How to Tell If a Dog's Hip Is Dislocated

By Naomi Millburn

If your dog dislocated his hip, it means his joint surfaces have separated and his acetabulum is no longer attached to his femoral head. Hip luxation is another common name for this condition, which can happen to any breed.

Causes of Canine Hip Dislocation

Dogs typically develop hip dislocation due to blunt trauma. They frequently dislocate their hips after being struck by moving vehicles. Joint dislocation generally is caused by road traffic, falls and limbs caught in fences or holes while running or jumping. Hip dislocation is common in canines. Although hip dislocation is triggered by injury, dogs who have joint degeneration are particularly vulnerable.

Hip Dislocation Symptoms

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

  • Tucking of the leg
  • 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 walking, notify your veterinarian immediately. The sooner your dog sees the veterinarian, the better. This is because new hip dislocation replacements are simpler to perform than older ones.

Veterinary Assessment and Treatment

Veterinarians generally diagnose hip dislocation in dogs by conducting complete examinations followed by orthopedic assessments, bloodwork and X-rays. Orthopedic attention is necessary due to the immense pressure necessary to dislocate the hips. This force can be harmful to organs such as the heart, urinary system and lungs. Bloodwork is necessary to evaluate organ processes and pinpoint earlier health conditions, if any exist. 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 bone or pelvis fractures. X-rays, lastly, 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.

Hip dislocation in dogs is often treated with surgery. Surgical reduction, for example, can restore proper leg functioning and minimize pain. Note, however, that not all cases of canine hip dislocation require 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 for hip dislocation in dogs. When doctors perform closed reduction treatments on dogs, they place the luxated joint bones back into their prior positions. This does not require the surgical opening of the joint.

If you’re worried that your pooch might have dislocated his hip, avoid physically examining it using your hands. Hip dislocations cause extreme pain and stress in dogs. When a dog is suffering from intense pain, he may react to you touching his hip by biting you. Play it safe and leave the examination to your vet.