German Shepherd Hip Dysplasia Explained In Detail

German Shepherd Hip Dysplasia Explained In Detail

German Shepherd hip dysplasia is a common characteristic in this breed. Hip dysplasia causes chronic disease and pain, which affect your pet’s quality of life.

This condition may be present at birth or develop later in your pet’s life, so it is vital to spot it early and manage it properly.

Learn how to identify German Shepherd hip dysplasia by understanding the symptoms. Once you can identify these symptoms, you can take preventive action to slow the development of hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis.

You will also find out how to create an action plan for treatment if you discover that your German Shepherd suffers from this problem.


What is Hip Dysplasia?

What is Hip Dysplasia?

Max von Stephanitz first created this breed in the 1880s, which are descendants of wolves and German sheepdogs.

The species was robust until people began interbreeding these animals and later started the show line dogs with the slanting back and shorter back legs.

Due to poor breeding standards, canine hip dysplasia became a genetic characteristic of German Shepherd dogs along with other similar conditions such as elbow dysplasia

Hip dysplasia in dogs weakens the hind legs because of joint laxity in one or both hips at the ball and socket joint.

Hip laxity refers to the ball joint’s looseness within the hip socket or when the hip’s socket joint is too shallow to accommodate the head of the femur

Consequently, the strain on the muscles and soft tissues increases to the extent that the hip joint can no longer support the animal’s weight.

German Shepherd hip dysplasia is often present at birth but may also affect the dog as it grows into adulthood. When the German Shepherd is still a puppy and suffers from hip dysplasia, its development is abnormal.

The hip joint is loose, which causes partial dislocation between the hip and legs when walking. In other words, the femoral head and acetabulum, which are the joint’s ball and socket, are out of sync.

The lack of synchronicity of the German Shepherd’s bone structure leads to unusual stress on the joints and ligaments. Eventually, the animal develops painful inflammation in the area as the joints deteriorate.

German Shepherd hip dysplasia results in osteoarthritis, which causes severe pain to the animal. Your pet will probably suffer a permanent disability, and you may need to put it down for humane reasons.

German Shepherd hip dysplasia is genetic and can be exacerbated by environmental factors. Pet owners can manage hip dysplasia by learning how to spot it and take action to improve their pet’s quality of life.

How To Spot German Shepherd Hip Dysplasia

How To Spot German Shepherd Hip Dysplasia

Despite the prevalence of German Shepherd hip dysplasia, little seems to be done about controlling breeding processes.

When you want to purchase a puppy, it will be to your advantage to request a test or x-rays to determine the seller’s breeding standards.

If the breeder is any good, they will avoid interbreeding and perpetuating this problem in the dogs’ line.

Regrettably, most buyers trust that the breeder someone refers them to will be honest. They go ahead and purchase a puppy without checking for hip dysplasia.

The new pet owner will take their puppy home, expecting it to be in good health. Often, the young dogs will be healthy and seem to have normal hips, but will then exhibit hip dysplasia signs as an adult.

Consider that 20% of German Shepherds in the U.S. suffer from hip dysplasia. One in five dogs will develop this disease. It is worthwhile to avoid this problem unless you have lots of money to spend on surgical procedures.

Do proper research on breeders before purchasing a German Shepherd as hip dysplasia is prevalent in this breed.

If you have not done your homework, you can still learn how to spot whether your German Shepherd has hip dysplasia or not.

Spotting hip dysplasia in its initial stages is quite simple as a number of abnormalities are present:

  • Pet owners will typically notice that their puppy has an awkward gait or lameness.
  • The puppy may constantly fall over, which is unnatural.
  • Your puppy will avoid running or playing because it is in pain or is experiencing discomfort.
  • The puppy will struggle to climb stairs and avoid this activity.
  • German Shepherds with hip dysplasia often take to bunny hopping to relieve pressure on their hips and hindquarters. Bunny hopping refers to using its back legs together to move forward.

Hip dysplasia in older dogs is easier to spot. The dog will exhibit many of the symptoms described above and others.

Other symptoms of hip dysplasia in adult dogs include:

  • Limping and noticeably loose hip joints due to weakness in its hindquarters.
  • Adult German Shepherds may sway when standing or look weak or uncomfortable when moving. They will also struggle to stand up from a sitting or lying position and battle to lie down as they attempt to avoid the pain from this movement.
  • Adults tend to keep their hind legs close together to balance themselves and stay upright.
  • They may often cry when moving or if you touch their hips and hindquarters.

Even if you notice signs of hip dysplasia, it is advisable to obtain an expert diagnosis.

radiographic test can be used to gain a hip score, which determines if there is any incidence of subluxation or other signs of hip dysplasia.

Symptoms And Diagnosis Of Hip Dysplasia

Symptoms And Diagnosis Of Hip Dysplasia

German Shepherd hip dysplasia is often present at birth. However, the symptoms are not always apparent at a young age and may not show until 9 to 12 months of age.

