Hip Dysplasia in Golden Retrievers

Hip Dysplasia in Golden Retrievers

When you own a Golden retriever, it is important to know about common illnesses that could potentially affect your pup. Problems like ear and skin issues can vary in their degree of intensity, but few disorders can negatively impact quality of life the way that hip dysplasia can.   

What Is Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is an orthopedic disorder that affects the ball and socket joints of the hips. When there is smooth bone and adequate coverage of the “ball” part of the joint (aka the femoral head), the joint is considered healthy.

Dogs with hip dysplasia develop an irregular hip joint on either one or both sides of the hips. The acetabulum (aka the “socket” part of the joint) may be shallow and does not provide sufficient femoral head coverage. As a result, the joint is considered lax or unstable. 

Just like in people, an unstable joint space can be a big problem for a dog. In an attempt to stabilize the joint, the body will try to grow extra bone in these areas. However, this only contributes to inflammation and joint pain in the future, a condition known as osteoarthritis. 

What Causes Hip Dysplasia in Golden Retrievers?

What causes hip dysplasia


Genetics plays a large role in the development of hip dysplasia. It is more likely to occur in large and giant breed dogs such as Golden Retrievers, Saint Bernards, Labrador retrievers, and German Shepherd dogs. These breeds have a much more rapid rate of growth than their smaller breed counterparts, and if growth is too fast, it can lead to joint instability. 


Diet can also play a major role in hip dysplasia development. Large breed puppy diets are formulated to contain the right blend of vitamins and nutrients so that painful growth spurts can be avoided. The diets are also created so that these puppies do not become overweight. Studies show that being overweight is a significant risk factor in the development of hip dysplasia.

What Are The Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia?

Golden retrievers tend to be stoic breeds, and so typical signs of pain can be very subtle. In some cases, a dog may favor sitting on one side of his hips instead of the other, or he may be slow to rise from a sitting position. Dogs may avoid motions that cause pain like going up stairs or jumping. Limping is an obvious sign of pain. 

In mild cases of hip dysplasia, dogs might not show any signs at all! But once osteoarthritis develops, some will start to show signs of pain. This may occur in middle age or when the dog is a senior. 

Hip Dysplasia Diagnosis

Veterinarians utilize x-rays to help confirm a diagnosis of hip dysplasia, and the severity of the joint laxity can be confirmed via an orthopedic exam.

Even though Goldens are very good patients, mild sedation is key to performing an orthopedic exam because dogs tend to tense up when the hip joint is flexed and extended.

During this exam, a clicking sensation known as an Ortolani sign helps to confirm the diagnosis. 

What Are Some Treatments for Hip Dysplasia?

Treatments for Hip Dysplasia

Therapy will be recommended based on each individual case. Many dogs respond to medical management, which includes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and pain medications on an as-needed basis.


Omega-3 fish oils and joint supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin are useful because they help to minimize inflammation, inhibit cartilage-destroying enzymes, and provide building blocks for the creation of new cartilage. An injectable medication called Adequan also helps to modify osteoarthritis by inhibiting destructive enzymes, and it is FDA-approved for safety and effectiveness in dogs.  

Exercise and Physical Therapy

Daily exercise is important to maintain a lean physique, but should be performed in moderation. This means that jumping, running, and agility courses can aggravate hip dysplasia. Physical therapy is another way to stay healthy because it improves limb usage through deep tissue massage, passive range of motion exercises, and other modalities. Physical therapy helps to maintain muscle strength in the hips, legs, and lower back. Cold laser therapy and acupuncture have also been shown to provide relief from hip pain and improved range of motion. 

Medical Treatment

There are several surgical approaches to helping Golden retrievers with hip dysplasia. Juvenile pubic symphysiodesis (JPS) surgery is performed on puppies younger than three to four months of age. If hip dysplasia can be confirmed early on, this prophylactic surgery can help improve acetabular coverage as the puppy grows up. 

For adult dogs with hip dysplasia, surgeries like femoral head ostectomy (FHO) and triple pelvic osteotomy (TPO) are sometimes recommended. FHOs are more successful for smaller-sized dogs and cause a pseudo-joint to form when the surgery is done. TPOs are a way to improve acetabular coverage. Total hip replacements (THRs) involve replacing the ball and socket with surgical implants, but this is a last resort to helping dogs with pain from hip dysplasia. 

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Hip dysplasia is an inherited orthopedic disorder that primarily affects giant and large breed dogs like the Golden retriever. Early identification and intervention can delay the progression of osteoarthritis, a condition that can cause painful hips and hind limbs.

There are a variety of medical and surgical procedures that can help dogs with hip dysplasia. It is important to discuss recommendations with your veterinarian so that your pup will have a plan that is tailored to meeting his needs.

If you are in need of pet insurance to help cover the high costs involved with bills, be sure to check out our article on the Best Pet Insurance For Golden Retrievers. We give our run down on some of the best options available.

Dr. Erica Irish

Dr. Erica Irish graduated from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in 2013 and currently practices at a 24/7 small animal hospital in Central Florida. She is particularly interested in cardiology, dentistry, dermatology, and integrative medicine.

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