Hip dysplasia is diagnosed typically by an x-ray. The medical term for that is radiograph. So, in order to get good x-rays, a dog must be sedated so that they’re completely limp, and loosey-goosey, so that the radiology technician can take the hips and rotate them back completely. If the dog has any pain in their hips, if they’re awake, they won’t let them do that and you can’t get a good picture. Also, if you want to have the hips certified by the Orthopedic Foundation of America, those x-rays must be taken while the animal is sedated. So the most common ways that hip dysplasia is diagnosed in dogs is with a x-ray under sedation.
It can also be diagnosed in very young dogs, by a physical exam test called an Ortolani sign, which involves putting the dog on his back and rotating the hips to see whether the ball and socket joints, if the two hip joints will pop in and pop out. There’s also a new way to diagnose hip dysplasia, called PennHIP process, and it can only be done by people who are certified in it, but the advantage of the PennHIP diagnostic testing is that animals can be diagnosed much younger than the Orthopedic Foundation of America, which those dogs have to wait until they’re two years old to be certified hip dysplasia free or have their hips graded. With PennHIP, you can test puppies, and if there is problems, get them taken care of sooner. You can also diagnose hip dysplasia via a CT scan or MRI, but since both of those tests cost anywhere upwards from 800 to $1,000, most people elect to have the x-rays done.
The other way it’s diagnosed is in conjunction with the x-ray findings, what the veterinarian finds on the physical exam. So if they find signs on the physical exam that are consistent with hip dysplasia, then it’s more likely that that is the way the hip dysplasia is going to be diagnosed.
Author: Dr. Sarah Wooten
A graduate of UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, and a member of the American Society of Veterinary Journalists, Dr. Wooten has 16 years of experience in small animal general practice, and 9 years experience of writing and vlogging. You may have seen her speak at Fetch DVM360 conference, NAVC (or VMX), AAHA, AVMA, or WVC, or you may have seen her articles and videos on DVM360, Firstline, Vetted, Healthy Pet Magazine, The Bark Magazine, Vetstreet, Chewy. or PetMD.