How to Tell If a Dog's Hip Is Dislocated

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Dogs are generally sturdy creatures, but like humans, they can experience serious orthopedic injuries as the result of trauma. Hip dislocation, or hip luxation, is one of the most common issues that can arise in canines after they are hit by a car or fall from a height.

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If you suspect your dog's hip might be dislocated, seek veterinary attention right away. There are no appropriate home treatments for this condition, and you should avoid physically examining your pet, especially their hind legs. Hip dislocations cause extreme pain and stress in dogs, and they might react to you touching their hip by biting you. Play it safe and leave the examination to your veterinarian. Many dogs can make a full recovery if their injury is treated promptly.


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What is a dislocated hip in dogs?

If your dog dislocated their hip, it means their hip joint surfaces have separated, and the femoral head is no longer sitting in the acetabulum (the hip socket).‌ Hip dislocation, hip luxation, and coxofemoral luxation are all common names for this condition, which can happen to any breed.


Causes of hip dislocation in dogs

Dogs typically develop hip luxation due to blunt trauma. They frequently dislocate their hip after being struck by a moving vehicle, from falling, or from getting their limb caught in a fence or hole while running or jumping. Though the condition is usually triggered by injury, dogs who have joint disease, such as osteoarthritis or hip dysplasia, are at an increased risk.


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Dog dislocated hip symptoms

Hip dislocation is extremely painful to affected dogs. It influences the use of their leg and how they carry their body. If a dog has dislocation of the hip, you might be able to tell by observing their leg. Look for key clinical signs, such as:


  • Tucking of the leg
  • Marked limping
  • Standing up with an inward or outward rotated leg
  • Refusal to bear weight

Intense lameness is perhaps the most telling indication of hip dislocation in dogs. If you notice anything out of the ordinary about your pet's stance or their manner of walking, notify your veterinarian immediately. The sooner your dog sees the veterinarian, the better. This is because new hip dislocations are easier to treat than older injuries.



Diagnosing dislocated hips in dogs

Veterinarians generally diagnose hip dislocation in dogs by performing a thorough examination followed by an orthopedic assessment and X-rays. Your veterinarian might also want to do bloodwork to evaluate kidney and liver function prior to prescribing anti-inflammatory medications. Orthopedic attention is imperative due to the immense pressure necessary to cause a luxated hip. This force can also be harmful to internal organs, including the heart, liver, urinary system, and lungs, especially if the dog was hit by a car or fell from a significant height.


Hip X-rays are necessary to analyze any potential joint damage that may have occurred. They're also vital for making sure that a dog hasn't experienced femur or pelvis fractures. In addition, radiographs are essential for verifying that hip dislocation is indeed the problem and that a dog's symptoms aren't the result of any other type of trauma. Common hip dislocation symptoms are often similar to those of other kinds of trauma.


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Treatment for a dog's dislocated hip

Hip dislocation in dogs can be treated with surgery. Surgical reduction (open reduction), for example, is aimed at restoring proper leg function and minimizing pain. Extreme cases might call for a procedure known as femoral head ostectomy (FHO) or rarely, a total hip replacement. All of these procedures require general anesthesia and an experienced veterinary surgeon. Not all cases of canine hip dislocation necessitate surgery. The need for surgical treatment is based on the severity of the damage caused to the joint capsule, tendons, and ligaments.



Closed reduction is a common nonsurgical treatment option. When a veterinarian performs closed reduction on a dog, they place the luxated leg back into the correct position. This does not require the surgical opening of the joint, but the affected leg will be placed in a special sling called an Ehmer sling for seven to 14 days. After the sling is removed, the dog's activity must be heavily restricted for four weeks. Closed reduction is not always successful, and in some cases, the hip will re-luxate and require surgery regardless of having a closed reduction performed.

The bottom line

When a dog is hit by a car or experiences other significant blunt force trauma, there is a strong chance that their injuries could include a dislocated hip, or hip luxation. This condition occurs when the joint separates, meaning the femoral head is no longer sitting in the hip socket. The result is lameness and extreme pain, but the good news is that hip dislocation is usually easily diagnosed with X-rays and is treatable with either surgery or closed reduction. If you are concerned that your dog might have a dislocated hip, seek care from your DVM immediately.


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