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Hip Dysplasia in dogs and cats

Published on 30 Jul 2021

The hips joint is a “ball and socket” joint. The head of the femur is the ball, and the acetabulum of the hip is the socket. Hip Dysplasia (also known as coxofemoral joint laxity, hip joint arthritis or coxofemoral joint arthritis) is a condition where the head of the femur doesn’t fit properly into the acetabulum of the hip. 

There is often also laxity in the joint. With the ball and socket not fitting neatly together as they should, the joint is unstable. The instability results in damage to the cartilage and ligaments of the joint and further changes to the bony structures including arthritis and osteophytes (bone spurs). 

It is generally an inherited problem, with growth rates, nutrition and exercise influencing the development of the disease.

Who is affected by Hip Dysplasia?

Hip Dysplasia is common in large breed dogs but can also affect smaller dogs and occasionally cats. According to PetSure data from the calendar year 2020, Hip Dysplasia is most prevalent in the following breeds: 

Breed Prevalence
Dogue De Bordeaux2.90%
Australian Bulldog 1.57%
German Shepherd 1.55%
British Bulldog 1.35%
Golden Retriever 1.28%
Alaskan Malamute1.27%
Bernese Mountain Dog 1.11%
Rottweiler 1.10% 

Prevalence = Total number of unique claiming pets / total number of insured pets across 12-month period. Excludes breeds with less than 500 active pet insurance policies.

Signs of Hip Dysplasia

The signs of Hip Dysplasia vary depending on the age and severity of the problem. Initially, there may be signs of an unusual gait, which may include swaying in the rear end or “bunny hopping” where the pup uses the two rear legs together rather than one at a time.

As the condition progresses and arthritis develops, limping and signs of pain occur. Affected dogs may be reluctant to run, jump or navigate stairs. They may lose muscle mass in the rear end and some dogs may even yelp or show signs of pain when you touch them around the hips. Typically, signs start in younger dogs, under a year old but can also occur in older animals, especially those who are overweight. 

Hip Dysplasia in Dogs and Cats.jpg

Management of Hip Dysplasia

Management of Hip Dysplasia is generally lifelong and includes management of pain and inflammation through anti-inflammatory medications and chondroprotectant agents including pentosan polysulfate or glucosamine. In many cases, the recommended course of action is surgery to help restore mobility and quality of life to affected pups.

Common procedures include a femoral head ostectomy, where the head of the femur (the “ball” part of the joint) is removed. This removes the source of the pain, and the scar tissue that forms after the surgery helps stabilise the area. This procedure is generally better for small dogs and cats. For larger dogs, a total hip replacement may be recommended, where prosthetics are used to replace the hip joint.

In young pups around 14 to 16 weeks of age, a procedure known as a Juvenile Pubic Symphysiodesis (JPS) may be recommended by the Vet to help reduce the signs and severity of hip dysplasia later in life. 

How much does it cost to treat? 

PetSure claims data from the 2020 calendar year show the average single treatment for Hip Dysplasia was $293, and the highest single treatment was $9,678. Keep in mind that medical management may be required for life in pets affected with hip dysplasia. 

Disclaimer: Reimbursement for these claims would be subject to limits, such as annual benefit limits or sub-limits, benefit percentage, applicable waiting periods and any applicable excess. Cover is subject to the policy terms and conditions. You should consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement or policy wording available from the relevant provider.


  1. Harasen, Greg, 2016, VINCYCLOPEDIA OF DISEASES, Hip Dysplasia, accessed 08/07/21
  2. Bell, J, 2018, What practitioners should know about the genetics of hip dysplasia, World Small Animal Veterinary Association Congress Proceedings, accessed on 08/07/21
  3. Hulse, D, 2016, Diagnosis and Treatment of Rear Limb Disorders, accessed on 08/07/21

Terms, conditions, waiting periods, limits and exclusions apply. is issued by The Hollard Insurance Company Pty Ltd ABN 78 090 584 473, AFSL 241436, is arranged and administered by PetSure (Australia) Pty Ltd ABN 95 075 949 923, AFSL 420183 (PetSure) and is promoted and distributed by PetSure’s Authorised Representatives (AR) Pet Insurance Pty Ltd ABN 38 607 160 930, AR 1234944 and Pet Culture Pty Ltd ABN 69 644 613 098, AR 001284860. Any advice provided is general only and does not take into account your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. Please consider the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) to ensure this product meets your needs before purchasing. PDS and Target Market Determination available at .

Kylie Mitchell

Kylie Mitchell


Kylie Mitchell is a veterinarian with over 17 years experience in animal health and welfare, including in the veterinary and pet insurance industries

She has three rescue cats (Noah, Bei Bei and Meeka), four very old cockatiels and a pond-full of fish.

Kylie Mitchell's Pets

  • MeekaMeeka
  • Bei BeiBei Bei
  • NoahNoah