Test for hip dysplasia in dogs

Test for hip dysplasia in dogs

Looking for a test for hip dysplasia in dogs? Find out everything you need to know here.

Hip dysplasia is a common skeletal disorder that affects many breeds of dogs. It is a condition that can cause intense pain and debilitation for our furry friends. Responsible dog owners understand the importance of testing their dogs for hip dysplasia to ensure any potential problems are caught early before they cause significant issues. In this article, we will explore the various diagnostic tests available for hip dysplasia in dogs, including their pros and cons, and how to prepare your pup for these tests.

What is Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is a disorder where the hip joint doesn’t develop correctly, resulting in a loose and unstable joint. This condition can cause bone and joint degeneration and lead to arthritis, lameness, and severe pain. Although hip dysplasia is typically genetic, environmental factors such as obesity, poor nutrition, and over-exercising can exacerbate the condition. Large and giant breed dogs are particularly susceptible to hip dysplasia, with breeds such as German Shepherds, Labradors, and Golden Retrievers being at the highest risk.

Signs and Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia can manifest in various ways, and many dogs don’t show any symptoms until the condition has progressed significantly. The following are some common signs and symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs:

  • Difficulty rising from a lying or sitting position
  • Stiffness or limping in the hind legs
  • Pain or discomfort when walking, running, or climbing stairs
  • Decreased activity level and reluctance to play or exercise

If you notice any of these signs in your dog, it’s essential to consult with your veterinarian.

Diagnostic Tests for Hip Dysplasia

There are several diagnostic tests available for hip dysplasia in dogs. The most common tests include radiographs, PennHIP, and the Ortolani test. Each test has its advantages, disadvantages, and specific requirements. Let’s take a closer look at each test.


Radiographs, or X-rays, are the most common diagnostic test for hip dysplasia in dogs. It is a non-invasive procedure that involves taking two or three images of the dog’s hips. The images are then evaluated by a veterinarian to determine the severity of the condition. Radiographs can identify changes in the hip joint, such as joint laxity, bony changes, and bone density changes.


  • Non-invasive
  • Widely available
  • Can detect early signs of hip dysplasia
  • Can detect other conditions affecting the hip joint


  • The dog must be sedated or anesthetized for the procedure
  • The cost of the procedure can be high
  • Radiographs can sometimes be inconclusive
  • The results can be subjective, depending on the evaluator’s experience and expertise


PennHIP, or the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program, is a diagnostic test that measures hip joint laxity. The test involves applying a distraction force to the hip joint and then measuring the degree of displacement using specialized equipment. The results are then used to calculate a hip joint score, which predicts the risk of developing hip dysplasia.


  • The most accurate predictor of hip dysplasia
  • Can detect early signs of hip dysplasia
  • Can be performed on puppies as young as 16 weeks old
  • Can be used to evaluate breeding stock


  • Must be performed by a veterinarian certified in PennHIP
  • The procedure can be uncomfortable for the dog
  • Costs more than radiographs
  • Not widely available

Ortolani Test

The Ortolani test is a physical examination that evaluates hip joint laxity. The test involves manipulating the dog’s hip joint to detect any instability or popping sound. A positive Ortolani test indicates the presence of hip dysplasia.


  • Non-invasive
  • Can be performed during a routine veterinary exam
  • No special equipment required


  • Not as accurate as radiographs or PennHIP
  • Only detects advanced cases of hip dysplasia
  • Cannot detect early signs of hip dysplasia
  • Results can vary depending on the experience and expertise of the evaluator

Preparing Your Dog for Diagnostic Tests

Preparing your dog for diagnostic tests is essential for ensuring accurate results and reducing stress and discomfort for your furry friend. Here are some tips for preparing your dog for diagnostic tests:

  • Consult with your veterinarian to determine which test is best for your dog’s specific needs.
  • Follow all pre-test instructions provided by your veterinarian, such as fasting or withholding food and water.
  • Make sure your dog is up-to-date on all vaccinations and medications.
  • Bring your dog’s favorite treats or toys to help keep them calm and distracted during the procedure.
  • Stay calm and reassuring to help your dog feel at ease.


Testing for hip dysplasia is an essential part of responsible dog ownership. Early detection and treatment can help prevent severe pain and discomfort for our furry friends. By understanding the available diagnostic tests and preparing your dog for the procedure, you can ensure accurate results and reduce stress and discomfort for your dog. Remember to consult with your veterinarian if you notice any signs or symptoms of hip dysplasia in your dog.

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