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Hip Dysplasia

Hip Dysplasia in Boxer Dogs


Hip dysplasia in Boxer dogs is a health condition where the dog’s hip joint deteriorates. This canine health issue is inherited. Injury can trigger this. The dog that has this will have a malformed hip joint. The hip joint itself is made of a ball and a socket joint in which that ball sits. These 2 part are held together by ligaments.

When a Boxer dog has hip dysplasia, the socket is not formed correctly or the ligaments that hold the 2 sections together are not strong. This causes the ball to move out of place in the socket where it should be safe and secure.

It can also deteriorate over time The end result is a misplaced hip and/or deteriorated joint and socket that will cause a Boxer dog to have serious health issues.

How Common This is with the Boxer Breed

The Boxer is prone to this and out of all purebred dogs, falls in the middle in terms of how common this is with the breed. The OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) tracked 172 different breeds over the course of 40 years. Each breed was represented by at least 100 dogs. The OFA then created a list to show the top breeds that are affected by HD.

Out of 172 breeds, the Boxer breed placed at #94. Over that decade long study, 5537 Boxers were evaluated. 3.6 % were deemed to have excellent hips; 11% had varying levels of hip Ddysplasia.


Many wonder, 'Is this genetic?' or 'Is it caused by injury?'... The tricky thing about this condition is that the answer is : Both. It is genetic. (more on this ahead). And injury or stress on the hip(s) can trigger the dysplasia (more ahead).


Both male and female Boxer dogs should be screened for this before being entered into a breeding program. One should look not just to the dog itself but also to his/her background and family history.

For example, if a dog has moderate to fair hips but both parents and grandparents had strong hips AND at least 75% of his littermates have strong hips, the dog will usually be considered a good candidate for a breeding program.

However, if a dog has strong hips, but there is a history of Hip Dysplasia in his family and/or LESS than 75% of his littermates have good hips, the dog should not be considered for breeding.

Potential puppy buyers should be asking to see a pup's OFA report. Dogs should be given an OFA screening before being bred.



An OFA report is an official hip screening and grading by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. Radiographs will be taken and evaluated. This process is done by 3 board certified radiologists who each separately give the dog a 'grade' and then these scores are combined.

There are 3 main categories with sub-categories:

1) Normal - Hips determined to be normal will then be classified as either 1) Excellent 2) Good or 3) Fair.

2) Borderline - This means that there is not a clear consensus as to whether the dog should be classified as Normal-Fair or Dysplastic-Mild. If this is the case, hips are usually checked 6 months later to see if there has been any progression.

3) Dysplastic - This means that a problem with the hips has been found. There are 3 sub-categories: 1) Mild 2) Moderate and 3) Severe.

Grading the Dysplasia

When this is discovered, it will be graded depending on the severity: 

Mild Hip Dysplasia- The hip ball will be determined to be partially out of the socket. If the dog is under 30 months of age, he/she can be reevaluated a second time to see if there has been an improvement (rare, but there may be a clearer view that lends to a better grading since the accuracy of this improves as a dog matures) or if it has progressed. The majority of dogs with mild Hip Dysplasia will endure a slow progression with arthritic changes.

Moderate Hip Dysplasia- This means that it has been determined that there is significant subluxation (the ball is barely in the hip socket). Many dogs will have additional issues that include deterioration/arthritic changes to the femoral bone (thigh bone) and/or ribs. This only progresses with time.

Severe Hip Dysplasia - With this, the hip joint and socket is completely out of place or very close to it. There will be abnormal bone pattern changes to the ribs and thigh bone(s).

Factors That Can Trigger This

When a dog is already prone to hip dysplasia (either is himself graded to be Normal-Fair or Borderline or has a strong family background of this), there are elements that can trigger the hip joint and socket to move out of place and/or degrade. This includes:

• Being overweight – any excess weight will put more of a strain on a Boxer dog

• Too much excessive exercise before a Boxer puppy enters into adulthood – which causes prolonged stress on the hip

• Injury to the surrounding ligaments

• A faster than average growth rate– which a dog owner has no control over


When a Boxer puppy has hip dysplasia, the puppy will usually begin to show signs as young as 5 to 10 months old. A Boxer dog of any age can be diagnosed with this, as the condition may be very subtle in the dog’s early life and only as the dog grows older will an owner notice the signs:

• Weakness in the limbs, usually in the rear legs and usually after exercising

• Difficulty getting up from a laying position or difficulty walking uphill

• Hopping – Walking by bringing both rear legs up at the same time

• Rising using front legs only and dragging rear end

• Waddling or an unsteady walk with the rear legs

• A very short stride with the rear legs (taking very small steps)

• Unwillingness to jump, exercise, climb stairs or walk uphill

Treatment Options for Boxer Dogs

Medication is usually tried first, before surgery would be considered:

• Corticosteroids are used. It is safe medication when given to dogs and it decreases inflammation and swelling. It is injected directly into the Boxer dog’s joint.

• Acetaminophen can be given to dogs, under the veterinarian’s care. Careful dosing must be done, as too much can cause liver damage to a dog.

• NSAID (Aspirin or the newer buffered versions of Rimadly, Carprofen, Metacam or Meloxiam) medications may be given. These help to decrease swelling, pain and stiffness. It is important to note that a dog owner should never attempt to give medication to their Boxer dog without the vet’s advice. Giving Ibuprofen to a dog is toxic.

• Dog supplements, called Visco-supplementation can help. This gel type substance is injected directly into the dog’s joint. It has lubricating properties and can help with pain and improve a dog’s range of motion. This is only a temporary fix.

If a dog’s condition worsens, surgery is the next step:

If diagnosed in the early stages when the Boxer dog is still a puppy and the joint and socket are for the most part, still intact:

• Surgery can be performed in which the dog’s pelvis is cut into 3 separate pieces and then relocated to fit properly. Up to 8 weeks of rest will be needed for the Boxer dog to recuperate and for the bones to heal correctly

For dogs with extensive degeneration of the joint:

• Surgery may be performed to actually remove the pelvic joint. Surprisingly, many dogs compensate well for the missing joint and will enjoy a much better quality of life. Up to 5 weeks of rest will be needed afterwards.

• Total hip replacement surgery is an option. An implant consisting of cobalt chrome stainless steel is set in and a socket made of high tech plastic is used in place of the dog’s socket. In some cases, this extensive surgery will allow a Boxer dog to resume a completely active lifestyle. Up to 8 weeks of rest will be needed afterward. Progress to a previously active exercise routine will be gradual and will increase as time goes by.
You may also be interested in:

Boxer Dog Health - A good overview of the most common issues seen with this breed. 
Boxer Dog Size - A look at where the Boxer falls in the medium to large sized breeds. 
Boxer Dog Eye Care - With large, somewhat protruding eyes, it is important to do regular, routine cleaning and keep the area free from debris. Also, a look at issues typically found with this breed. 
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