Hip Dysplasia in dogs

by | Oct 19, 2022 | Uncategorized

We have put together a blog to help other dogs owners understand what Hip Dysplasia is or to simply learn a little bit more! Here at Butterwick, we regularly help owners and their dogs manage the condition, so one of our professional Hydrotherapists Claire, has shared her extensive knowledge with us below and we hope you find it helpful in looking after your pooch too!

What is hip dysplasia?

The ball and socket of a healthy pair of hips fit perfectly together, which allows fluid movement of the hips. In a dog with hip dysplasia the ball and socket joints don’t fit together properly, causing the joint to rub and grind instead of sliding smoothly.This happens when the soft tissues that usually support the hip joint become loose within the first few weeks of your dog’s life. This can be caused by genetics and is usually worsened by weight and age. Symptoms can sometimes only show later in life when osteoarthritis has developed.

Which breeds are prone to hip dysplasia?

Any breed can suffer with hip dysplasia but there are some that are more susceptible. These tend to be medium to large pedigree breeds such as: labradors, golden retrievers, Rottweilers, german shepherds, Bernese mountain dogs and Newfoundlands.

How do I recognise hip dysplasia in my dog?

Our dogs don’t always show us obvious signs that they are suffering with hip dysplasia but there are some things we can look out for:

  • Bunny hopping (This is when both back legs move both together and it looks just like a hop)
  • Stiffness and/or lameness in the hind legs.
  • Change in demeanor (possibly due to pain)
  • Stopping the things they usually like to do for fun such as playing with toys, jump up onto the sofa
  • Reduction in the length of time they can or want to walk
  • Difficulty in getting up from a seated or lying down position
  • They may be unwilling to let you touch around their hips
  • The appearance of ‘skinny hips’ due to muscle loss around the hip area
  • Licking a particular area


Managing hip dysplasia

The severity of hip dysplasia, will dictate which type of management is best. In severe cases your veterinarian may suggest surgery, but conservative management (Rehab) can often be used to avoid this and is a less invasive option and often a first important step before surgery. Rehabilitation can have quite remarkable results for the vast majority of dogs.

Conservative management includes:

Weight Control

Keeping your dog at a healthy weight prevents any extra strain on your dogs joints. Feel free to ask us in the clinic about how to help your dog lose or maintain a healthy weight – we’re more than happy to help!

Controlled exercise regime

It is important to make sure your dog doesn’t over exercise and cause themselves any undue pain both during or afterwards. With Rehab your dog receives a tailored exercise plan from one of our experienced Veterinary Physiotherapists that gives you peace of mind that what you’re doing is right and helping your dog get better.


If required your Veterinarian may prescribe anti-inflammatory pain relief to help relieve pain. Often our patients require less and less of this as they continue through their plan and don’t need as much medication but every dog is different and your Vet is the one to speak to about this.

Joint Supplements

Often dogs suffering with hip dysplasia will develop Osteoarthritis. Joint supplements can help lubricate the joints and may slow down the process of this. There is a huge array of different products on the market now and that can be daunting for many owners. Within your Vet Physio appointment we can guide you on which one is most suitable for your dog and cut through all the product jargon.

What we can do to help


One of our two extremely knowledgeable Veterinary Physiotherapists will listen to you about your concerns and aims for what type of lifestyle you’d like your dog to get back to, they will also take a detailed history and find out a, what is going on with your dog right now and how that affects their daily life. From there they will examine your dog’s movement and posture and then carefully design a tailored plan to help target your dog’s individual needs and get them back to feeling more like their happier, pain free selves. This will include an easy home exercise plan for you to follow and do at home, which is extremely important and will work alongside the plan we will carry out in the clinic. This plan will be working towards improving joint range of movement, building muscle around your dog’s hips, reducing pain and inflammation, preventing any secondary complications and enhancing or maintaining function.

LASER Therapy

Our Veterinary Physiotherapists may use LASER therapy on your dog. This is where we use light at different frequencies, wavelengths and powers to optimise the body’s natural healing process. The light energy passes through the skin and then into the cells, initiating a process called photobiostimulation. This is similar to the photosynthesis process in plants. Aswell as optimising the body’s natural regeneration process, it also encourages the body to release endorphins and collagen, improves blood circulation, in turn then increasing mobility and reducing pain and swelling. 

