Canine Hip Dysplasia

Canine hip dysplasia is a common inherited orthopaedic problem where abnormalities occur in the hip joints. The abnormalities will start at a young age as the puppy becomes more active and will become worse over time. These abnormalities can lead to excessive wear and tear of the hip joint, which can lead to one or both joints being defective. This can be extremely painful and can have serious effects on the health and behaviour of the dog.

Possible signs of hip dysplasia

  • Lameness
  • Stiffness after rest
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Groaning while resting or getting up
  • Difficulty using stairs

Please note that only radiographs scored by an expert can be used as a measure of whether a dog has dysplasia or not. A single certificate, certified by a KUSA authorised veterinary radiologist, is issued reflecting the grade of hip and/or elbow dysplasia, where applicable, together with the microchip or tattoo number of the dog. (For more information, visit the KUSA website ).

Some dogs with severe hip dysplasia can go through their whole life and only start showing signs of it when they reach 8 or 9 years. Others have moderate dysplasia and endure pain and obvious discomfort at a very early age. But it is genetic and their offspring will inherit it, whether they showed physical signs or not.

Meaning of the Grades

The official hip and elbow dysplasia certificates in South Africa have FCI grades for hips and the old RSA grades for elbows. Below is a table showing the meaning of these grades.

FCI Grade

DescriptionFCI Criteria

Old RSA Grade


Excellent Hips

Good hips
No signs of hip dysplasia



Fair hips

Marginal dysplasia
Near normal hip joints




Mild dysplasia

Mild to moderate dysplasia
Mild hip dysplasia




Moderate dysplasia

Moderate to severe dysplasia
Moderate hip dysplasia




Severe dysplasia

Very severe dysplasia
Severe hip dysplasia


Images to illustrate grades of hip (and elbow) dysplasia