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Dislocated Dog Hips: Diagnosis, Causes, & Treatment - PawSafe

Dislocated Dog Hips: Diagnosis, Causes, & Treatment

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

dislocated dog hips

A dislocated dog hip can be a painful and distressing experience for your dog, not to mention a medical emergency. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and potential treatments is crucial to ensure a speedy recovery and prevent future complications. Thankfully, there are products like Pawsafe’s Hip & Joint Mobility Soft Chews that are designed to help dogs with joint problems, providing them with the essential nutrients they need to maintain joint health. 

In this article, we’ll delve deeper into the subject of dislocated dog hips, referring to expert sources such as MSD Manuals and the comprehensive overview found in this book on canine joint disorders and injuries. Let’s dive in and learn more about this condition to ensure the best care for our canine companions.

The hip joint in dogs, much like in humans, is a ball-and-socket joint. This means the rounded end of the femur (the ball) fits into a concave portion of the pelvic bone (the socket). Under normal circumstances, the ball remains securely within the socket, allowing for a wide range of motion. A hip dislocation, medically termed a hip luxation, occurs when the ball is forced out of its socket. This can result from trauma, such as a fall or an accident, or from congenital conditions where the socket is too shallow.

As for the question, “can a dog recover from a dislocated hip?” The answer is yes. With prompt medical intervention, either through manual manipulation or surgery, along with proper aftercare and rehabilitation, most dogs can recover fully from a hip dislocation. However, the recovery process and prognosis largely depend on the severity of the dislocation and any associated injuries.

Dog Hip Dislocation Causes

A dog’s hip can become dislocated for various reasons, ranging from external trauma to underlying genetic factors. Understanding these causes can aid in prevention and more effective treatments.

One of the primary predisposing factors for hip dislocation in dogs is hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia is a congenital condition, meaning it’s present at birth. It involves a malformation of the ball-and-socket joint of the hip. In dogs with hip dysplasia, the socket may be too shallow, or the ball may not be properly rounded. This ill fit makes the joint less stable, and as a result, dogs with hip dysplasia are more susceptible to dislocations. Over time, this can also lead to painful arthritis, as the joint surfaces grind against each other without the smooth cushioning they’re meant to have. Other degenerative joint diseases can also make it easier for the hip joint to pop out of the socket.

Other causes for hip dislocation include:

  1. Trauma: This is the most common cause. Car accidents, falls from heights, or even aggressive play with other dogs can exert enough force on the hip joint to push the ball out of its socket.
  2. Weak Ligaments and Muscles: Dogs with weakened or underdeveloped muscles and ligaments around the hip joint might be at a higher risk.
  3. Age: Older dogs can have weaker muscles and ligaments, which might make them more susceptible to dislocations.
  4. Previous Injuries: A dog that has suffered previous hip injuries or surgeries can be at a higher risk due to the structural changes or weaknesses that might have resulted from the initial injury.
  5. Certain Breeds: Some breeds, like German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, and Golden Retrievers, have a higher predisposition for hip dysplasia, and thus, potential hip dislocations.

Understanding these causes can help dog owners take preventive measures, seek early interventions, and provide the best care for their furry companions.

Diagnosing A Dislocated Dog Hip

When your furry friend starts showing unusual signs, like back leg shaking, walking sideways, or stumbling while walking, it’s crucial to identify the root cause. A dislocated hip might be the culprit behind these symptoms, but it’s essential to get a confirmed diagnosis.

To diagnose a dislocated hip in dogs, veterinarians typically follow these steps:

  1. Clinical Examination: The veterinarian will begin with a thorough physical examination. They will check for any signs of pain, swelling, or deformities in the hip area. A dog with a dislocated hip might hold the affected leg off the ground, or it might appear shorter than the other leg.
  2. Medical History: Owners will be asked about any recent trauma or injuries, the dog’s age, breed, and any previous medical conditions. This can help in identifying potential predisposing factors.
  3. Radiographs (X-rays): This is the most definitive diagnostic tool for hip dislocation. An X-ray of the hip joint can clearly show if the head of the femur (the ball) is out of the acetabulum (the socket). It can also help identify any other associated injuries or signs of hip dysplasia.
  4. Gait Analysis: Observing how a dog walks can provide insights into the severity of the injury and the affected side. Limping, reluctance to bear weight on one leg, or any other abnormality in gait might indicate a hip problem.
  5. Secondary Tests: In some cases, additional tests like CT scans or MRI might be required, especially if there are concerns about soft tissue damage or if the X-rays are inconclusive.

Once a hip dislocation is confirmed, the veterinarian will discuss treatment options, potential complications, and the prognosis. As with any medical issue, early detection and intervention can greatly improve the outcome for the dog.

Fixing a Dislocated Dog Hip

Fixing a dislocated dog hip is a procedure called reduction, where the head of the femur (the ball) is manually placed back into the acetabulum (the socket).

  1. Closed Reduction: This is the most common method initially attempted. Under general anesthesia or sedation, the veterinarian will manipulate the leg to guide the femoral head back into its socket. After successful reduction, the dog will often need to wear a sling for several weeks to prevent the leg from bearing weight and to allow the tissues to heal.
  2. Open Reduction: If closed reduction is unsuccessful, or if the hip keeps dislocating, surgery might be required. In this procedure, the veterinarian will make an incision over the hip joint, manually replace the femoral head into the socket, and may use surgical methods to stabilize the joint.
  3. Femoral Head Osteotomy (FHO): In cases where the hip can’t be stabilized or if there’s chronic pain, the ball of the hip joint (the femoral head) might be surgically removed. This procedure leaves the leg to form a “false” joint, alleviating the pain.
  4. Total Hip Replacement: This is a more involved surgical procedure where the entire hip joint is replaced with artificial components. It’s typically reserved for larger dogs or when other methods fail.

