You are here:

Great Danes/Misdiagnosis of hip dysplasia in 6-week-old puppy


We recently purchased a Great Dane puppy.  He seemed unstable in the hind end, so we were concerned that he might have hip dysplasia.  Our vet did some leg manipulation and he said that our puppy's hips showed evidence of hip dysplasia (popping of the joint).  We assumed that the next step would be to get an x-ray, but the surgeon we spoke with said that an x-ray at that age would not show much since a lot of the bone would not be solidified for quite some time. That made me wonder if every 6-week-old GD puppy would get the same diagnosis (by my vet). Because there is so much growing to be done, is it too early to tell?  Are most GD puppies a little wobbly at that age?  Our breeder said that this is the first time one of her puppies has been reported to have hip dysplasia. Also, everything I've read says that early onset CHD usually shows up between 5 and 12 months. Thank you for your time!

It sounds to me like this might be more of an HOD issue, rather then hip dysplasia. I would look into this, but hip dysplasia is always a possibility. Another issue that needs to be addressed in your situation is why you were able to take a 6 week old puppy, or younger from the breeder as this is illegal in most states in the US. The minimum age for placing a puppy is 8 weeks of age. You also need to be concerned with bite inhabition and dog aggression as he gets older. I would highly encourage you to get him neutered before he reaches sexual maturity to set him up for a successful future.

HOD link Below

Hip dysplasia

What is ... ?:
The hip joint is a "ball and socket" joint: the "ball" (the top part of the thigh bone or femur) fits into a "socket" formed by the pelvis. If there is a loose fit between these bones, and the ligaments which help to hold them together are loose, the ball may slide part way out of the socket (subluxate). With time, as this occurs repeatedly, other degenerative changes in the joint occur (also called osteoarthritis) and your dog will become painful, lame and weak in the hind end.
This disease is progressive; that is, it gets worse with time.

How is ... inherited?:
The mode of inheritance of this disease is polygenic (caused by many different genes). Scientists do not yet know which genes are involved, or how many genes. Factors that can make the disease worse include excess weight, a fast growth rate, and high-calorie or supplemented diets.

What does ... mean to your dog & you?:
While there is a severe form of hip dysplasia that affects young dogs (less than one year of age), signs of this disease are most common in older dogs. The loose fit at the hip joint will be present in young dogs, but it may take years for the other changes (such as osteoarthritis) to cause pain. Your dog may be painful after exercise, have difficulty with stairs, or even have difficulty getting up. You may only notice this once in a while, but over time you will find it getting worse. There is no cure, but your dog’s pain and lameness may be reduced by making sure that s/he is not overweight, restricting exercise, and using pain-relieving medications and/or alternative therapies such as acupuncture.
Large and giant-breed dogs are more likely to get hip dysplasia later in life if they are overfed and gain weight quickly as puppies. If you have such a puppy, you may be able to reduce the chance of future hip dysplasia by careful feeding. Your veterinarian can help you determine the right body weight and diet for your dog.

How is ... diagnosed?:
Your veterinarian will probably suspect hip dysplasia if your large or giant breed dog has pain or lameness in the hips. Your vet will take x-rays to evaluate the general fit of the femur and pelvis, and to look for any osteoarthritic changes in the hip joint. Usually sedation or anaesthesia is required to ensure proper positioning of the dog.  In order to see how much looseness there is in the hip joint, your veterinarian may take special stress or distraction radiographs.

How is ... treated?:
The degree to which the hips are dysplastic does not always correlate with the amount of pain. Some dogs with very bad hips radiographically are less painful than others whose x-rays show only minor changes.
Although there is no cure for hip dysplasia, there are ways to manage the pain. Your veterinarian will  work with you to keep your dog comfortable. Treatments include anti-inflammatory drugs and/ or alternative therapies such as acupuncture. Nutraceuticals such as glucosamine may also be helpful. Controlling exercise and maintaining your dog at an appropriate weight, are important in managing the pain.
Your veterinarian may suggest surgery (such as hip replacement) if the pain is severe, and/or can not be controlled by medical treatment as above.

For the veterinarian:
There are several established scoring systems to evaluate radiographs for the presence of hip dysplasia. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals evaluates a standard ventrodorsal view with hips extended and stifles rotated internally. Radiographs are scored based on degenerative joint changes and evidence of subluxation. Dogs must be 2 years of age in order to be certified by the OFA.
The PennHip method uses a quantitative measure of joint laxity (based on distraction and compression views) to determine the Distraction Index (DI), as well as the standard hip-extended view, to evaluate a dog for hip dysplasia (see Smith and McKelvie,1995, below). Dogs may be evaluated by this technique as young as 16 weeks of age.

Great Danes

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Paula Zaro


I have a great love for this breed, and although this is an "expert" forum, no one person can be an expert in all issues in any breed. It takes a lifetime of learning, with new information becoming current and relevant often. I am happy to share the knowledge that I have, and if I cannot answer your question I will be happy to do research and ask peers in the breed for their knowledge and advice. I can answer questions on temperament, health, training, breeding issues, genetic issues. I will not answer questions about how to breed your pet and add to the pet population. I am a firm believer that the experts in the breed should breed, and families should enjoy their dogs from reputable breeders.


Show Exhibitor, Rescue Coordinator, Kennel Mananger, Training Manager, Partner in large Dog Training and Behavior Consulting Firm. Own/Train, actively Show the breed for over 10 years.

American Rare Breed Association, Cane Corso Assocation of America, Great Dane Club of Milwaukee, American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen Evaluator, Therapy Dog Institute Evaluator

Basic Trainer, Intermediate Trainer, Advanced Trainer, Off-Leash Advanced Trainer, Behavior Modification, Behavior Modification Specialist, Canine Good Citizen Evaluator of the American Kennel Club, Veterinary Assistant, Kennel Manager, Adoption Coordinator

©2017 All rights reserved.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]