling in their hips.
  • Bunny Hopping - Likely a mechanism to compensate for the fact that the hip dysplasia is compromising their rear leg function, if you see your dog using both rear legs together in a hop to walk or run, this is another sign that your vet needs to check your dog and confirm whether dog hip dysplasia’s present.

In addition to the dog hip dysplasia stance, you may also observe your dog distributing their weight unevenly between front and hind legs, emphasising their weight on their front legs in order to reduce the strain on their rear ones. It may also be difficult for your dog to get up from lying down, and they generally appear stiff and reluctant to move. They may even be hiding from you, as hiding is one of a dog’s natural reactions to being in pain. Another symptom of a dog in pain is that they can become uncharacteristically aggressive.

If you notice any of the above, consult with your veterinarian. If your dog is suffering from hip dysplasia, the earlier a diagnosis is confirmed, and treatment given, improves the chances for a positive outcome.

Treatment Options: How Can I Help My Dog?

Hip dysplasia in dogs isn’t reversible. Once a dog has developed it, your priorities will be:

  • Slowing the progression of the disease
  • Lessening and managing the pain that hip dysplasia is causing your dog - osteoarthritis is an inevitable secondary condition of hip dysplasia and will be significantly contributing to the pain your dog’s experiencing
  • Minimising the impact of the disease on your dog’s wellbeing, mobility, and quality life.

The right strategies for canine hip dysplasia treatment can, in most cases, help with all of these objectives.

That said, with hip dysplasia, there are generally two routes to choose between, depending on the severity of the disease and the level of pain your dog’s experiencing:

Conservative treatment for hip dysplasia in a dog (non surgical) - this includes:

  • Weight management - keeping your dog at the correct weight keeps strain on the affected joints to a minimum
  • Restricted activity - Limiting the kind of activities your dog’s doing i.e. short, regular walks on the lead rather than high impact exercise such as jumping off high surfaces etc. keeps too much force going through the joints. Too much force through the joints exacerbates joint problems.
  • Hip Dysplasia Braces for Dogs - a dog hip brace can help support your dog’s hip joints. They’re designed to hold your dog’s hips together which, in turn, aids in reducing pain and improving mobility.
  • Painkillers and NSAIDS (non steroidal anti-inflammatories) - These help reduce the pain that your dog’s suffering from because of dog hip dysplasia. Among those commonly prescribed are Gabapentin, Tramadol, or Amantadine. Severe pain can be treated with regular polysulfated glycosaminoglycan injections. Winston’s Pain Formula is a natural pain relief supplement that can be very effective for dog hip pain relief, used alongside prescription medication or on its own.
  • Joint Health Supplements - Joint Supplements with high quality active ingredients, such as green lipped mussel extract, can help slow the progression of arthritis and reduce any joint pain resulting from it. They’re also formulated to be anti-inflammatory, promote cartilage health, improve joint lubrication, and support the overall joint structures.
  • Physiotherapy & Hydrotherapy - Both of these are rehabilitative. Your dog will have a specific treatment plan made for them, so that they can work on rebuilding weakened hind leg muscles, maintaining core muscle strength, and overall physical conditioning. Your therapists will keep track of progress and evolve the plans accordingly.
  • Alternative Treatments - Stem cell therapy, laser therapy, extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT), CBD oils, canine massage therapy, hyaluronic acid injections, PEMF beds, and acupuncture call be experimented with, to see whether they make a difference for your dog’s symptoms and pain levels. Consult with your vet if you’re not sure which of these are most appropriate for your dog.

Hp Dysplasia Surgery:

There are various surgical procedures available to dogs with hip dysplasia. The most appropriate type will be chosen for your dog, depending on your dog’s eligibility, severity of disease, age, general fitness, and what outcome the surgery needs to achieve.

Post-surgical care closely resembles a conservative management approach. Much of your dog’s post-operative recuperation will involve the same strategies outlined above. Possible crate rest, physiotherapy and/or hydrotherapy, limited and controlled exercise, weight management, use of a supportive dog hip dysplasia brace, anti-inflammatory painkillers, and joint supplements to help support healthy joints and mitigate the onset of arthritis - these are all potential aspects of recuperative care your dog will likely need once they’ve had hip dysplasia surgery.

Sometimes dogs with severe hip dysplasia will ultimately benefit from using a dog wheelchair, which takes the weight off their back legs and allows mobility to be restored.

How to Help Around the House

Keeping your dog with hip dysplasia as comfortable as possible is one way to help them. Assessing your home for any risks that might inadvertently exacerbate the symptoms of hip dysplasia (e.g. slippery floors) can also be beneficial. 

These Recommendations Can Make a Big Difference:

  • A comfortable orthopaedic dog bed - One which will give your dog’s musculoskeletal system  and joint structures a lot of support. 
  • Non Slip Socks - Or floor rugs. Slippery floors make it difficult for a dog with dog hip dysplasia to get up, as there’s less purchase. As hip dysplasia weakens the rear leg muscles, slippery floors can make the back legs slide and splay out sideways. This can be painful and, worse, exacerbate the dysplasia.
  • An adjustable dog ramp - These mean your dog’s avoiding the high impact that’s caused by jumping on and off sofas, beds, etc. High impact is very unhelpful for sore, swollen joints suffering from joint disease.
  • A rear-lift harness - It’s much easier for both you and your dog if you can help them get in and out of the car, or up and down stairs, with a rear-lift dog harness. Helping them up from the floor with a harness, even for simple things like getting them outside to do their business, is less of a struggle. The Help ‘Em Up Harness and Walkabout Rear Lift Harness are two very popular versions.
  • Snuffle / Lick Mats - Active dogs may find recuperation more difficult if they’re bored. These enrichment toys will keep them more mentally stimulated, so they’re less likely to mope and get depressed.

Hip Dysplasia

Dog hip dysplasia is a condition that affects either one or both of a dog’s hip joints. The hip joint is unstable. This can cause, or be caused by, poorly conformed bones and lax hip joint ligaments. The ball of the thigh bone (femoral head) ends up rubbing against the hip socket (acetabulum) causing damage to the joint cartilage, and sometimes microfractures on the surface of the bone. Bone can end up rubbing against bone. Osteoarthritis inevitably develops because of this, which is very painful.

Any breed of dog can end up with hip dysplasia, but some breeds are more statistically prone to developing it because of inherited genetics. Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, and Great Danes are among the breeds at risk. Hip dysplasia in a puppy can become evident when the puppy’s pretty little - it’s not uncommon for it to be diagnosed in puppies as young as 4 months old (particularly in a vulnerable breed or when it’s present in a puppy’s lineage).  Otherwise, it’s often identified in midlife dogs, because they’re displaying symptoms of osteoarthritis.

Preventing hip dysplasia in dogs isn’t always possible. Certain lifestyle adjustments can, in some cases, lessen the likelihood of it developing, or the severity with which it presents, or slow its progression. You can learn more about dog hip dysplasia here:

Hip Dysplasia in your Dog -  A Complete Guide


Being able to recognise the dog hip dysplasia stance is one easy way of being able to monitor your dog for signs of the disease. It’s a very visible, obvious sign of hip dysplasia in a dog. Being acquainted with the possible slightly different variations and nuances of the stance is advisable. Individually, or as a collective, the giveaways are: a narrow stance; an unusual, odd gait that’s uncharacteristic for your dog; a hunched back; and bunny hopping. Any, or all of these in combination, mean you need to make a vet’s appointment as they are all signs your dog is in pain and suffering from the effects of hip dysplasia.

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