Can You Fix A Dog’s Dislocated Hip at Home?

Absolutely not. Attempting to fix a dislocated hip at home can cause significant pain to your dog, potentially worsen the injury, and may lead to other complications. It requires expert knowledge, skills, and the right environment to manage pain and prevent further injury. If you suspect your dog has a dislocated hip or any other significant injury, it’s crucial to seek veterinary attention immediately.

Costs to Treat a Dislocated Dog Hip

As a ballpark figure, for a closed reduction, you might expect to pay anywhere from $200 to $1,000 or more, depending on the factors mentioned above. Surgical treatments, especially total hip replacements, can be much more expensive, ranging from $1,000 to $7,000 or even higher in some specialized clinics.

Below is a table of individual costs that may be involved:

Item/ProcedureCost Estimate
Initial Veterinary Visit$50 – $150
Radiographs (X-rays)$100 – $300
CT Scan (if required)$500 – $1,000
Closed Reduction
– Sedation or Anesthesia$100 – $500
– Physical Procedure$100 – $500
Open Reduction/Surgery
– Pre-surgical blood work$50 – $200
– Anesthesia$100 – $500
– Surgical Fees$500 – $3,000
– Post-operative care$100 – $500
Physical Therapy$50 – $150/session
Follow-up Vet Visits$50 – $150/visit
Medications (pain, inflammation)$20 – $100/month
Assistive Devices (slings, harnesses)$30 – $100
Total Estimated Cost (without complications)Closed Reduction: $200 – $1,000 <br> Open Reduction/Surgery: $1,000 – $7,000

The cost to treat a dislocated dog hip can vary widely based on several factors:

  1. Location and Facility: Veterinary costs differ depending on the region or country you’re in and whether you’re at a standard veterinary clinic, a specialized veterinary hospital, or an emergency clinic. Emergency clinics often charge more due to their 24-hour availability.
  2. Severity of the Dislocation: A straightforward, first-time dislocation might be less expensive to treat than a hip that has dislocated multiple times or has additional complications.
  3. Method of Treatment:
    • Closed Reduction: This manual method of realigning the hip joint under sedation or anesthesia will have costs associated with the anesthesia, radiographs (before and after the procedure), and the physical procedure itself.
    • Open Reduction or Surgery: Surgical treatments like open reduction, FHO, or total hip replacement come with higher costs. These costs include pre-surgical blood work, anesthesia, surgical fees, post-operative care, radiographs, and medications.
  4. Post-Treatment Care: This can include physical therapy, follow-up vet visits, medications for pain and inflammation, and any necessary assistive devices like slings or harnesses.
  5. Additional Diagnostics: Radiographs (X-rays) are typically required to confirm the dislocation and assess the joint. Sometimes, more advanced imaging like a CT scan may be needed, especially if surgery is being considered.
  6. Complications: If complications arise, such as infections, prolonged healing, or the need for additional surgeries, this can increase costs.

Always consult with your veterinarian for a detailed estimate tailored to your dog’s specific situation. If costs are a concern, inquire about payment plans, veterinary financing options, or pet insurance coverage.

What is the Recovery Time for a Dog with a Dislocated Hip?

The recovery time for a dog with a dislocated hip varies based on the severity of the dislocation, the treatment method used, and the overall health and age of the dog.

Closed Reduction:

If the dislocated hip is treated with a closed reduction, where the hip is manually manipulated back into place without surgery, the recovery time is generally shorter. Most dogs will need to be restricted from excessive activity for about 2-4 weeks. During this time, the muscles and ligaments around the joint heal and tighten to keep the hip in place.

Open Reduction/Surgery:

In cases where surgery is performed to correct the dislocation, the recovery period is typically longer. Dogs may need to be confined and have limited movement for 6-8 weeks following the procedure. This allows the surgical site to heal properly and ensures that the hip stays in its socket during the healing process.

During the Recovery Period:

  1. Physical therapy may be recommended to help strengthen the muscles around the hip and improve the range of motion.
  2. Pain management, including medications, will likely be prescribed.
  3. The dog’s movement should be restricted, avoiding stairs, jumping, or any vigorous activity.
  4. Regular check-ups with the veterinarian are important to monitor the healing process.

As with any medical condition, individual dogs may recover at different rates, and following the vet’s guidelines for post-operative care or post-reduction care is crucial for a successful recovery.

Final thoughts

A dislocated dog hip can be a distressing ordeal for both the pet and its owner. Understanding the causes, diagnosis, treatment options, and recovery expectations is essential in navigating this challenging situation. With the right care, most dogs can recover and lead a happy, active life post-treatment. 

As pet owners, it’s our responsibility to ensure our furry companions receive the necessary medical attention, and follow-through with prescribed aftercare, including potential physical therapy or restricted movement. Remember, regular vet check-ups and being attentive to your dog’s behavior and movement can make all the difference in early detection and successful recovery. Stay informed, trust in veterinary expertise, and prioritize your pet’s well-being above all.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.