When to Euthanize a Dog with Hip Dysplasia?

Euthanization can be a difficult decision for any pet parent to make. Hip dysplasia is a condition that is typically found in large dog breeds but can affect other breeds as well. 

Depending on the severity, the dog can experience symptoms like a decreased range of motion, unstable gait, limpness, lameness in hind legs, and pain, among others.

When to Euthanize a Dog with Hip Dysplasia
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The pain will have to be managed throughout its life with lifestyle changes and medications. Surgery is also an option if the dog is a good candidate.

It is normal for the dog to have good and bad days. But, if the bad days are starting to pile up and its quality of life is affected, then you may need to consider the question of when to euthanize dog with hip dysplasia.

The article will look at dog hip dysplasia, its causes, symptoms, and treatments. It will also go through the factors that can help you decide on the euthanization process.

What is Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?

The hip joint in dogs is made from a ball and socket joint. The dog develops this condition during its early growth stages. For the hip joint to function correctly, the ball and the socket should grow at an equal rate. But when this growth rate does not match, it results in a loose hip joint.

So, now when the dog walks, the ball and the socket do not glide smoothly. Instead, they rub and grind against each other, causing the dog pain and discomfort.

As the pet grows, the hip bone starts wearing out, so the symptoms’ severity also increases. The continuous wear and tear can cause arthritis, degenerative joint disease, and muscle atrophy, among others.

What Causes Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?

What Causes Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
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This is a genetic condition. Several factors can magnify the effect of this genetic predisposition. For example, improper diet, weight gain, muscle mass, growth rate, types of exercise, and hormones are factors that increase the chances of the pet developing hip dysplasia.

Let us go through an interesting study mentioned by VCA animal hospitals. A group of puppies at risk of developing the condition were fed as much food as they wanted. 2/3rd of the puppies from the group developed hip dysplasia.

Another group of at-risk puppies was fed measured meals. 1/3rd puppies from the second group developed hip dysplasia.

Another study found that overweight German Shepherd puppies were twice as likely to develop the condition than normal-weight puppies.

According to AKC, giving the puppy too much or too little exercise can also exacerbate the condition. If the dog is overweight, a lot of exercises can put additional pressure on the hip joints. You must follow a specialized diet and exercise routine for dogs with hip dysplasia.

Are Some Breeds Prone to Hip Dysplasia?

Are Some Breeds Prone to Hip Dysplasia
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Any dog breed, big or small, can develop hip dysplasia. But yes, large dog breeds, the ones that weigh more than 50 lbs, are prone to developing the condition.

Here are some high-risk dog breeds:

  • Great Dane
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Golden Retrievers
  • German Shepherd
  • Saint Bernard
  • Old English Sheepdogs

If you are a parent of a large breed dog, it is best to keep up with monthly vet visits from 2 to 10 months. This way, you can catch the issue early on and decide the best treatment approach with the vet.

Also Read: Seven Dog Breeds With Short Lifespans

What Signs Do Dogs with Hip Dysplasia Present?

The presence and severity of the symptoms shows will differ from one canine to another. For example, a puppy may develop hip dysplasia during its initial growth. However, the joint will gradually degenerate over time, and the dog may reach well into adulthood before it shows any clinical signs.

Similarly, the amount of pain or lameness the dog exhibits may differ. For example, dogs with severe cases of hip dysplasia, as confirmed with x-rays, may show minimal signs of discomfort. This is why the condition often goes undetected in dogs.

On the other hand, dogs with minimal joint wear may experience more pain.

As a dog parent, here are some symptoms that you might notice:

  • Weakness in hind legs
  • Lameness with no history of injury
  • Reluctance to climb stairs
  • Difficulty standing once seated or lying
  • Abnormal gait
  • Abnormal sitting position
  • Reduced activity level
  • Reduced thigh muscle mass
  • Pain

If you notice occasional limping, change in gait, or sudden reluctance to do activities the dog loved before, its cause needs to be investigated. You should pay attention to these symptoms, especially if the breed is prone to developing the condition.

How is the Condition Diagnosed?

How is the Condition Diagnosed
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A radiograph under general anesthetic is the way hip dysplasia diagnosis is confirmed. However, muscle relaxation is important for accurate results; thus, sedation or anesthesia will be administered.

Now, why would your pet receive this test? There can be two scenarios here. First, the vet may catch the issue during the routine scheduled check-ups. A physical examination, for example, checking the laxity of the joints in the hind legs could indicate hip dysplasia. The vet may then do a radiograph and blood work to confirm the diagnosis.

Second, if you notice any of the symptoms of the condition mentioned above, you need to report them to the vet for further investigation. If the dog does not run around, play with you, or participate in activities as before, it could be in pain. The simple act of getting up from a seated position may be causing it discomfort. Thus, it would be best to discuss its condition with the vet soon.

What Treatments are Available for Hip Dysplasia in Dogs?

There are two treatment approaches for hip dysplasia in dogs – non-surgical and surgical.

Under the non-surgical umbrella, there are several treatment options involved. For example, lifestyle changes, physical therapy, supplements, dietary changes, and medication.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have been effective in managing the clinical signs of hip dysplasia with minimal side effects.

