Hip dysplasia, usually a hereditary disease, is a malformation of the hip joint. This joint is a ball and socket with the head of the thigh bone as the ball that fits into the socket formed by the pelvic bones coming together. In dogs with hip dysplasia the ball and socket don’t fit together properly, and the joint becomes malformed and the abnormal forces on it cause damage to the protective cartilage that lines the surfaces of the joint. When the cartilage begins to break and split and the joint becomes inflamed, the condition is called degenerative joint disease (DJD). In some dogs the tissues that support this joint are loose, allowing too much movement of the ball in the socket and this eventually causes destruction of the joint. The damaged joint and the arthritis that follows cause the pain and lameness of dysplasia. Symptoms of hip dysplasia can appear as early as four months of age. Often the first sign will be a change in the normal gait. These dogs have pain in their hips and may have trouble rising to a standing position. They are reluctant to jump or climb stairs and they have trouble walking on smooth floors. They hold their rear legs close together when standing or walking and “bunny hop” when they run. Hip dysplasia is diagnosed by an X-ray. There are many surgical options for treating dogs with symptoms of hip dysplasia. Young dogs, 6 to 12 months of age, can undergo a procedure called a triple pelvic osteotomy in which the pelvis is cut and tilted so that the hip socket is more normal. This surgery corrects the abnormal forces acting on the joint and may allow the joint to develop properly in the growing dog. Total hip replacement is also available and can be performed even in advanced cases of older dogs. The procedure is often successful, with more than 90% of cases said to be pain free after recovery. Another option is called and excision arthroplasty in which the head of the femur is removed and the area where the femur and hip once joined together fills with scar tissue. The dog is then able to use their rear legs somewhat like crutches. This procedure is usually used for smaller dogs, 40lbs and under, and they will have a different walk with the muscles of the rear legs eventually becoming weakened and thin. Medical therapy, alone, for hip dysplasia and DJD cannot correct the anatomic abnormalities of the hips, but they can be used to control inflammation and to minimize joint pain, especially for those dogs with mild symptoms. Certain breed of dogs such as German Shepherd, Saint Bernard’s, Labrador retrievers, rottweilers and Golden retrievers are predisposed to developing Hip Dysplasia. Conscientious breeders have been working for years to limit hip dysplasia in prospective breeding animals and those pets should be spayed or neutered to prevent the disease from being passed on to puppies.