Pulse Magnetic Therapy

This is another kind of therapy that uses a form of electrotherapy. This uses pulsed electromagnetic fields at different frequencies, this is because the cells in our bodies all have totally different electrical charges that change when cells are damaged. Pulse Magnetic therapy returns the damaged cells to their ‘healthy’ electrical charge. This then optimises ‘normal’ cellular processes, meaning we can achieve an improved rate of healing for bone, nerves and soft tissues (ligaments, tendons, muscles, skin) as well as providing pain relief. 


Hydrotherapy is extremely beneficial in helping manage hip dysplasia. We are very lucky at BARC to be able to offer both a hydrotherapy pool and an Underwater Treadmill, both allowing specific benefits to your pooches. The warmth of the water is soothing for achy joints and can help relax tight muscles, which helps relieve pain. The water creates buoyancy which provides support, so it makes it easier for your dog to exercise and create normal movement patterns. Whilst exercising in the water, your dog is moving against the resistance, which helps build muscle, which most likely will have been lost due to lack of exercise from pain from the hip dysplasia. If you’ve ever waded through the sea, you will probably remember how much hard work it was, this is why we start of with gentle sessions and slowly increase them over time. The water also provides a hydrostatic pressure, so when your dog is submerged in the water this will help reduce swelling; which means this will allow more movement in the joint and decrease pain.

If you think we could help your dog to live a better quality of life, please get in touch to chat with a member of our team.

What to do next?

CALL US on 01325 353260 or 07741651000

EMAIL US on [email protected]


We’re always excited to hear from you; we look forward to chatting with you about how we can get your furry-friend back to health, happiness, and a pain-free life!

Still not sure? These are some of the things that rehab can do for you and your dog:

  • Treats the root cause of the problem, thereby offering a permanent solution to the pain, not a temporary Band-Aid.
  • Is non-invasive. No surgery. No needles. No fear.
  • Helps to reduce pain. Alongside your Vet who may prescribe medication, we can help reduce that pain and get your dog active again.
  • Reduces restlessness: less pain means better sleep, both for you and your dog.
  • Increases the mobility of your dog, thereby giving both you and your furry friend back the opportunity to do the activities you both love.
  • Increases your dog’s energy levels, igniting in him/her a spark that you will not have seen since puppyhood. Think “Eeyore to Tigger” in a few sessions!
  • Increases fitness levels. Your dog will surprise you by how much further, how much faster, and how much more willing he/she is to run and play.
  • Gives you the tools to help your dog on his/her healing journey, thereby ensuring that your pet is given a jump-start to health right from home.
  • Gives you answers. One of our great joys is helping owners get the answers they need in order to put their minds at rest. When you have answers you can understand… you can make the right choices.
  • Helps you read the signs. It’s not enough to know that your dog is in pain – physiotherapy helps you notice the small but telling ways your dog is trying to communicate his/her discomfort to you and gives you the things to help them too.



We make every effort to ensure that we accurately represent the injury advice and prognosis displayed throughout this report. However, examples of injuries and their prognosis are based on typical representations of those injuries that we commonly see in our physical therapy clinic. The information given is not intended as representations of every individual dog’s potential injury. As with any injury, each dog’s symptoms can vary widely and each dog’s recovery from injury can also vary depending upon background, genetics, previous medical history, application of exercises, posture, motivation of pet owners to follow Veterinary Physiotherapists advice and various other physical factors. It is impossible to give a 100% complete accurate prognosis without a thorough physical examination and likewise the advice given for management of an injury cannot be deemed fully accurate in the absence of this examination from our Vet Physio at Butterwick Animal Rehab Clinic. Our rehab team are unable to make a diagnosis due to the legal constraints of the Veterinary Surgeons act. Significant injury risk is possible if you do not follow due diligence and seek suitable professional advice about your dog’s injury. No guarantees of specific results are expressly made or implied in this report.