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Our Library of Dog Health Articles - Information on Hip & Elbow Dysplasia

Canine hip and elbow malformation is a very common cause of arthritis, though the two are separate diseases. It comes about when the skeletal growth rate exceeds that of the growth rate of the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and other connective tissue that act to support and stabilize healthy joints.


In dogs with hip and elbow dysplasia, the joint becomes progressively more unstable and loose as the weight on the joint increases, and the connective tissue is unable to support that weight. Wear and tear on the joint increases as the disease progresses and the joint degenerates.


There are three stages of canine dysplasia - mild, moderate, and severe. In mild dysplasia, there are no arthritic changes. However, arthritis starts to appear in the moderate stage, and progresses in the severe stage. Unfortunately, once arthritis is present,  dysplasia cannot be reversed.


The disease can start as early as 4 to 12 months in genetically predisposed puppies. An x-ray, for which he may need to be sedated, is how the diagnosis of hip and elbow dysplasia in dogs is confirmed.

Hip dysplasia showing the ball and socket joint

Elbow dysplasia showing the  joint

What exactly is hip or elbow dysplasia?


Hip and Elbow Dysplasia are hereditary developmental diseases that affect dogs. Thus they develop as the puppy grows and matures. Sometimes they are evident while still in puppyhood though sometimes symptoms may not be apparent until later in life. Due to differences in growth rate of the various components of the joint, an ill fitting joint develops, poorly supported by surrounding ligaments and other tissues. This leads to discomfort for your dog and almost certainly the gradual development of arthritis in the joint.