Hip dysplasia in Border Terriers

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As anticipated in my previous blog on Spike’s Disease, hip dysplasia is another one of the few medical conditions that Borders are inclined to.  We have been lucky so far, as Indy has never suffered displayed canine hip dysplasia symptoms so far.  However, as it appears that Border Terriers are subject to hip dysplasia, I would like to share the basic facts I have learned so far about the disease, from symptoms to cause and how to treat it.  I hope I shall be forgiven for, possibly far too often, not using the most commonly used medical terminology, but my aim is to say as I understand it, and I hope my ‘down to earth’ approach will make it easier for other dog owners to better get to grip with this condition.


So, what is hip dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia, how it works
Hip dysplasia, how it works

Like in humans, canine hip dysplasia (or CHD) is the mis-development of the hip joint, or the displacement of the femur bone head into the hip socket.  This can happen in both puppies as well as later years of your dog’s life.

It is deemed that your dog will have been born healthy, but for some genetic inheritance, the hip socket may start developing incorrectly after a few weeks, starting causing pain in your dog’s joints, which may progress to an acute level.  This is deemed to be genetically more commonly transmitted in Borders.

Now, don’t get me wrong, your dog is not necessarily going to suffer for hip dysplasia for being a Border.  Nor is it going to be the end of the road for your dog if diagnosed with this condition.  Hip dysplasia can be managed nowadays, so that with the correct veterinary intervention and with mobility aids your dog’s quality of life is not affected.

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My dog is walking funny!!

Hip dysplasia in your dog manifests with the same signs of arthritis – you will notice stiffness your dog’s leg movements, as if he/she had painful joints and experienced difficulty in moving about.  Like with Spike’s Disease, sometimes the hind legs will look lame and weak, as if your dog were drunk!!

Other signs may include your dog doing the bunny hop when running, i.e. bring up both hind legs at the same time and raising the hips higher above the level of their back, and showing signs of pain when touched in the pelvic area, and a change in behaviour when your dog is no longer prepared to climb stairs, to walk and to play.

There isn’t anything scarier, believe you me, than seeing your dog not to be able to function in the usual way anymore.  But when that happens, the best thing is to make an urgent appointment with your vet, who will be able to establish the cause with a set of examinations or tests.  Unlike with Spike’s Disease, it is deemed to be pretty easy to recognise hip dysplasia through physical exam, manipulation of hip and joint and some x-ray – although if x-rays are necessary, your dog will have to be put to temporary sleep under the effect of anaesthetics.


Why my Border?

Hip dysplasia can present in its first symptoms in dogs as young as pups.  Likewise, you may never have noticed anything untoward about your dog’s way of walking, and then suddenly your dog starts showing lameness in the legs and stiffness in his/her joints in older age.

In passing, if this happens when your dog is older, many owners may not do much about it as putting it down to the nearly unavoidable arthritis – so a joint ache relief is believed to be all that is necessary to make your dog better.  On the contrary however, it is advisable at any age of your dog always to have your hound examined by a vet, who will be able to confirm what the condition is and the best course of treatment.


BT brothers, is one of them likely to be affected by hip dysplasia? Not necessarily
BT brothers, is one of them likely to be affected by hip dysplasia? Not necessarily


So, why is hip dysplasia deemed to be more common in Border Terriers?  The condition is transmitted through genes, therefore your dog may manifest symptoms early in life or later on – your dog may have carried the gene for the whole of their life, and a sudden movement may flare up the weakness in latter years.

But Borders are inclined to CHD particularly due to their longer and slender legs and the physical strain they naturally subject their limbs to.  Borders are very agile by nature, and will never spare their limbs from an exerted run or from jumping up and down the stairs or from digging excitedly.

Add to that the fact that the gene has now been inherited for generations, and that will explain why Border are more prone to this medical condition than other breeds.

Remember, Borders are a strong resilient breed, and hip dysplasia is only one of the few health problems they may experience in their life time.  Nevertheless, their resilience may make our job more difficult to detect whether they are in pain or not, as in order to please their family, Borders may well endure unnecessary pain without displaying any sign of discomfort.


My dog has been diagnosed with CHD, is he going to be alright?

The first thing I would like to stress out is that the fact that your dog has been diagnosed with CHD does not necessarily preclude that he/she may not be able to have a normal quality of life – and for a long life too!

In most cases the condition can be treated medically.  Your vet is likely to prescribe a course of anti-inflammatory tablets, and may suggest rest as well as the right type of physical exercise, which may include physio-therapy and hydro-therapy.  Your vet may also prescribe a diet to maintain your dog’s body weight to its lightest in order not to cause the joint to have to carry unnecessary weight.

In most severe cases, it is true that your vet may have to recur to surgery.  This may include hip replacement, but other types of less invasive surgery procedures are meant to be equally successful in treating your dog.

My understanding is however that the condition may have ups and downs of severity in the course of your dog’s life, and with age it may invariably get worse.  In many cases hip dysplasia also induces the development of osteoarthritis, and the combination of the two factors contributes to your dog experiencing more pain and more difficulty of movement.  In many cases your vet may prescribe joint supplements for the rest of your dog’s life, and even after surgery good regular physio exercise may be required to ensure your dog’s joints do not further deteriorate.


Border Terrier agility jump
Border Terrier agility jump


My Indy’s and my review on items to benefit and improve older dogs’ quality of life, we recommend YuMove for a number of reasons.  The main one is the fact that Indy has been taking these supplements for quite a while, and we have noticed a marked improvement on his agility levels – to the point that I firmly believe the addition of these supplements to the rest ‘ordered’ by the vet contributed to his full recovery from his back injury of a few months ago.  Click here if you want to find out the beneficial effects of YuMove.


