X-rays: Normal Hips vs Severe Dog Hip Dysplasia

X-rays of Normal Dog Hip Joints

and those with Severe Dog Hip Dysplasia


Dog hip dysplasia is a malformation of the hip joint – instead of a nice round ball fitting smoothly into a deep socket, the joint contains a shallow socket and irregularly shaped ball.  These malformations cause uneven contact between the joint surfaces, as well as compromised stability.  Arthritis is an expected outcome from having dog hip dysplasia.

The root cause of dog hip dysplasia is genetic, but over feeding, and either over or under exercising can also contribute to its manifestation.  In cases of unilateral (one sided) dog hip dysplasia, one has to wonder if underlying sports injury causing muscle imbalances during the puppy’s crucial developmental period of life is playing a role.

Posted below are radiographs of normal and abnormal hips.  In an effort to highlight the relevant features, I have once again called upon my limited photoshop skills.
normal hips rads


This first x-ray is of a dog with normal hips.  The ball is round and fits well into a deep socket




normal hips rads graphics




Here is the same x-ray again, this time with fancy graphics.  The red line highlights the socket and the green line outlines the femoral head (ball) and neck.  Notice the hourglass appearance of the thin femoral neck.  The region of solid green colour represents the part of the femoral head that is buried within the socket.



Dog Hip Dysplasia



This is an x-ray of a dog that has severe hip dysplasia.  Notice the areas of roughened bone, with spurs off the top of the socket and extra calcified masses.  These regions of extra bone growth indicate degenerative arthritic change.  Both the ball and the socket are irregularly shaped and fit together poorly.  There is poor coverage of the femoral head.



Humphrey's hips graphics

 Here is the same x-ray again, this time with fancy graphics.  The femoral head and neck are outlined in green.  Notice how thickened this femoral neck is compared to the normal dog hip x-rays above.  The region of solid green colour reflects the amount of femoral head that is seated within the socket.  Notice how much flatter these femoral heads are, and how much poorer the amount of seating is on this x-ray compared to that of the normal dog hip x-ray.  The green or red circles with no colouring in the centre represent abnormal calcified masses.


Despite these horrific looking x-rays, with minimal treatment this dog is leading an active, pain free life, with only the occasional use of prescription medication.  He recently earned his CKC TD tracking title at 7 years of age.  His hips and low back are getting stronger with time.

severe hip dysplasia pre-op




This next x-ray shows such severe dog hip dysplasia that no fancy graphics are needed – the ball and socket are so poorly formed that they aren’t even touching.  Notice all regions of roughened bone that indicate advanced arthritis.  This dog is relying entirely on muscular support for these hips.



severe hip dysplasia post op





Here is the same patient again, this time after receiving total hip replacement surgery.




Although this case was clearly surgical, the vast majority of dog hip dysplasia cases can lead active happy lives with non-surgical therapy.  Key components of non-surgical therapy include:

  • Treat the inflamed joint itself using nutriceuticals (glucosamine, omega-3’s etc.), a structured exercise program to build hip strength and stability, manual therapy (e.g.: mobilizations), acupuncture, anti-inflammatories etc.


  • Address secondary sources of pain – myofascial trigger points, sacro-iliac and/or low back pain, pinched nerves etc. etc.  More often than not, it is these secondary sources of pain that are limiting the dog’s quality of life.  If anti-inflammatories aren’t making a huge improvement in comfort, then the likelihood of secondary pain arising from somewhere besides the hip joint is very very high.  Treating secondary sources of pain is as important as treating the hip joint itself.  Chiropractic adjustments and/or physiotherapy style mobilizations are the single most effective tool for treating secondary muscle pain, pinched nerves, reduced mobility etc.


  • Keep the rest of the body as fit, strong, and comfortable as possible so that it can better compensate for the poor hips.


With the above treatment, most dogs with hip dysplasia can lead active comfortable lives without the need for surgery. If you would like to learn about dog hip dysplasia, click here.

Posted on in Case Reports, Dog Hip Dysplasia, Radiographs, Uncategorized