Hip Dysplasia in Cats Facts: Diagnosis and Treatment

cat head nuzzling man

Hip dysplasia is a painful condition that can cause limping and lameness. Here’s what you should know about this condition and your cat.

Do Cats Get Hip Dysplasia?

That’s a fair question since it’s more often associated with dogs than cats. Certain canine breeds, including Bulldogs, Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Mastiffs, and Great Danes, are prone to this condition.

While it’s not typically seen in felines, hip dysplasia and other cat hip problems can happen. It’s more likely to occur in purebreds, such as Maine Coons and Himalayans, than your typical domestic mixed breed cat. 

Mild or moderate cases of hip dysplasia may also go undiagnosed since cats are pros at masking their symptoms. A cat parent may not realize that their kitty is having an issue with their hip. It’s important to take your cat to the veterinarian for regular check-ups so they can detect health conditions you might not detect at home.

You can get reimbursed for annual exams by adding preventive care coverage to your plan at a low additional cost.

Hip Dysplasia Explained

The hip joint is made up of a ball and socket. The largest leg bone (the femur) has a rounded ball (the femoral head) at the top that fits snugly into a socket area (the acetabulum). When it’s working normally, the ball glides and rotates so that your cat can do all the things cats do—from chasing play mice around the house to getting up after an afternoon snooze.

With hip dysplasia, the femoral head has an abnormal shape that doesn’t fit neatly into the socket. Rather than gliding smoothly, it rubs and grinds, causing damage to the cartilage and bone of the hip joint. In some cases, the femoral head can dislocate from the socket.

Hip dysplasia can affect one or both hips with varying degrees of severity. If left untreated, a cat with this condition will develop arthritis in the hip joint.

Causes of Cat Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a hereditary disorder, which means it’s present at or before birth. Other common hereditary diseases in cats include deafness, polycystic kidney disease, and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, where the heart muscle thickens and impedes normal function.

Obesity may also play a role in hip dysplasia. Those extra pounds increase the pressure on the hip joint and its supporting structures, which can worsen the situation.

black and white cat with pink collar and tag lying on a white carpet

Symptoms of Cat Hip Problems

Cats are notorious for masking their symptoms when they’re in pain or otherwise not feeling well. They may hide more than usual or attempt to adapt to the condition, which can make it tough to spot an issue. Some of the more obvious signs of hip dysplasia include:

Cats who are in pain may also have behavioral changes. For instance, they might not have any interest in playing their favorite games, they may sleep more or less than normal, they can lose their appetite, or they might be more irritable than usual.

Diagnosis and Treatment

If you suspect your cat is having hip pain, you should take them to the veterinarian as soon as possible. There’s no reason to let your kitty suffer longer than needed. Your veterinarian will perform a full physical exam, ask about their symptoms and medical history, and conduct diagnostic tests. These can include bloodwork, urinalysis, and X-rays of the hip.

Depending on the severity of the condition, your veterinarian may recommend more conservative treatment at first. They may prescribe medication to reduce pain and inflammation along with specific nutritional supplements. Products like glucosamine and chondroitin can help slow the progression of hip dysplasia and reduce some symptoms.

Our Complete CoverageSM plan covers prescription foods and supplements when used to treat a covered condition (not for general weight loss or maintenance). Learn more about what’s covered.

Your veterinarian might also suggest limiting exercise and encouraging your cat to rest as much as possible. Additionally, alternative therapies like physical therapy and acupuncture can be helpful in certain instances.

If your cat has severe hip dysplasia, they may require surgery. The most common surgery for cats with hip dysplasia involves removing the head and neck of the femur bone. This stops the pain caused by bone rubbing against bone and eroding the cartilage.

Cats who have this surgery may have some lameness afterward since one leg will be shorter than the others, but they can usually function fairly normally after recovery. This is because the muscles and cartilage of the hip continue to work together, allowing the cat to sit, lay down, run, jump, and act like a regular cat.

Cats with hip dysplasia can also have a total hip replacement. It is similar to a hip replacement in humans where the entire hip joint is removed, and a synthetic hip is put in place. This surgery restores the hip to normal, pain-free function. Your veterinarian can go over the options and help you decide on the best treatment plan for your cat.

Can a Cat Live with Hip Dysplasia?

Cats can live with hip dysplasia if they have proper care. It’s important to follow your veterinarian’s recommendations for treatment to help your cat get back to a pain-free life.

Preventing Cat Hip Pain

Because it’s a hereditary disease, there’s no way to prevent hip dysplasia. However, you can alleviate wear and tear on the hip and other joints by keeping your kitty at an appropriate weight. A healthy amount of exercise can also help your cat’s hip muscles stay strong. In addition, you should also take your cat to the veterinarian regularly for annual exams.

If you’re looking to welcome a cat into your family, please consider adopting from a shelter. This can help you avoid bringing home a cat who has a hereditary condition. Plus, there are so many cats out there in need of loving forever homes.

If you decide to go with a breeder, you should do your research and make sure they’re reputable. Ask them about their practices to help ensure your cat won’t have hip dysplasia or other hereditary conditions.

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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