German Shepherd Hip Dysplasia
Health & Nutrition

German Shepherd Hip Dysplasia – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

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German Shepherd Hip Dysplasia is one of the most common diseases that affect large dogs. This joint condition can have a serious effect on their day to day lives. This article will discuss the common causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment. It will also give you solid preventative measures you can take to hopefully steer clear of this debilitating disease. Let’s take a look at this common problem that German Shepherds and other large dog breeds face.

What exactly is Hip Dysplasia in German Shepherds?

Hip Dysplasia is a joint condition frequently seen in large dogs such as the German Shepherd. It is seen in smaller dog breeds but not as often. It is caused by an improper fitting of the ball and hip socket. The result is a wearing down of the joint over time which leads to mobility issues down the road. Often times dogs must use a wheelchair to assists the back legs when walking. Supplements can help but in some cases, hip replacement surgeries are necessary.

How The Hip Joint Works:

In order to understand the condition, it is important to first learn the basic anatomy of the canine hip joint and how it works.

The hip joint in dogs operates as a ball and socket joint. It is located at the top of the dogs leg. The ball is suppose to fit perfectly inside of this socket.

When it doesn’t develop appropriately or fit correctly, there can be friction between the joints causing it to degrade through the years. This can lead to the dog eventually losing the function of the joint making it hard to walk.

German Shepherd Hip Dysplasia X Ray

Common Causes of Hip Dysplasia in German Shepherds?

There are several causes of this condition which is hereditary and very common in large dogs. Dr. Wayne Riser conducted a lengthy study in 1975 on Canine Hip Dysplasia or CHD called “Observations and Research on Hip Dysplasia.”

He determined that several factors contributed to the disease. They included: accelerated growth as a puppy, enlarged head and feet, excessive appetite, thickset body with loose skin, and poor coordination in the gait.


The condition can be passed down from generation to generation and is more common in large breeds such as Bulldogs, Mastiffs, German Shepherds, Retrievers, Rottweilers and St. Bernards.

Nutrition and Weight:

Giving your dog a healthy diet is extremely important in the prevention of the condition. Feeding your dog a high quality food or human foods can help reduce the potential for hip problems in the future. Unhealthy foods or a lack of nutrients can lead to obesity which can exacerbate the problem.

In addition, your Vet may prescribe a dog food that is specifically formulated for large breeds such as the German Shepherd. This special food can slow down the dog’s growth preventing problems in the joints.

Quick Growth:

Rapid growth as a puppy can cause an exorbitant amount of force and pressure on the dogs joints. The stress caused from this fast paced development can further accentuate the condition.

Too Much Exercise:

Exercise is extremely important for your dogs health but too much can be detrimental to your dogs joints. Excessive exercise can put unnecessary pressure on the joints which can magnify Hip Dysplasia.

You want to give your German Shepherd about two hours of exercise a day but don’t over do it. Lack of exercise can also worsen the condition due to obesity.

Hip Dysplasia Symptoms:

German Shepherds can start to show signs of Hip Dysplasia as early on as four months old. Often times they will develop the condition simultaneously with osteoarthritis as they grow up. The following symptoms will cover both conditions. Several factors can contribute to different symptoms such as the length and severity of the condition, inflammation and looseness of the joints.

  • “Bunny hopping” during a trot
  • Decrease in the thigh’s muscle mass
  • Grinding in the joint when moving
  • Hard time climbing, jumping, rising and running
  • Lack of activity
  • Lameness in the backside
  • Lessened range of motion
  • Notably bigger shoulder muscles
  • Pain and Stiffness in the joints

How to Diagnose Hip Dysplasia in German Shepherds:

Diagnosing the condition early on is very important and can be accomplished with regular checkups with your veterinarian. While your vet may be able to diagnose the condition with a simple checkup, sometimes the owner must let the vet know about any signs or symptoms the dog is experiencing.

In Addition, give them a good history of your dog’s health and heritage along with information on any accidents or injuries your dog may have suffered that could potentially cause issues.

When diagnosing the condition, your veterinarian will most likely move the dogs back legs to check for any friction, loose joints or a reduction in movement. They may also do some blood work which can reveal any inflammation.

