Posted by Camille Arneberg on

A Guide to Golden Retriever Hip Dysplasia

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 If you’ve recently become the lucky pet owner of a Golden Retriever, you’re in for a rollicking good time. This breed of dog is as loyal and as loving as they come. So, in order to ensure that your new, faithful companion lives a long and healthy life, there are some common medical issues Goldens face which you should be aware of. 

Unfortunately, Goldens, amongst a few other dog breeds, are predisposed towards a degenerative disease known as hip dysplasia. Should this disease go untreated, it could severely impact both their overall health and well-being along with the length of their life. That said, if you know the common signs of hip dysplasia and catch it early on, there are steps you can take to manage the issue, mitigate symptoms, or all together treat the problem. Below, we will discuss golden retriever hip dysplasia, the signs, and treatment options at your disposal. 

What is Golden Retriever Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia might be the most common medical problem that a Golden Retriever will face in its lifetime. According to a 2017 study entitled, The Demographics of Canine Hip Dysplasia in the United States and Canada, the quoted prevalence of dog hip dysplasia in Goldens is an approximate range of 8.5% to 14.9% of all dogs, both male and female.

But what is it exactly?

At its essence, it’s a degenerative, polygenic disease–passed down generationally–which impacts a Golden’s hindquarters. Dog hip dysplasia can develop as early as four months into a puppy’s life or can occur in a late-onset form. For the vast majority of dogs with hip dysplasia, subluxation forms on the femoral head of the hip bone, likely due to joint laxity or a shallow hip socket joint. This deformity causes two key issues:

  • Chronic cartilage degeneration
  • Osteoarthritis

According to Roberto Manzotti, of Official Golden Retriever, “Generally, hip dysplasia happens because your dog’s hip joints fail to develop normally and deteriorate gradually which leads to the loss of function of the hip joints. In fact, hip dysplasia is easily one of the most common skeletal diseases in dogs.”

Reasons Why Golden Retriever Hip Dysplasia Occurs

If you have a Golden Retriever with hip dysplasia, you’ll naturally wonder why it happens. The Universities Federation for Animal Welfare had this to say in response: 

The primary reason for this abnormal development is hip joint laxity if the joint is too loose; leading to the two articulating parts of the joint of the pelvis – the femoral head and the acetabulum (which form the ball-and-socket of the joint) - moving abnormally relative to one another; the femoral head in subluxation (partly dislocating) from the acetabulum. This leads to abnormal stresses and strains on the joint and leads to inflammation and degeneration of the joint tissues. Ultimately, permanent osteoarthritis develops in the joints. 

While selective breeding has managed to somewhat decrease the commonality of hip dysplasia in dogs, it appears that completely winnowing it out of the population through eugenics is an impossibility. That said, in addition to hip joint laxity, the most commonly given reasons for hip dysplasia in Goldens includes: 

  • Lack of proper nutrition in the dog’s diet
  • Delayed endochondral ossification
  • Articular cartilage damage
  • Synovial inflammation

Golden Retriever Hip Dysplasia Signs

How apparent the signs of hip dysplasia are in your dog will depend on four primary factors:

  • Duration of the disease
  • Levels of pain and inflammation
  • Severity of the disease 
  • Total joint laxity 

With that in mind, the most common Golden Retriever hip dysplasia signs are: 

  • Bunny hopping gait
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Enlarged shoulder muscles
  • Exhaustion
  • Grating in the joints 
  • Hind-limb lameness, whether intermittent or permanent
  • Joint laxity 
  • Loss of balance
  • Lowered energy levels
  • Narrowed stance
  • Pain
  • Reluctance to run, jump, or go up and down the stairs 
  • Stiffness
  • Swaying while walking
  • Trouble rising

If you notice these signs, you should see a vet as soon as possible to discuss treatment for hip dysplasia in dogs.

Golden Retriever Hip Dysplasia Treatment

Fortunately, there are several things dog owners can do to mitigate the severity of hip dysplasia. In addition, there are three primary surgical treatment options should your first steps be ineffective. To begin, you can take the following actions to try and reduce the symptoms:

If the symptoms of hip dysplasia continue to worsen, and your dog is an ideal candidate, the surgery options at your disposal include:

  • Double or triple pelvic ostectomy
  • Femoral head ostectomy
  • Total hip replacement

Treating Your Golden Retriever 

Hip dysplasia is one of the most common issues a Golden Retriever will likely face in their lifetime (although many will never develop the condition). As you’ve discovered, there are steps that dog owners can take as well as treatment and surgery options available to you. By knowing the signs and then properly exercising and making sure your dog's diet is healthy, you will be ready to combat the problem should the need arise. Arming yourself with this knowledge will give you the tools you need to ensure optimal health and well-being for your pup.


Loder, R. Journal of Veterinary Medicine. The Demographics of Canine Hip Dysplasia in the United States and Canada. (2017).

Manzottti, R. Official Golden Retriever. Hip Dysplasia and Golden Retrievers. (2018).

Universities Federation for Animal Welfare. Golden Retriever Hip Dysplasia.