Hip Dysplasia

Myths vs. Facts

Gold Ribbon Rescue is committed to educating the public about issues relevant to Golden Retrievers. This fact sheet has been written by GRR to provide information on the issues of Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD) in layman's terms. Related pages discuss it in detail for the more interested reader.

GRR would like to thank the surgeons at Central Texas Veterinary Specialty Hospital (CTVSH) for their tremendous input to this section. Without their help, this complex issue would still be a confusing maze for most of us mortal Golden lovers.

For More detailed information:

Overview of Hip Dysplasia

Frequently Asked Questions on Total Hip Replacement (THR)

Triple Pelvic Osteotomy for Hip Dysplasia


Hip dysplasia isn't very common and/or only occurs in certain breeds.


Any breed can be affected although CHD most commonly affects dogs with a mature body weight over 30 pounds.

The OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) estimates the incidence of CHD in purebred dogs to be from 1.8% to 48.1% depending on the breed. These numbers may be conservative since they are based on purebred dogs presented for OFA certification. Theoretically, a dog whose x-ray shows obvious dysplasia would not be presented for certification.

The vast majority of dogs kept as pets, and/or bred irresponsibly in backyards and puppy mills for profit, have not been through this process. It can be assumed, if there is that high of an incidence in the top rated field and show dogs, the incidence in the general population can be much higher. 


Dogs with Hip Dysplasia are crippled.


Many dogs you see walking, running, and playing everyday have CHD.

CHD affects dogs differently. The fact a dog has evidence of CHD on x-ray examination is merely interesting to the average pet owner. The critical piece of information is whether the dog has clinical symptoms. Many dogs are found to have CHD on x-ray but do not exhibit any signs or symptoms of CHD.

Symptoms include: limping, short-strided steps in the rear legs, slow to get rear-end up off the floor, slow to lie down, difficulty climbing stairs or jumping, morning stiffness, and reluctance to exercise or play. The symptoms of CHD tend to be worst in the morning when the pet first gets up and then "warm out" (improve) throughout the day. Symptoms tend to be worse after heavy exercise, usually the next day, and some days are better than others, with cold and wet days often being worse. Signs of CHD rarely appear suddenly, they worsen slowly, over months or years. Additionally, the signs of CHD are rarely severe. Dogs usually show only mild to moderate lameness or soreness.

Signs of problems NOT consistent with CHD include: sudden onset of problems with the back legs where there's never been a problem before, a mild problem has been present but suddenly becomes much worse, dog is holding limb up, completely off the floor and/or dog is having tremendous trouble getting up and walking and sometimes can't get up at all. If any one of these signs is present, the problem is NOT likely to be CHD. Common rear-end diseases mistaken for CHD are knee and back problems. Many diseases cause rear legs problems. Just because a dog has some arthritis of the hips does NOT mean the problem is related to CHD or even the hips themselves.


My dogs parents have OFA certifications so it's hips are fine.


The chance of a dog having hip dysplasia is 25% even if both parents have "good" or "excellent" certifications.

OFA certification applies to the individual dog examined. Just because the parent is CHD free, does not guarantee its offspring will be. OFA certification is obtained by responsible breeders/owners who want to decrease the chance of reproducing this disease through careless breeding. They seek to further their breed by only breeding the 'best of the best'.

CHD is so prevalent that even excellent sires and dams can pass it along to their offspring. For example, if excellent parents produce a litter of twelve puppies, the odds are likely that 3 puppies will have CHD. This is based on good/excellent certified parents; the incidence increases if the parents have CHD. 


Dogs with CHD have to be euthanized.


Dogs can and do live long, happy and pain-free lives with CHD.

CHD used to be a virtual death sentence to dogs diagnosed with it. Many of us still panic at the mention of the term. However, today's medical capabilities make it a very palatable disease compared to cancer for example, which is still very hard to detect early enough to treat effectively.

Years ago, in the average pet, CHD was diagnosed only when dogs showed advanced signs of pain and impaired movement and x-rays were finally taken to find the underlying cause. This usually meant the dog had advanced joint disease with pain impairing his mobility and quality of life. Euthanasia was often necessary because surgical techniques and medicines in use today were not available.

Nowadays with increased awareness and education about CHD, it can be caught and treated in much earlier phases. The treatment options available today can ensure a long and happy life for animals with CHD. Even dogs with advanced joint disease can be successfully treated.

Proactively, dogs can be x-rayed to screen for the disease. Early knowledge enables owners to make responsible choices regarding the treatment of their beloved pet. Owners who know their dog has CHD are much more likely to watch for early warning signs. They seek treatment in advance of devastating joint changes, minimizing the dog's chance of having a painful life.


