What Is Hip Dysplasia In Cats?

As a pet parent you may be asking what is dysplasia in cats and what are the signs. Watching your precious kitty suffer is the last thing you want to do and in this post you’ll discover all about the condition including ways to manage it.

As cats are masters at hiding pain it can be hard to detect problems in the early stages and it’s often subtle signs that make you realise something’s not quite right. Maybe your kitty can’t quite make that leap onto the table like she used to, or you notice a change in her gait.

Interestingly though, due to a cat’s small size you may find your kitty has the condition, but shows no sign of it. The only time it would be discovered is during an examination when x-rays are taken.

Dogs are far more likely to suffer hip problems, especially the larger breeds. They’re also far easier to spot as dogs are walked daily and any lameness quickly noticed.

What causes hip dysplasia in cats?

what causes hip dysplasia in cats

Certain large breeds such as Maine Coons, Norwegian Forest cats, and the American Bobtail seem more susceptible to hip dysplasia, with Maine Coons being the likeliest to suffer. In fact it’s believed up to 20% show signs of the condition.

Hip dysplasia is both an inherited condition as well as being caused by environmental factors. It’s not just the larger boned cats that suffer though, as smaller breeds including the Devon Rex are also prone to hip problems. In fact even domestic shorthair cats can develop hip dysplasia.

If your cat has suffered a traumatic injury such as a bad fall or been hit by a car she’ll have a greater risk of developing hip problems including arthritis. Keeping your cat safe at all times isn’t easy unless you plan to follow her everywhere!

Cats are naturally cautious and always judge distances before jumping, but they sometimes get it wrong. If you believe your kitty has suffered a fall it’s always best to get her checked over by a vet. Sudden limping or reluctance to jump on the sofa are obvious signs.

Obesity is sadly becoming more common in both cats and dogs. Just as in humans it can have a profound effect on joints as more weight is put on them. If your kitty is heavier than she should be it’s important to get her to lose weight.

Get your lazy kitty to exercise!

Cats are naturally lazy and spend much of their waking hours conserving energy. This is completely normal as they’re they’re crepuscular animals. This is down to thousands of years of evolution. The modern day domestic cat may seem a far cry from her wild cat ancestors that roamed the deserts, but instinct to hunt for prey at dawn and dusk still remain.

It’s important to encourage your cat to exercise, especially if she’s an indoor kitty. Robotic toys, cat trees, and spending a few minutes playing with your cat each day gets her active.

What is hip dysplasia?

The word “dysplasia” means abnormal tissue development, and hip dysplasia is when the ball and socket become misaligned. The ball, or top of the femur usually fits snugly into a small hole in the pelvis known as the socket. In a healthy cat this allows smooth movement, enabling your feline friend to jump effortlessly onto high perches or clamber over fences.

If your cat has hip dysplasia the ball becomes out of shape making a loose fit with the socket. In addition, bone cartilage becomes worn, resulting in osteoarthritis. Some cats only suffer mild symptoms which are easily managed, and many cases go completely undetected.

Problems don’t usually start showing until a cat becomes older with a slow degeneration of joints. As a result, it’s rarely detected at birth. If you’re getting a pedigree kitten there’s no way of knowing if she’ll develop hip problems. Though if one of the parents carries the gene there is a far higher risk.

How is hip dysplasia diagnosed?

vet examining large ginger cat

If your cat has been showing signs of discomfort when jumping or walking, getting her examined by a vet is vital. The first thing he or she will do is ask if you have any information about the cat’s parents. This is why it’s important to ask the breeder questions before going ahead. The more you know about the cat’s parentage the better.

The vet will also ask if you know of any injuries your cat may have had. Sometimes injuries aren’t always obvious, and it’s only over time that joints become inflamed. It’s very similar to humans.

As your vet would like to see the cat moving, he or she will try to get her to walk around on the examination table. If your kitty is reluctant to display her range of movements, manipulation of the joints will be needed.

This quickly finds the area causing your feline friend pain! It’s exactly the same as an osteopath or chiropractor diagnosing injuries in a person. Remember, your kitty can’t talk to the doctor, so it’s her reactions to manipulation that reveal what’s going on.

X-rays and scans are also used to diagnose, but as your cat would need to keep very still, sedation is used. Most cats suffering pain would find having their hind legs stretched out unbearable. In addition, blood tests are used to check for any sign of inflammation.

Treatments for managing hip dysplasia

Though treatments are limited there are things you can do to help manage your cat’s condition. Exercise is one of the best ways to help your cat, unless the condition is severe. Making her use her hip muscles will help strengthen them. You can do this by getting her to crouch on all fours.

Getting her to pounce on a toy, or hiding treats under the sofa are examples. In moderate cases your vet may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs, but surgery is only used as a last resort if your cat is really suffering.

You may find supplements such as fish oil or glucosamine help, but you must only buy those which are suitable for pets. There’s no guarantee they’ll make any difference, and supplements can take several months before any results are shown.

Acupuncture for cats is another option for managing pain from hip dysplasia. Most cats tolerate the treatment very well, and it can be a valuable tool for helping to heal and manage pain. While there’s no scientific evidence to suggest it works, there are many pet owners who find it does.

In conclusion

So now you know what is hip dysplasia in cats, you have some idea of what to expect if your cat falls into one of the risk categories such as being a large breed, or heavy cat. You know what to ask a breeder if you’ve set your heart on one of those larger breeds, so you can make an informed decision.

The more you know about a breed of cat the better. Adopting or buying a kitten should never done on a whim, and you should always think about your lifestyle and if owning a pet is practical.

You also know what to expect at a veterinary clinic if you want a diagnosis for hip dysplasia. Though there’s no cure, the condition can often be managed successfully with a combination of anti-inflammatories and supplements. Weight management is a must if your kitty is overweight, as extra weight on the affected joints make things worse.

As mentioned previously, hip dysplasia is far more common in dogs, but should never be ruled out if your kitty shows signs of the condition. Remember, exercise and weight control are the best ways of preventing any joint problems both for cats and humans.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share. Also, if you have any questions or would like to share your experiences, please leave your comment below.

Wishing you a purrfect day:)


2 thoughts on “What Is Hip Dysplasia In Cats?”

  1. Hi Kathy,

    This is a great article about cat hip dysplasia. It is something that cat owners probably aren’t aware of. I’m going to share it with my sister since her cat falls in the high-risk category of obesity. He is also an older cat which means his depth perception is not what it once was. There are times he tries to jump onto something and hesitates because he can’t quite tell where he needs to land. So, I am thinking that because of that he might also be at a higher risk of hip dysplasia.


    • Thank you Amanda:) I’m glad you enjoyed this post and thank you for sharing it with your sister. Yes, it certainly sounds like her cat could be at risk, especially as he’s older.


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