How Do You Know if Your Dog’s Hips Hurt?

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As pet owners, we strive to provide our furry companions with the best care and attention possible. Just like humans, dogs can experience pain and discomfort, and one common area of concern is the hips, raising the question, “How do you know if your dog’s hips hurt?”

Canine hip pain can result from various factors, including age, genetics, injuries, or conditions like hip dysplasia.

In this guide, we will jump into the signs and symptoms of hip pain in dogs, explore common causes, and discuss essential steps to alleviate their discomfort and improve their quality of life.

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Understanding Canine Hip Pain

The hips play a critical role in a dog’s mobility, as they are involved in walking, running, and jumping.

Hip dysplasia, a genetic condition that affects hip joint development, is the most frequent cause of canine hip pain.

In hip dysplasia, the hip joint does not fit properly, leading to increased wear and tear and eventual degeneration of the joint.

black and white collie dog jumping over tree limb for how do you know if your dogs hips hurt

Signs and Symptoms of Hip Pain in Dogs

Difficulty Rising

One of the first signs of hip pain in dogs is difficulty getting up from a lying or sitting position. They may struggle to put weight on their hind legs and appear stiff or slow when attempting to stand.

Altered Gait

Dogs with hip pain often have an altered gait, commonly described as a “bunny hopping” movement, where both hind legs move together when they walk or run. They may also have a swaying or wobbly gait.

Reluctance to Jump or Climb Stairs

Dogs experiencing hip pain may hesitate or refuse to jump onto furniture or climb stairs, as these activities put additional strain on their hip joints.


You may notice lameness or favoring of one or both hind legs, especially after periods of rest or exercise. The affected leg may have reduced muscle mass compared to the other.

Vocalization and Discomfort

Dogs in pain may whine, whimper, or yelp when moving or being touched in the hip area. They may also exhibit signs of discomfort, such as restlessness or licking the hip region.

Reduced Activity

Dogs with hip pain often become less active and may prefer lying down or sitting instead of engaging in physical activities they once enjoyed.

Muscle Atrophy

Over time, hip pain can lead to muscle atrophy in the hind legs due to reduced use and mobility.

Diagnosing Hip Pain in Dogs

If you suspect your dog is experiencing hip pain, it is crucial to seek veterinary attention promptly. Your veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical examination, assess your dog’s gait, and perform manipulations to check for discomfort in the hip joints.

X-rays and other diagnostic tests may be necessary to confirm the presence of conditions like hip dysplasia and to determine the extent of the hip joint damage.

Common Causes of Canine Hip Pain

Hip Dysplasia

As mentioned earlier, hip dysplasia is a genetic condition where the hip joint doesn’t develop properly, leading to joint instability and pain.


Older dogs may develop osteoarthritis in their hip joints due to age-related wear and tear, leading to inflammation and pain.


Traumatic events, such as falls, accidents, or overexertion, can cause hip injuries, resulting in pain and discomfort.


Overweight dogs are at higher risk of developing hip pain as the extra weight puts added stress on their hip joints.

Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease

This condition affects the blood supply to the femoral head, leading to the degeneration of the hip joint and subsequent pain.

Hip Fractures or Dislocations

Serious injuries like hip fractures or dislocations can cause acute hip pain and require immediate medical attention.

Managing and Alleviating Canine Hip Pain

While hip pain in dogs can be challenging to manage, there are several ways to improve their comfort and mobility:

  1. Pain Management: Your veterinarian may prescribe pain medications or anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve your dog’s discomfort and reduce inflammation in the hip joints.
  2. Weight Management: Maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise can help reduce the strain on your dog’s hip joints.
  3. Low-Impact Exercise: Engage your dog in low-impact exercises like swimming or leash-walking to keep their muscles active without putting excessive pressure on their hips.
  4. Physical Therapy: Canine physical therapy, including massage, stretching, and passive range-of-motion exercises, can help improve hip joint flexibility and muscle strength.
  5. Joint Supplements: Omega-3 fatty acids and glucosamine supplements can aid in maintaining joint health and supporting cartilage function.
  6. Orthopedic Beds: Providing your dog with a supportive orthopedic bed can alleviate pressure on their joints and promote better rest and sleep.
  7. Assistive Devices: Ramps or stairs can be used to help your dog access elevated surfaces without straining their hips.

Surgical Intervention

In severe cases of hip dysplasia or significant hip joint damage, surgical intervention may be necessary to improve your dog’s quality of life.

Procedures like hip replacement, femoral head ostectomy, or juvenile pubic symphysiodesis can be considered based on the severity of the condition and your dog’s age and overall health.

how do you know if your dogs hips hurt

Most Asked Questions About How Do You Know if Your Dog’s Hips Hurt

How do you treat hip pain in dogs?

Treating hip pain in dogs involves a combination of approaches to alleviate discomfort and improve their mobility. The treatment plan may vary based on the underlying cause and the severity of the condition.

Veterinary care is essential to determine the appropriate course of action. Common treatments include pain medications or anti-inflammatory drugs to manage pain and inflammation.

Weight management is crucial to reduce stress on the hip joints, and low-impact exercises such as swimming or leash-walking can help maintain muscle strength. Canine physical therapy, joint supplements, and providing supportive orthopedic beds are also effective in supporting the dog’s joint health.

In severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to improve the dog’s quality of life, especially with conditions like hip dysplasia or significant joint damage.

How do you check a dog’s hips?

To check a dog’s hips, you can perform a simple physical examination at home. Start by observing their gait for any signs of limping or difficulty walking. Then, gently feel the muscles around the hip area to check for any sensitivity or discomfort.

Be cautious and gentle during this process, as some dogs may have pain in the hips and may react to touch. If you suspect hip pain or notice any abnormalities, it’s best to seek professional veterinary advice.

A veterinarian can perform a thorough examination, assess the dog’s range of motion, and recommend diagnostic tests like X-rays to accurately evaluate the hip joint’s health. Regular veterinary check-ups and early detection of hip issues are essential to ensuring the well-being of your furry companion.

What are the first signs of hip problems?

The first signs of hip problems in dogs often include difficulty getting up from a lying or sitting position, a noticeable change in their gait, and reluctance to engage in physical activities they once enjoyed.

Dogs with hip problems may exhibit a bunny hopping movement when walking or running, where both hind legs move together. They may also show signs of discomfort or pain when their hips are touched or manipulated. As hip problems progress, you may observe lameness, muscle atrophy in the hind legs, and a decrease in overall activity level.

If you notice any of these signs, it’s crucial to seek veterinary attention promptly for a thorough examination and proper diagnosis. Early detection and intervention can significantly improve the prognosis and quality of life for dogs with hip problems.

Wrapping Up How Do You Know if Your Dog’s Hips Hurt

Recognizing the signs of hip pain in your dog is essential for providing timely and appropriate care. Understanding the common causes of canine hip pain, such as hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis, will help you seek prompt veterinary attention and implement strategies for pain management and improved mobility.

Remember that each dog’s experience with hip pain may be unique, and early intervention and proper care can significantly impact their comfort and overall well-being.

With your love, attention, and close partnership with your veterinarian, you can help your beloved canine companion live a happy and active life, even with hip pain.

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