Hip dysplasia in cats - Symptoms and treatment

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Hip dysplasia is a disease that consists of a poor union between the articular surfaces of the hip joint: the acetabulum and the head of the femur. When this occurs, felines begin with joint weakness and dislocation until a series of morphological and degenerative changes occur in the area that require treatment so that the cat can have a better quality of life..

It appears more common in purebred females such as Persians, Maine coons, or British shorthairs. Although this disease begins to develop when they are small, it is with age when it becomes more manifest and is usually diagnosed due to the specialty that cats have in hiding their ailments. Keep reading this AnimalWised article to know all about the hip dysplasia in cats, your symptoms and treatment.

You may also be interested in: Hip Dysplasia in Dogs - Symptoms and Treatment Index
  1. What is hip dysplasia?
  2. Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia in Cats
  3. Diagnosis of hip dysplasia in cats
  4. Treatment of hip dysplasia in cats

What is hip dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia consists of a maladaptation or a incongruity between the articular part of the hip (acetabulum) with the articular part of the femur (head). This results in a joint laxity, so that the head of the femur can shift or move, progressively inflaming and weakening the joint area with cartilage erosion, microfractures and subluxation. All this leads to instability in the hip joint that will lead to a series of degenerative alterations such as osteoarthritis with discomfort, pain or lameness, degenerative osteoarthritis and atrophy of the muscles of the hind limbs.

The development of this traumatic condition is due to the interaction between genetic and environmental factors. Even if the parents of a cat with dysplasia have not manifested it, the kitten has inherited its genes. Sometimes it can be accompanied by a patella luxation.

Cat breeds with greater predisposition to suffer from hip dysplasia

There is a racial predisposition to suffer from hip dysplasia, so the most prone races are:

  • Persian
  • Maine coon
  • British shorthair
  • Himalayan
  • Siamese
  • Abyssinian
  • Devon rex

In addition, it seems more frequent in females than in males..

Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia in Cats

The symptoms of feline hip dysplasia will depend on the degree of incongruity of the joint. They can begin between 4 and 12 months of age with weakness in the joints until degenerative signs, when the cat is reaching age with the problem. In this way, we can find the following range of Clinical signs:

  • Increased inactivity.
  • Difficulty jumping, running, or climbing.
  • Exercise intolerance.
  • Hind legs closer together than normal.
  • Decreased mobility of the hind limbs and hips, so it is common to observe that the cat drags its hind legs.
  • Thigh muscle atrophy.
  • Increased muscles of the forelimbs (to compensate for the atrophy of the hindlimbs).
  • Difficulty getting up.
  • Hip snapping when walking or getting up.
  • Hip pain.
  • Intermittent or persistent lameness of the hind legs.

Something important to keep in mind is that being overweight and obese further promote progression and worsening of clinical signs of hip dysplasia in cats.

Unlike what happens in dogs, cats, being experts in hiding their ailments, show very little symptoms, which suggests that this disease may be very underdiagnosed in this species. These cats with few symptoms may not want to climb to high places, stairs, be less active or sleep more, which can go unnoticed by the caregiver or, if they are old, relate it to aging.

This scarce symptomatology may be due to the following peculiarities of cats, in relation to dogs:

  • Greater sedentary lifestyle inside the house, moving the least.
  • Greater size and location of the lumbar spinous and transverse processes, as well as differences in the femurs and tuberosities of the pelvis can modify the degree of support of the muscle masses that are inserted in the area.
  • Lighter skeleton with stronger muscle mass that would explain that the joint remained strong for longer, delaying or avoiding arthritis and the consequent pain.

Diagnosis of hip dysplasia in cats

The diagnosis of hip dysplasia in cats should be made by first ruling out other orthopedic disorders with similar clinical signs. The tests necessary to complete the diagnosis of this disease are:

  • Urine and blood analysis (blood count and biochemistry).
  • Palpation of both hip joints.
  • X-rays of the hip in various views to assess whether there are characteristic changes in the pathology through a series of measurements, such as the Norberg angle to assess dislocation / subluxation, increased acetabular width and decreased depth or flattening and femoral head deformity.

It should be noted that hip dysplasia in Persian cats is especially frequent, and it is important to take X-rays from one year onwards in this breed..

Treatment of hip dysplasia in cats

Once feline hip dysplasia has been detected, it must begin to be treated, otherwise the disease will progress and the cat will feel worse and worse, with more obvious signs.

Symptomatic treatment

Initially, treatment should be symptomatic to improve the cat's quality of life, slow down the evolution of degenerative disorders, and reduce inflammation and pain. The following drugs are used:

  • Corticosteroids: such as dexamethasone in a single dose at the beginning, continuing with prednisolone for its anti-inflammatory effect, of choice in acute cases of inflammation of the joint capsule. They should not be used long-term, as it can reduce the formation of collagen and proteoglycans, damaging the cartilage.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: those that have action against cyclooxygenase 1 and 2 (COX-1 and COX-2) are chosen to inhibit the synthesis of prostaglandins that are mediated by pain and inflammation.
  • Glucosaminoglycans (GAGs): Being part of the articular cartilage, they are used as precursors of glucuronic acid, glucosamine and glutamine, among others. They serve to regenerate articular cartilage and to reduce symptoms thanks to its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.


In cats with severe hip dysplasia or those that do not respond to conservative treatment, surgical intervention should be considered, performing:

  • Excision of the head of the femur- to form a fibrous pseudo-joint that can reduce pain.
  • Triple hip osteotomy (OTC): performing osteotomy of the pubis, ilium and ischium to free the acetabulum and reorient it to improve congruence between it and the head of the femur. This can correct subluxation and increase joint stability.
  • Artificial prostheses When osteoarthritis or the disease is very advanced, the acetabulum and the femoral head and neck are removed to replace them with implants. Its great disadvantage is its high cost.

Physiotherapy can also be very helpful in cats with hip dysplasia.

This article is merely informative, at AnimalWised.com we do not have the power to prescribe veterinary treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the vet in the event that it presents any type of condition or discomfort.

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