All dogs with CHD require treatment 


Only half of the dogs with CHD will eventually require some form of treatment.

It is known that 50% of the dogs diagnosed with laxity from CHD as a puppy will eventually go on to show clinical signs and require some form of treatment in their lifetime; the other 50% will not. 


There is no way to treat CHD


Whether mild or severe CHD is very treatable, even in the most advanced stages.

CHD can be treated either medically or surgically, depending on the dog, stage of the disease, and owner preference. Most veterinary orthopedic surgeons agree that if signs of limping or soreness are very mild, or absent, then treatment probably isn't necessary. Some owners worry about their dog being sore but not showing signs. Some dogs are more stoic than others are, but even the toughest will show one or more of the symptoms listed above if significantly uncomfortable. In general, a dog with CHD that can run, jump and play normally usually does NOT need treatment.

Medical treatment includes three components: Weight control, medication and exercise restriction. Weight control is extremely important. Obesity causes excessive forces to be transmitted to already abnormal hips exacerbating soreness and accelerating arthritis. Medications are used to control soreness flare-ups and slow the arthritic changes and process. Exercise restrictions must be observed for medical therapy to be effective. Full out running, jumping and roughhousing should be limited as much as possible. Extended walks or jogs, on a leash and swimming can be beneficial. When soreness flares up, exercise should be extremely limited for a few days, often crate rest works best.

There are two state of the art surgical treatments available to treat CHD. Both are effective in reducing and/or eliminating the problem and restoring normal, pain free function to the dog. The treatment choice is based on the condition and age of the dog.

Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (TPO) is aimed at saving the natural joint and is performed on young dogs (5-8 months of age) that do not have major arthritic changes in the joint. The pelvis is reconstructed to stabilize the hip joint, which relieves pain, restores function and allows the joint to develop more normally. TPO saves the natural joint by reducing or eliminating the laxity or looseness, which prevents the debilitating arthritis of chronic dysplasia.

Total Hip Replacement (THR) replaces the natural joint with a prosthetic one. It eliminates the discomfort by removing the arthritic joint and replacing it with an artificial one. The THR is a state of the art procedure very similar to the one used in humans. With joint replacement, dogs maintain normal movements and mechanics of the hip joint and are pain free very soon after surgery. Of important note is that over 80% of dogs will only ever need ONE hip replaced despite the presence of arthritis in both hips. The new hip is so strong; it removes the stress on the other arthritic one and the dog functions normally. 


Surgical treatment and medical treatment are the same.


Surgical and medical treatment objectives are different in their approach.

Medical treatment is aimed at controlling and reducing the painful effects of CHD. Medical treatment does not eliminate the problem; it treats the symptoms but has no effect on the underlying cause. The objective of surgical treatment is to structurally correct the problem and eliminate the associated effects of chronic dysplasia altogether.


Surgical treatment is more expensive.


Surgical treatment is a large one-time expenditure. Medical treatment is on going for the life of the dog. Depending on the age and degree of CHD in the dog, surgical treatment is often less expensive in the long run.

Cost for THR (one hip) and TPO (on both hips) is about $2400 and in over 95% of the cases, the dog requires no further treatment.

Medical treatment includes on going x-rays to check progression of CHD, exam fees, and medications. Medications for CHD generally fall into two categories, anti-inflammatory (Rimadyl) and chondro-protective (Cosequin). Anti-inflammatories are given during flare-ups and, if the CHD progresses far enough, daily for the remainder of the dogs' life. Chondro-protective agents help build and stabilize the cartilage in the joint surfaces and must be given regularly to be effective. These medications are effective but costly. Each medication costs approximately $50 a month for the average size Golden Retriever.

The other drawback to medical treatment is since there is no permanent (surgical) repair of the CHD, the disease can continue to progress and eventually may require surgical intervention or euthanasia to ensure the comfort of the pet.

Comparative cost example for a 6-year-old Golden Retriever diagnosed with CHD. Assuming a life expectancy of 12 years and four CHD flare-ups annually until age nine, when daily Rimadyl becomes necessary.

Breakdown of Total Cost

Cost of THR = $2400.

Medical Treatment = $6774

Years 7, 8 & 9 Cost


Years 10, 11 & 12 Cost


4 exams per year for flare-ups ($40 ea.)


3 Annual exams w/blood profiles


Rimadyl (2 pills/day for 14 days X 4)


Rimadyl daily


Cosequin daily


Cosequin Daily


Annual Cost ($272/yr. w/o Cosequin)


Annual Cost ($830/yr. w/o Cosequin)


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