I hope to have been as informative as possible without having deterred any future dog owner from considering adopting or purchasing a Border Terrier.  I shall never tire to reinforce that hip dysplasia is not as common as feared, and that Borders are one of the sturdiest and healthiest breeds recognised by The Kennel Club.

Nevertheless, if your dog, or Border even, has been affected by this condition, it would be grand to hear first hand from you, how you have managed through your dog’s condition, and how it has affected your dog and you and your family.  I would be really grateful if you could leave your comment.  I shall reply and acknowledge you promptly.






  1. // Reply

    Hi Giulia,
    Thank you for such an interesting post.
    I did have a dog with hip dysplasia. But it was a Rottweiler. The first symptoms appears while he was still a puppy, but a big puppy. So he was a very heavy dog, and it became much more difficult to walk.
    I do have a Border now, but I didn’t know that they were inclined to hip dysplasia.
    It’s good to be aware of the symptoms.

    1. // Reply

      Oh Alex, I am ever so sorry to hear that your previous Rottie was affected. I hope your Border is going to keep well away from it all.

      Just for curiosity, what made you go for a Border after a Rottie? Only because, after my Border, and if it weren’t for size management, my second choice of dog would be a Rottweiler too, as I think they have the sweetest eyes ever. Let us know.

      Giulia :

  2. // Reply


    Thanks for sharing. My dog hasn’t shown any sign of hip dysplasia yet and I’m just keeping a close eye on her so that we can try to catch it early.

    I’m wondering about the genetics. Is it true that mixed breed dogs are less likely to suffer from this? I’ve heard this and I’m just not so sure about it.

    If so, why is that? Also once they symptoms start to show, have you ever heard of different ways you can massage to dogs hips in order to provide some relief? I’ve heard of this but never have learnt the right techniques.


    1. // Reply

      Hi Robert, and thanks for reading along. Like you, I’ve also heard tha mix breeds have a stronger disposition. They say that when you mix breeds, like with plants, the combination takes the strongest genes from both original breeds, and that is in the course of nature. So, whew the word mongrel used to be used in a not much complimentary manner, now it turns out that mongrel dogs can be much more tempers to disease than rare breeds!!!

      Now, regarding massaging your dog, I’m sure your vet will advise you for the best, or will point you out in the direction of canine physio centres where you’ll be advised on best exercise movements for your dog. I’m told hydrotherapy is excellent, but it depends on the injury. And I’m also told (by owners) dogs are willing to embrace relaxation techniquesthrough aroma and massage therapy.

      If you try any of the above out, let me know how you get on!! And best of luck with your dog. I really hope she’s going to be ok ❤️❤️

  3. // Reply

    Thank you very much. I found this very useful and informative. We have an almost 10 Border Terrier who has just started limping, etc. Off to make an appointment with the vet. There is one in town who is VERY familiar with Borders and will probably change to him after initial visit. Again, thanks so very much.

    1. // Reply

      Aww Sandra, I hope it’s nothing to worry about, but yes, I agree with you, better an extra visit to the vet’s and being safe than sorry. The relationship with your vet, I suspect, is paramount in retaining good health for your dog, as you need to feel confident that the person you are talking to absolutely ‘gets’ what you are talking about. At the end of the day, you are only relaying the symptoms you can see, as your dog cannot explain him/herself, and a good vet needs to be prepared to consider all possibilities before brushing things under the carpet dismissively. Let us know how you get on with the new vet and with your Border ❤❤

  4. // Reply

    My 8 year old Border Terrier has had episodes of walking with her back left leg raised and has just started doing it again. Last time, the vet thought it was just arthritis and gave her anti-inflammatory pills. We started the pills again, but they are not working and I have been carrying her up and down the 14 stairs and outside and all over the house to help her. Her half brother is 5 and has never shown any symptoms. I am glad I read this and will mention it to the vet when I take her. Thanks.

    1. // Reply

      I’m glad I could be of help in giving you ideas of how to move this forward, Marcy. Hopefully your girl will be diagnosed with something different and not as painful, but your vet might propose x-rays, which unfortunately in dogs have to be done under a mild sedative to keep the dog still.
      Keep in touch, Marcy, and let us know how your girl is getting on. All the very best, my lovely ❤️❤️

  5. // Reply

    My Border Terrier Jake is 15 in the last 8 months we have noticed his back legs were getting weaker, he has particular problems with polished floors, when eating his legs splay apart until he is on the deck, we bought him socks to help grip which seemed to help for a bit, he now has some difficulty getting up in the morning but once out and about he is great on good ground, not so on the rocky beach where he has enjoyed most of his life!
    love my dog so sad to see him like this

    1. // Reply

      Awww Alex, I can imagine, and I really feel for you. With our Indy, this year age 14, sadly we too can’t help noticing the difference between when he was younger and full of life, and now that he is slower and … well, enjoying the retired life. But yes, for us owners it is very sad to see them age sooo much more quickly than us humans.
      Don’t get me wrong, Alex, I don’t condone a quick ‘getting rid of your dog’ attitude for the sake of sparing them old age. For many years I have struggled with the concept of euthanasia for pets – now I accept it purely to stop them from suffering.
      By this, I mean that whilst they are aging but in relatively good health, we should let them enjoy their slower days – exactly as we do with our older family members.
      What does your Jake’s vet say, do they think it’s osteoarthritis due to old age? Let us know xxx

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