Elbow and hip dysplasia in dogs

Dysplasia means abnormal growth or development. The elbow has three separate bones that meet together and the hip joint is a ball and socket. A growth abnormality in any of these components can cause pain and instability.

Elbow or hip dysplasia is often inherited, but rapid growth rate, early repetitive exercise and early spaying or neutering may affect joint development. Elbow and hip dysplasia often cause arthritis in dogs.

Early signs include:

Many dogs with elbow or hip dysplasia show no early signs. However mild-to-moderate lameness that does not resolve completely with rest is something to watch for.

Intermediate to advanced signs include: 

  • Decreased willingness to exercise or go on walks
  • Reluctance to rise or jump
  • Thickened or swollen elbow joint
  • Loss of hind limb muscling

Decreased willingness to go for walks could be a sign of elbow and hip dysplasia in dogs

How is elbow and hip dysplasia managed in dogs?  

Elbow or hip dysplasia management depends on a dog’s age and disease severity. Arthroscopic elbow surgery can clear loose joint cartilage or bone chips to reduce pain and minimise future arthritic changes. 

For hip dysplasia, multiple surgical choices can be considered. If surgery is not an option, medical management focuses on comfort and joint protection. Multimodal treatment options for dogs include weight reduction, omega-3 fatty acid supplements, cartilage protective supplements and injections, anti-inflammatory and pain medications, acupuncture, laser treatment, and physical rehabilitation. 

Discussing a personalised management plan with your veterinarian is important for the best outcome for your dog. 

What is the prognosis for dogs with elbow and hip dysplasia?

Dogs with elbow dysplasia will eventually develop arthritis, whether or not they have surgery. Dogs with successful early surgery for hip dysplasia may have a normal quality of life.

Medical management for elbow or hip dysplasia provides comfort but can become more complex over time.  


Management tips for dogs with elbow and hip dysplasia

At-home needs include:

  • Easy access to food and water and a comfortable bed
  • Consistency with prescribed medications and supplements
  • Avoiding strenuous or repetitive exercise
  • Regular, controlled leash walks or swimming
  • Maintaining a good body weight
  • Monitoring activity level, appetite, drinking and urination

For end-of-life care:

In a crisis:

Immediately contact your vet if your dog cannot walk, develops new symptoms, or vocalises in pain.

It is vital to begin end-of-life care discussions before your dog‘s condition becomes unmanageable or they begin losing their quality of life. 

The team at Goodbye Good Boy offers individualised support to help you and your family navigate this progressive disease by providing quality-of-life checks, in-home euthanasia, cremation and aftercare services, and personalised memorialisation options. Our services can even be pre-paid to help ease the financial burden at the time of your pet’s passing. 

To learn more about our pet end-of-life services, give us a call on 1800 953 619 or visit our website goodbyegoodboy.com.au.



This article was reproduced with permission from Goodbye Good Boy advisor Dr Dani McVety, of Lap Of Love.