Does Pet Insurance Cover Hip Dysplasia?

Takeaways:

  • Hip dysplasia is a genetic condition most commonly seen in large or giant-breed dogs.
  • Laxity in the hip joint leads to pain and the development of arthritis.
  • Hip dysplasia may be managed with medical or surgical treatments.
  • Surgical costs can range from $1,700 to over $10,000.
  • Many accident-illness pet insurance policies will cover hip dysplasia, as long as it is not considered a pre-existing condition. 
  • The best way to avoid pre-existing conditions is to enroll your dog in an insurance policy while they are young and healthy.

Does Pet Insurance Cover Hip Dysplasia? 

Generally speaking, an accident and illness pet insurance policy will cover hip dysplasia as long as it’s not considered a pre-existing condition. However, each insurance company will have different conditions and rules around hip dysplasia, so make sure you read policy before taking it out. 

Breeds Prone to Hip Dysplasia 

Hip dysplasia can occur in any dog, but is most commonly seen in large or giant-breed dogs. Among other factors, hip dysplasia is genetic. 

Breeds prone to hip dysplasia include:

  • German Shepherds
  • Saint Bernards
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Old English Sheepdogs
  • Bulldogs. 

For this reason, the cost to insure these breeds may be higher. 

If you are interested in purchasing a large-breed puppy, it is important to find a breeder who has had their breeding dogs x-rayed and registered through the Orthopedic Animal Foundation (OFA) or PennHip. While there is no guarantee, puppies bred from registered parents may be less likely to develop hip dysplasia. 

Pre-existing Conditions and Waiting Period

If your dog has already been diagnosed with hip dysplasia when you purchase pet insurance, it will be considered a pre-existing condition and treatments will not be covered. 

Care will also not be covered if your dog develops hip dysplasia during the waiting period after you have purchased insurance. The waiting period will vary by insurance brand and can be lengthy for some orthopedic conditions, for example, six months with Embrace Pet Insurance

The best way to avoid pre-existing conditions is to sign your dog up for pet insurance when they are young and healthy. 

Pet Insurance Companies that Offer Hip Dysplasia Coverage 

Most accident-illness plans will cover hip dysplasia unless it is considered a pre-existing condition or develops during the waiting period. Some insurance companies, such as Healthy Paws, will not cover hip dysplasia in dogs over six years of age. Others may have a maximum payout associated with the condition. Before deciding on an insurance plan, it will be important to discuss these things in detail, as well as consider other aspects such as your copay, monthly deductible, and type of policy that is the best fit for your family. 

What is Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is a condition in which the hip joint does not develop normally. In affected dogs, the femoral head (which is shaped like a ball) does not fit properly into the acetabulum (the socket of the joint). This creates laxity (looseness) and instability in the joint, which in turn leads to pain and the development of arthritis. 

Hip dysplasia develops as a puppy grows. Some dogs will present as young as six months of age with symptoms of discomfort in the hips, however, other dogs do not show signs of hip dysplasia until later in life as painful arthritis and bone spurs develop. 

Causes of Hip Dysplasia

There are many complex factors involved in the development of hip dysplasia: 

  • Genetics: Hip dysplasia is mainly a hereditary (inherited) condition that is also influenced by the factors listed below. 
  • Nutrition: Free-feeding in puppies has been associated with an increased incidence of hip dysplasia. Susceptible breeds should be fed a large-breed puppy food that has been designed for a healthy rate of growth. 
  • Weight: Overweight puppies are more likely to develop hip dysplasia compared to those kept at an ideal body weight. Keeping an adult dog at a lean body weight can also help decrease signs associated with arthritis.  
  • Other factors, such as the amount and type of exercise in young puppies and the age at the time of spay or neuter, may also contribute, and should be discussed with your vet. 

Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia 

Hip dysplasia begins developing in puppyhood, but many dogs do not show clinical signs until one to two years of age, or sometimes even later in life. Common clinical signs include: 

  • Weakness and pain in the hind legs
  • Difficulty rising, lying down, going up or down stairs, or jumping up onto furniture 
  • Limping or lameness 
  • Reduced activity 
  • Bunny hopping gait 

What to do if Your Dog Might be Suffering from Hip Dysplasia

If you have a large or giant-breed dog or puppy, hip dysplasia should be something on your radar. Your vet will want to carefully monitor their hips as they grow. If your dog is already showing symptoms of hip dysplasia your vet may diagnose the condition in the following ways: 

  • Physical exam – Your vet will watch your dog walk and feel their hips for any pain or discomfort. They may recommend light sedation to manipulate their hips in a certain way to check for an Ortolani sign, which if positive, indicates that a puppy will generally develop hip arthritis by one year of age. 
  • X-rays under sedation or anesthesia – These x-rays require sedation or anesthesia to ensure that the hips are in a specific position, which can be painful and uncomfortable in awake dogs. 

Treatment for Hip Dysplasia and How Much it Costs

Medical Management

Medical treatment generally focuses on the following areas: 

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) to help decrease pain and inflammation 
  • Nutritional supplements including glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega-3 fatty acids 
  • Polysulfated glycosaminoglycan injections 
  • Physical therapy
  • Appropriate nutrition and exercise – Keeping these dogs moderately active but avoiding high-impact exercise is important, as is feeding an appropriate diet to maintain a healthy body weight. 

Surgical Management

There are surgical options that may be beneficial for some dogs, especially if hip dysplasia is caught early in puppyhood. Surgery is expensive and generally requires referral to a specialist. Surgical options include total hip replacement, femoral head ostectomy, triple pelvic osteotomy, and juvenile pubic symphysiodesis. The recommended surgery will depend on your dog’s age, the extent of their disease, and lifestyle. 

Care Credit, a veterinary financing company, estimates that the cost of surgery for hip dysplasia may range from $1,700 to $4,500, however, the cost will vary greatly depending on the type of surgery and where surgery is performed. According to Pets Best Health Insurance, a total hip replacement may cost up to $10,000

Complimentary Treatments

Acupuncture, laser treatment, etc. may also have some place as complementary therapies in addition to the medical or surgical management listed above.

Photo of author
Dr. Liza Cahn, DVM

Liza is a veterinarian who graduated from MSU CVM in 2013 and spent five years working in small animal practice. She loved working with dogs and cats and educating owners on all aspects of veterinary medicine, especially animal behavior and dermatology. She has since transitioned to remote work to be able to spend more time at home with her husband, two young kids, and two cats. She is thrilled to be able to combine her passions for veterinary medicine and writing.