Hip Dysplasia

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This information is provided by Provet for educational purposes only.

You should seek the advice of your veterinarian if your pet is ill as only he or she can correctly advise on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate for your pet.

Hip dysplasia is of major concern to owners and breeders of large and giant dogs. Here are a number of interesting facts about the disease.

In it's most severe forms hip dysplasia is a debilitating, painful disease that causes a lot of suffering for affected animals, and distress for owners. Great emphasis is put on the need to avoid breeding from affected animals because there is believed to be a genetic inheritance - although the precise genetic pattern has not yet been determined and, following studies in German Shepherd Dogs, it has been concluded that hip dysplasia is only a "moderately heritable disease". 

Owners and breeders might be interested in some of the following facts about the disease :

  • The hip joints of dogs that go on to develop hip dysplasia are believed to be normal at birth
  • Breeds with the lowest prevalence of hip dysplasia are near the size of ancestral dogs see Evolution of the Dog 
  • Hip dysplasia has not been reported to occur in wild canines - eg wolves and foxes
  • Hip dysplasia does not occur in racing greyhounds (one of the early dogs kept by humans), but greyhounds kept as pets do develop hip dysplasia.
  • Studies have shown that environmental factors - including exercise - are just as important in the development of hip dysplasia in young growing dogs as genetic inheritance. German Shepherd Dog puppies kept confined during growth developed less severe hip dysplasia than their littermates which were allowed to exercise vigorously.
  • Hip dysplasia has been reported to occur in domesticated cats, and in humans 1.3 children in every 1000 are reported to be affected.
  • Dogs with a low prevalence for hip dysplasia have skin and subcutaneous fat content of only 1-2%, whereas breeds with a higher prevalence have 5-10% fat in these tissues.
  • Growing puppies that weigh more than the mean for their group are more likely to develop hip dysplasia than littermates weighing less than the mean for the group. 
  • Interpretation of hip XRays is the "gold standard" for assessing the severity of hip dysplasia in an animal - and a scoring system based upon XRay changes  is used in all breed schemes designed to reduce the gene pool by breeding from unaffected animals. However, studies have shown that the degree of change on an XRay is NOT directly related to the amount of pain and disability that an animal is suffering.
  • Breeding only from dogs with normal hips at 1 year of age (as determined by XRay examination) significantly reduced the prevalence of hip dysplasia in the offspring in several controlled breeding studies.

Provet's Conclusions

  • All dogs intended for breeding should be entered into a hip dysplasia screening programme and only "normal" individuals should be used for breeding

  • Keep young puppies from breeds known to have a prevalence for the disease "lean and mean". Avoid over-feeding, avoid obesity and avoid too rapid a growth rate.

  • Do not over-exercise young growing puppies

For more information about hip dysplasia CLICK HERE


Updated October 2013