You will then notice the clinical signs in the previous discussion. Your puppy or adult German Shepherd may also snap at you because it is in pain.

Signs of hip dysplasia may also appear in adult or mature years, and the severity can vary between animals.

This condition’s severity is reliant on the dog’s activity levels. The joint degradation rapidly increases with more significant activity, which stresses the joints.

If the hip dysplasia is mild, the chances are that this condition will deteriorate slowly. The opposite is also true when the hip dysplasia is severe, in which case joint degradation speeds up.

Luckily, only a tiny percentage of this breed will develop an acute form of this disease, which is crippling.

While a puppy’s parents may not have dysplasia, they can still inherit this disease. Vets warn that environmental circumstances also play a role in its development.

Therefore, it is vital to manage elements such as your pet’s weight, activity, lifestyle, and nutrition to provide your pet with the best care possible.

If you doubt whether your German Shepherd has hip dysplasia, it is essential to take them for x-rays or radiographs. An expert diagnosis helps create a plan to improve their quality of life.

A vet will conduct a PennHip diagnostic test on your pet while under anaesthetic. You can take your puppy for a test, but vets confirm that hip dysplasia may only be noticeable from 9 months to over two years of age.

A professional test helps breeders know which dogs are suitable for breeding and aids pet owners with the future management of their pet’s health.

A certificate from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) improves breeding quality and gives buyers some comfort in knowing that their puppy might be less susceptible to developing this condition.

However, there are no guarantees, but you can take preventive action to support your pet’s health.


Some German Shepherds can carry the hip dysplasia gene and not display symptoms. However, vets advise preventative action to avoid your pet developing symptoms in later life.

Here’s what you can do to promote your pet’s health, whether they have hip dysplasia or not.

#1 Nutritional support for puppies


Feed your puppy high-quality food low in calories to prevent rapid growth. A good with a low calcium content is preferable since this will also slow bones from growing too fast and too quickly for its age.

#2 Food for adult German Shepherds

Source a formula that is explicitly manufactured for adult German Shepherds.

If you have any doubts about the food you purchase, consult your vet for further advice about food and the supplements you give your pet to support their health.

#3 Activity levels


Ensure you give your puppy and adult dog sufficient low-impact exercise if the vet confirms hip dysplasia is present.

You can exercise your puppy in short bursts, more frequently during the day, and ensure that this activity is not strenuous.

In other words, don’t allow them to run fast, sprint, or make them jump or twist in awkward positions such as throwing balls in the air for them to catch.

To avoid excessive weight-bearing on the dysplastic hip, carry puppies over rugged terrains such as stairs. Prevent affected dogs from jumping up or down from high levels. If you travel with your pet, help them in and out of vehicles.

Extra care of pets with hip dysplasia will reduce the stress on their joints, limit the pain and improve their lifestyle.

Light exercise such as swimming adds to muscle tone, which manages symptoms. You can also massage your pet or take them for regular professional massages to relieve their pain and improve their functionality.

#4 Maintain your pet’s weight

German Shepherds are naturally large breed dogs. Overweight dogs will experience more significant stress on their joints. Extra body weight makes it difficult for them to move. Obesity also causes other diseases to develop, such as diabetes.

Maintain your pet’s weight at reasonable levels to increase their lifespan and wellbeing.



There are several options open to you for treating a German Shepherd with hip dysplasia. You can take preventive action and obtain medication from the vet.

The appropriate supplements can slow the process of osteoarthritis. For example anti-inflammatory glucosamine chondroitin, and pain medication such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (nsaids) will reduce your pet’s suffering. These medications have side effects and should only be used under advisement from a vet.

Physical therapy can also be beneficial to improve muscle mass and reduce the impact of joint disease.

In extreme circumstances, your vet may advise surgery to repair much of the damage from hip dysplasia.

A specialist will evaluate each case and may remove bone, rebuild damage, or surgically modify muscles and tendons to improve the animal’s condition.

The two most common surgeries used in the treatment of hip dysplasia are a triple pelvic osteotomy (TPO) or femoral head ostectomy (FHO). At later stages, a total hip replacement might become necessary.

Surgery can enhance your pet’s physical strength and range of motion, reducing pain. However, while surgery is beneficial, a vet cannot wholly reverse hip dysplasia.


German Shepherd hip dysplasia occurs in one out of five dogs. Learn how to spot the symptoms early on and takeaction to prevent the speed that this condition develops, to give your pet a better life.

Even if your pet doesn’t demonstrate hip dysplasia symptoms, they can carry the gene and develop this condition later in life due to poor environmental conditions.

If you do notice signs of hip dysplasia, get expert help immediately. If necessary, explore surgical options to improve your pet’s wellbeing.


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