According to the American Kennel Club, all Labrador retrievers are inherently plagued by hip dysplasia due to genetics, which causes issues for many owners as labs are the most popular dog breed in America. The frequent misconception is this condition is only prominent in labs or large breed dogs (over 50 lbs.), but many smaller breeds are also susceptible to this terrifying joint problem.

We all hate to see our fur babies go through pain, so that’s why we’re going to educate you on the causes, prevention, and symptoms of dogs with hip dysplasia. Therefore, if we know the symptoms and causes of the condition, we can do everything in our power, as pet owners, to stop it from happening in our pooch.

Hip Dysplasia Symptoms

Labrador at the beach

As pet parents, we notice the slightest changes in our pup’s behavior. Sometimes we see they’re not eating as much food as normal or are as active as they were before. These are just a few signs your lab might be experiencing some Labrador joint issues.

The joint issues occur because the hip joint is deformed and doesn’t fit the femur bone into the hip socket. This causes the ball and socket to painfully rub each other instead of sliding smoothly. Much like joint issues with humans, this rubbing causes a loss of cartilage, thus resulting in chronic pain and long-term joint disease.

Because this disease is so severe, early detection is key to the most successful treatment. The severity differs based on each lab, but overall muscle mass will decrease because of their reduced mobility due to the pain. Exercise will dwindle but the time frame depends on each lab.

Look for these symptoms in your lab that signify canine hip dysplasia:

  • Decreased activity
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Reluctance to jump, run, or climb stairs
  • Favoring a back leg
  • Stiffness in legs
  • Trouble standing up to greet you
  • Enlargement of shoulders to compensate for hind leg

If you see any of these signs in your lab, be sure to contact a vet immediately. X-rays and a full exam are needed to properly diagnose your four-legged friend and if they need a puppy hip dysplasia treatment.

Causes of Hip Dysplasia

Labrador puppy on the pool

The most troubling part about hip dysplasia in dogs is that sometimes there’s nothing you can do to prevent it. The leading cause of joint issues is genetics. Hip dysplasia is hereditary in specific dog breeds, particularly with Labrador retrievers, German Shepherds, and Saint Bernards. Unfortunately, simply being one of these breeds increases their chances of contracting the disease tenfold.

Diet is the most important aspect other than genetics for joint issues. Lab puppies should be kept at a lean weight during their growing years, instead of being overfed to grow big and strong. Not only can overfeeding lead to pet obesity, it can also cause puppy hip dysplasia.

Recent studies show that when puppies were overfed during their youth, more than 70% of them went on to develop hip dysplasia. Since this normally occurs during the first year of their lives, the puppy stages are the most critical for their health.

Overexercise is another cause of hip dysplasia. Since the beginning of a lab’s life is so crucial to their health, vets recommend keeping your pooch lean and fit to avoid added weight. This added weight can put extra stress on their bodies, especially their hip joints which is largely connected to the condition.

How to Prevent Canine Hip Dysplasia

Labrador feeding


A lot of the joint issues begin with poor nutrition, which is extremely important for your little lab. Make sure to feed your pooch specially formulated foods that prevent excessive growth. By using this special food, it allows their joints to develop without putting too much strain on their body to carry their weight, thus maintaining their growth and weight.

Without this specialized dog food, large breeds can grow too quickly for their joints to maintain their weight. This exacerbates the condition with too much stress being put on their overweight bodies.


Dog food is important to hip dysplasia prevention, but exercise is just as crucial to the health of your lab. We know that not enough physical activity can cause joint issues, but surprisingly, too much movement can have the same effects. Overworking your doggo can cause the joints to rub too frequently and fast thus creating irritation and loss of cartilage, which causes hip dysplasia.

So be sure to follow your dog’s signs of exhaustion and plan accordingly. The appropriate amount of exercise is up to your pup, but be sure to find the right line to keep them in peak physical condition.

Treatment for Dogs with Hip Dysplasia

Labrador visiting a vet

The type of treatment depends on the discomfort of each lab. While some may require surgery, others can be fixed with simple lifestyle choices. The non-surgical approach involves non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that decrease the pain levels for your pooch. In addition to the NSAIDs, vets recommend physical therapy to slowly get your pup back to 100%. Thankfully, alternatives therapies used to treat hip dysplasia are often covered by dog insurance.

Vets also commonly recommend weight reduction to take stress off the hips, which can be done through a steady diet. This process is more difficult because exercise must also be limited to keep the weight off the hips.

However, if your pup is beyond the pain level of NSAIDs or weight reduction, they might be a candidate for surgery. Depending on the severity of the condition, the cost of canine hip dysplasia surgery can range from $2,000 to $4,500 for various procedures. These are the three most popular procedures to treat hip dysplasia in dogs:

Double/Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (DPO/TPO)

This procedure is normally for doggos under ten months old because of their developing joints. The pelvic bone is cut and rotated to fall in place with the ball and socket hip joint.

Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO)

This is the most versatile procedure because it’s performed on labs of all ages. The ball of the hip joint is cut off, creating a false joint that increases comfort.

Total Hip Replacement (THR)

THR is the most effective surgery because it replaces the entire hip with metal and plastic implants. It eliminates all discomfort and is the most invasive.

No matter which treatment or procedure you choose, it’s sure to help your lab get back to their normal self. While the cost of surgery may be higher than you expected, you can get reimbursed for the vet bills if you purchase a dog insurance policy from Prudent Pet. Get a quote today and start saving $$$.