Golden Retrievers Hip Dysplasia – What You Should Know

Written by Teresa Eckert

Ok, I may be a bit biased but let’s face it, golden retrievers are simply the best breed there is.

They are known for their intelligence, train-ability, calm temperament, eagerness to please, patience with children, and so many other great qualities. They love to be around people and fit well into any family.

Like all family members, you want everyone to be happy, healthy, and fit. And that is where one of the less desirable traits of large breed dogs comes in; a higher susceptibility to hip dysplasia.

Golden retrievers may be prone to a genetic disorder known as hip dysplasia. It is somewhat common to this breed and hard to predict when or even if it will occur in your golden.  

That said, we know hip dysplasia is an inherited disorder, so proper breeding, health checks, and a quality breeder can go a long way in avoiding it.

What Is Hip Dysplasia?

It is one of the most common skeletal diseases in dogs. It is known by other related terms: coxofemoral joint laxity, hip joint arthritis, coxofemoral joint arthritis, osteoarthritis of the hip.

It is an inherited instability of the dog’s joint, which could be compounded by environmental or dietary factors. Gaining too much weight too fast or carrying excessive weight on the pelvic region will add to the chances of hip dysplasia. 

It is a hip disease that is known for excessive laxity in the joint, which means the ball moves too much within its socket, and/or excessive shallowness of the hip socket joint, which could lead to painful arthritis.

In simple terms, your dog’s hip joints do not develop normally, gradually deteriorates, which leads to a loss of function of the hip joints.

For young pups, the disease begins while the pup is physically immature with early onset after the age of 4 (four) months.

For older dogs, onset occurs because of osteoarthritis which causes inflammation of the joints.

Causes of Hip Dysplasia

Genetics play a huge role in this disease. The dog's breed will also play a role in their susceptibility to have hip dysplasia. It is common in large breeds, but not all large breeds get it. It is sometimes even seen in smaller breeds.

Golden retrievers fall in the large breed category so are more likely to get it than a chihuahua. 

Additional causes could be from: 

  • Excessive growth – It is important to give large breed puppies the right foods to slow down their growth so their joints can develop without any additional strain. It is also important to give smaller dogs the right nutrition to also prevent rapid growth.
  • Weight – Rapid weight gain or obesity can contribute to this disease.
  • Exercise – Excessive or too little exercise can be an added factor to this disease.
  • Nutrition – Talk to your vet about the proper diet that your pup/dog needs to prevent this disease.

Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia

Symptoms of canine hip dysplasia may depend on three factors – the laxity of the joint, the duration of the disease, and the degree of inflammation.  

If the disease began early then it is probably due to the looseness of the joint. If it began later, it may due to joint degeneration and/or osteoarthritis.

The following are a list of the common symptoms in a golden retriever:

  • Decreased activity*
  • Reluctance to run, jump, or climb stairs*
  • Difficulty rising from a lying or sitting position*
  • Intermittent or persistent hind-limb lameness*
  • Swaying gait*
  • Pain in hip joints*
  • Enlargement of shoulder muscles
  • Narrow stance in the hind limbs
  • Grating detected with joint movement
  • Decreased range of motion in the hip joints
  • Joint looseness or laxity
  • Loss of muscle mass in thigh muscles

Recognizing the 6 (six) common symptoms listed above with the asterisks (*) are important and should be reported to your vet for early intervention and pain mitigation.  

A lot of the time, when your golden retriever shows a decrease in activity whether walking, playing fetch, jumping or climbing stairs, standing up after laying down they are showing you a sign that they are in pain. 

Or even when they display a swaying gait or “bunny hopping”, it is their way of alleviating the pain.

If you see any symptoms, you should visit your vet as soon as possible.

Treatment of Hip Dysplasia

The best way to treat hip dysplasia is to prevent it.  With that being said, the easiest way your vet can diagnose this disease is through X-rays.  Whether your golden is experiencing a mild or severe case of hip dysplasia, there are various treatment options available.

The options may range from lifestyle modifications for mild cases to surgery for more severe cases.  Routine visits will help your vet monitor your golden’s health and prescribe the right treatment needed if your dog starts to shows signs of hip dysplasia.

Non-Surgical Approach:

  • Anti-Inflammatory medication
  • Exercise restriction
  • Joint fluid modifiers
  • Physical therapy
  • Weight Reduction to take stress off of hip

Surgical Approach:

  • Double or Triple Pelvic Osteotomy - This surgery involves selectively cutting the pelvic bone and rotating the segments. It is usually preformed on dogs that are less than 10 months old. 
  • Femoral Head Ostectomy - This surgery involves cutting off the ball of the hip joint. It reduces pain but it doesn't help with restoring normal hip movement. This surgery can be done on both young and mature dogs. 
  • Total Hip Replacement - This surgery involves replacing the whole joint with plastic and/or metal implants. This will both help alleviate the pain as well as restore most of the normal hip movement. 

As stated earlier, recognizing the early signs and taking action will help slow the progression of this irreversible joint disease.  Maintaining a healthy weight and light to moderate exercise can reduce the incidence of osteoarthritis and/or the severity of it.

Check with your vet on whether your pet needs medication to alleviate any pain. Some holistic vets have recommended the use of an all-natural drug free formula that gives immediate and long-term relief to dogs suffering from pain and stiffness associated with hip dysplasia, arthritis, or osteochondrosis (OCD). 

You can also make adjustments or modifications to your home to accommodate your golden.


  • Carpeting is better for traction than hardwood and tile. 
  • Area rugs with no slip backing can be used in areas that your pet frequently walks through. 
  • Use carpet runners on slippery floors and stairs for safety and to prevent injuries. 
  • Ramps can be added to vehicles for entering and exiting as well as outside stairs.
  • Provide your pet with comfortable cushioned, possibly even heated bedding throughout the house so they will have an easier time getting up when laying down on the floor.
  • Provide an elevated dog dish to prevent joint pain while eating.

About the author

Teresa Eckert

Teresa is a co-founder of Golden Retriever Love and is the fur-mom to Annie the Golden Retriever and Remi the Chocolate Lab. Teresa enjoys spoiling her pups and occasionally writing some great content for us on this blog!