Hip Dysplasia in Cats

Key Takeaways

Hip dysplasia in cats describes abnormal development of the hip joint, resulting in excessive movement of the joint within its socket. 

• Hip dysplasia is a lifelong, degenerative condition, where excessive movement of the joint gradually wears away bone and cartilage in the affected joint

• Mild dysplasia may not require treatment, but symptoms can include lameness, reduced physical activity, or a reduced capacity to jump or climb

• Hip dysplasia is often a precursor to osteoarthritis

• Diagnostics include a physical examination and diagnostic imaging

• Weight management, exercise restriction, and ensuring an accessible environment are often sufficient to manage symptoms

• Vet-directed NSAIDS or analgesics may be indicated to reduce pain

• Severe dysplasia requires surgical intervention

• Mild cases can be well managed. Surgically corrected cases carry a good prognosis, especially if surgery is completed prior to the onset of arthritis

A Closer Look: What is Hip Dysplasia in Cats?

Hip dysplasia is uncommon in cats, but is more prevalent in purebred cats. Dysplasia is a chronic, degenerative condition that gradually worsens over time, and may lead to arthritis if left unaddressed. Any pet presenting with symptoms requires prompt veterinary assistance.

Risk Factors

Symptom severity varies, depending on how loose an affected hip joint is, and the degree of osteoarthritis that has developed. Dysplasia may show no symptoms at first, with symptoms developing over time as an affected joint degenerates further. 

A looser joint leads to earlier and more severe arthritic changes.

Hip dysplasia is uncommon in cats, but it has higher rates of occurrence in purebred cats Since hip dysplasia is rarer in cats than dogs, there is less information available on causal factors. Some cat breeds present with dysplasia more than others, which suggests a genetic predisposition. Obesity may also be a factor.

Possible Causes

Dysplasia occurs when a cat’s hip joint develops improperly, resulting in a leg bone (femur) that sits loosely in its socket. Over time, the movement of the femur during a cat’s regular motion gradually wears away the bone and cartilage within the joint. The body responds to the joint damage by depositing new bone to try and stabilize the joint, resulting in osteoarthritis.

Main Symptoms

As a chronic condition, symptoms present gradually, including;

Reduced activity

Reduced ability to jump or climb stairs

• Unusual defecation posture

• Pain, which may manifest as reduced social tolerance or aggression

• Reduced grooming

Lameness of the hind limbs, which often worsens after exercise

Testing and Diagnosis

After performing a physical examination, dysplasia is diagnosed by X-rays of the hip joints.

Steps to Recovery

Hip dysplasia is not curable, and continues to progress over time. Through management, the onset of osteoarthritis can be slowed, and the pain associated with arthritis can be reduced. 

Mild dysplasia is managed through:

• Weight management

• Ensuring the cat’s environment is easily accessible

• Exercise restriction

In addition to management strategies, medications may help with symptom relief, including


• Analgesics

• Veterinary recommended nutriceuticals to support joint health

More severe dysplasia requires surgical intervention to stabilize or replace the hip joint. Most cats do not require surgical repair of the joint. 

Dysplasia is a lifelong condition, although symptomatic management is often sufficient to maintain a good quality of life.

Prognosis for cases requiring surgical intervention is good, particularly when surgery is performed prior to developing significant arthritis. Most cats have an excellent quality of life following surgery and minimal long-term effects.


Selective breeding may prevent subsequent generations from developing hip dysplasia. Early detection affords the best chances of avoiding severe dysplasia which requires surgery. Dysplasia is not contagious.

Is Hip Dysplasia Common in Cats?

Hip dysplasia is uncommon in cats.

Typical Treatment

• Weight management

• Exercise management

• Environmental modification

• Medication, such as painkillers

• Surgery

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