Glucosamine is a joint supplement that can help manage the symptoms of this condition. It is often part of the long-term treatment plan as it is safe to use for most patients. It can also be consumed by dogs that are prone to developing hip dysplasia or arthritis in the future. The vet can recommend this supplement in a chewable form to help the pet get through its routine.

If the dog is overweight, lifestyle changes will be necessary to manage clinical signs. For example, reducing weight can help take additional stress on the joints. In addition, physical therapy can help improve the dog’s mobility and maintain its quality of life.

Is Surgery Option for Hip Dysplasia?

Is Surgery Option for Hip Dysplasia
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Yes, surgery can be used to treat hip dysplasia depending on the dog’s age, condition, lifestyle, and cost.

If the dog is less than ten months old, the vet can perform a double or triple pelvic osteotomy to treat hip dysplasia. In this surgery, the vet will selectively cut the dog’s pelvic bone to improve the functionality of the hip joint.

A femoral head ostectomy is a surgery that can be performed on both young and adult dogs. The surgery cannot replicate normal hip joint function but can help manage pain.

One of the common and effective forms of surgery is total hip replacement. The surgery involves removing the ball and the socket and replacing them with prostheses. The vet will use metal, dense plastic, and special bone cement to keep the joint in place.

What is the Cost of Dog Hip Dysplasia Treatments and Surgery?

Hip dysplasia is a condition that may require life-long medical management. There is the cost of medications, supplements, healthy diets, therapies, and vet visits to consider.

Surgery may be a better option in the long run, both in terms of handling hip dysplasia and cost.

According to PetMD, if we look at non-surgical treatment plans, you can spend anywhere from $50 to $200 monthly on medications alone. So, the yearly medication cost will be $600 to $2,400. And over ten years, you can spend $6,000 to $24,000.

If the dog is eligible, a surgery like total hip replacement can cost around $1,500 to $7,000. The cost depends on the dog’s unique condition, the clinic you visit, and the location.

When it comes to your pet’s health, you will want the best for it. But, the cost is a factor that needs to be considered. Leaving the condition untreated is not recommended. The symptoms of hip dysplasia need to be managed, or the dog could end up in pain with its quality of life significantly affected.

Euthanize Dog with Hip Dysplasia – When is the Right Time?

Euthanize Dog with Hip Dysplasia - When is the Right Time
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This is undoubtedly one of the difficult decisions you will make. But it would be best if you made it from a logical perspective.

Hip dysplasia is a painful condition. So, the dog has dealt with pain all through its life. Medications can help manage this pain. But there may come a time when the medications may no longer work.

You have to look into the dog’s daily routine. Is it able to walk, is it able to go poop outside on its own, and is it able to get around the house comfortably? The lameness and pain can come to a point wherein the dog will frequently soil itself inside the house. As standing and walking become difficult, you could find yourself carrying the dog around.

There can be days when the dog does not feel like running around the backyard or playing catch. On other days, it may enjoy its time playing with you. The dog can have a combination of good and bad days. But if the bad ones start outweighing the good, then euthanization is something you will have to consider.

Suppose the dog starts showing symptoms like lack of interest in activities it loved before, listlessness, whimpering, crying, refusal to eat, drink, or rapid breathing. In that case, you need to discuss its condition with the vet.

If the vet can help deal with the clinical signs and provide relief, then that is a route you can take. But, if nothing can be changed for the better, holding onto the pet and prolonging its suffering can be cruel.

How Long Can Dogs with Hip Dysplasia Live?

Dogs with hip dysplasia can often live well into their old age with consistent medical treatment and lifestyle management. As the dog ages, it may experience its quality of life dipping compared to its healthy counterparts. But, it can still enjoy a comfortable life.

The problem with hip dysplasia is that in some dogs, there might be no to minimal signs while the hip joint continues to degrade. The condition can progress to arthritis and other joint diseases if left undiagnosed or untreated.

Thus, regular vet check-ups become necessary. You should also watch for clinical signs, especially if you own a large breed dog.

Is it Possible to Prevent Hip Dysplasia?

Is it Possible to Prevent Hip Dysplasia
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It might not be possible to prevent hip dysplasia in canines. As seen above, it is a hereditary condition. What you can control to some extent are the factors that aggravate the hereditary condition.

For example, obesity is a major factor that affects hip dysplasia. So, feeding the dog a healthy diet and appropriate exercise can help control its weight.

Some foods have been specially formulated for large breed dogs. These foods can ensure the dog has a healthy skeletal system. Some dog foods also contain the supplement glucosamine. Feeding at-risk dogs such food may help delay the progression of the condition.

Keeping up with vet check-ups is important. If you catch the issue early, lifestyle changes and medication can keep your pet comfortable and help it live a normal life.


Are you faced with the question of when to euthanize dog with hip dysplasia? It can be a heart-breaking question for any pet parent. But, you need to answer it honestly for the sake of your dog.

Start by answering basic questions like is your dog in pain, can it walk, eat poop on its own, is the dog unhappy, and is there any other medical treatment you can try to improve its condition? Then, depending on the answers, you need to determine a score for the dog’s quality of life.

If it continues to have bad days with no good days in sight, it would be time to let them go. However difficult it is, you should put the pet’s needs before anything else.

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When to Euthanize a Dog with Hip Dysplasia?

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