How to treat Hip Dysplasia in German Shepherds:

Treatments for the condition can range from minor changes in daily habits to surgery for serious cases. Hopefully preventative measures and some simple lifestyle changes will do the trick. Follow your vet’s recommendations which could include the following remedies.

Non-surgical Remedies:

  • Anti-inflammatory medicine (corticosteroids)
  • Joint lubricators
  • Less exercise specifically on hard surfaces
  • Physical therapy
  • Reducing weight or obesity to lessen stress on the joints
  • Supplements for joints

Surgical Procedures:

  • Double or triple pelvic osteotomy
    This procedure, or DPO/TPO for short, involves carefully cutting the dog’s pelvic bone and pivoting the segments thus improving the overall function of the ball and socket joint. This surgery is normally recommended for young dogs that are less than ten months old.
  • Femoral head ostectomy
    This procedure, or FHO for short, is comprised of removing the femoral head which is the ball of the hip joint. As a result, the body generates a “false” ball joint that can curtail the soreness of the condition.
  • Total hip replacement
    THR is the most beneficial and impactful procedure for your dog. This surgery involves the complete replacement of your dog’s hip joint with implants that are metal and plastic. This procedure most often gets rid of the pain and gives the dog their normal function.

How to prevent Hip Dysplasia in your German Shepherd:

Although it is impossible to prevent every case of Hip Dysplasia, there are several preventative measures that can be taken to lower the risk of developing the condition.

A good way to determine the best way to prevent the condition, is to look at the common causes discussed earlier in the article.

Appropriate Exercise:

Giving your dog the right amount of exercise is crucial in their development and in the prevention of joint problems. As we mentioned earlier, don’t give your German Shepherd more than two hours of exercise daily and try to avoid hard surfaces that can increase the stress on their joints.

Healthy Diet:

A healthy diet is critical to your dog’s health and should start when they are young. Talk to your vet about your dog’s history and form a healthy diet plan that will help prevent future joint problems. Stay away from giving your dog leftovers from dinner or anything fatty to avoid obesity in your German Shepherd.


In the age of the internet, information for dog owners is prevalent. Take the time to do your research and read everything you can on joint problems pertaining to your dog’s breed.

Reading other peoples experiences and perspectives is a great way to help your dog and hopefully prevent any future conditions.


If you plan on purchasing a new dog, make sure to find a reputable breeder that screens for conditions such as Hip Dysplasia using radiographs.

Breeders have the ability to detect the disease early on by screening their dogs before putting them up for sale. They can incorporate the OFA, or Orthopedic Foundation for Animals into their arsenal of preventative tools. The organization can help determine the overall quality of their dog’s hips, based on a rating system of normal grade or higher.


Glucosamine, in its natural form, is a compound that is present in cartilage which is a tough tissue used by the body to cushion joints. It is often used to treat arthritis in animals and humans.

Many dog supplements contain Glucosamine and can help prevent German Shepherds from developing arthritis or Hip Dysplasia down the road.

While research is limited, these supplements are safe to give dogs over a long period most of the time. Check with your vet to see if these supplements would be right for your dog.

In Closing:

Hip Dysplasia are two words that German Shepherd dog owners hate to hear. But large dog breeds aren’t the only ones to suffer from this condition. Dogs of all sizes can be diagnosed with the condition.

It is very painful for dogs and can have an immense impact on their well being. It is a sad sight for dog owners to watch their dog deal with this unfortunate condition.

Thanks to resources such as the internet, it is now easy for anyone to research common conditions such as this one. Self education, along with preventative German Shepherd supplements for joints, can ensure your doggie has a bright and healthy future!

Any large dog such as the German Shepherd should be monitored and checked on a yearly basis for any signs or symptoms of the condition. Following general healthy practices which include good exercise and a healthy balanced diet are a great start!

Check with your vet and develop an exercise and nutritional regimen that fits your dog’s lifestyle. Also take the appropriate preventative measures such as giving your dog a good supplement. These factors combined with lots of love and attention should make for a long healthy life with your furry friend!

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