The causes of canine hip dysplasia are varied and somewhat mysterious. Because the condition is more common in some breeds than in others, it is considered to be a genetic trait. It’s important to understand that hip dysplasia is not a congenital defect; it is not present at birth and if it does develop later in life, there are likely both genetic and environmental causes.
One way to reduce the number of dogs with canine hip dysplasia is, of course, to avoid breeding those that are known to have the trait. There are other ways to diminish the development of hip dysplasia, too, which is why it’s important to know whether a dog is predisposed to the condition or not.
What Breeds Are Most Likely to Develop Canine Hip Dysplasia?
Most of the breeds affected by hip dysplasia are large breeds, but size is not the only factor in determining whether a dog will develop the condition. Pugs and French bulldogs, both of which are small breeds, are often predisposed to loose hip joints, which is what causes hip dysplasia. Other breeds that often develop canine hip dysplasia include German shepherds, Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, St. Bernards, Newfoundlands, and Rottweilers.
Any dog of any breed can develop the condition, however. Any dog that is moving stiffly, limping, running with an odd gait (sometimes described as a “bunny hop”), or having trouble standing up or lying down should be evaluated by a veterinarian. If you have a large dog, particularly one of the breeds listed above, ask your vet whether a hip evaluation is recommended.
Can Puppies Develop Hip Dysplasia?
Though puppies can develop canine hip dysplasia, it’s much more common for it to affect older dogs. With that being said, there are some factors present during puppyhood that could make it more likely that a genetically predisposed dog will go on to develop the condition.
Young puppies should not be exercised on hard pavement. They should also be discouraged from jumping and landing on their hind legs. Instead, puppies should be able to run and play on a soft surface, such as grass. Since puppies that are overweight are more likely to have hip problems, it’s important to feed puppies a healthy diet appropriate for their age.
Any puppy that is limping, reluctant to move, or having trouble standing up or walking needs to be evaluated by a veterinarian as soon as possible. They could have hip dysplasia or another serious condition.
Can I Have Genetic Testing Done on My Dog to Predict Hip Dysplasia?
There are genetic tests that could potentially foretell a predisposition to developing hip problems. They are not commonly offered, both because there are environmental factors that also determine whether a dog develops the condition and because there are other methods of predicting a tendency to develop the condition. If you do want to have your dog genetically tested, it can be done during puppyhood before standard x-ray testing would show a problem. This is done with a simple blood test. Ask your vet about whether this is appropriate for your dog and whether they offer the testing in their office.
For puppies older than 16 weeks, PennHIP is a reliable radiographic method to determine whether a dog is predisposed to developing osteoarthritis in the hip and/or hip dysplasia. The method involves three x-rays in different positions; the hip laxity is then scored. The higher the score, the more likely a dog is to develop hip dysplasia at some point in the future. Another radiographic method is called OFA testing, but it is less comprehensive than PennHIP and cannot be done on dogs younger than 2 years old.
How Can Hip Dysplasia Be Prevented?
Preventing hip dysplasia from developing, even if a dog is predisposed to it, is often a matter of implementing healthy habits that are good for all dogs. Dogs that are overweight or obese are more inclined to develop the condition, so keep your dog at a healthy weight. Encourage exercise, but if your dog is a puppy, keep him or her on grassy (or similarly soft) surfaces. Puppies that play fetch with their owners might be more likely to develop hip dysplasia due to the quick stops and turns necessary to catch or retrieve a ball midair. Instead, encourage simple running, playing with other puppies, and structured walks.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that if you are planning on breeding your dog or training him or her for sporting competitions or other intense activities, talk to your veterinarian about having the dog tested for hip laxity, which is what leads to hip dysplasia. This will protect your dog and enable you to make other plans for breeding if the dog turns out to be predisposed to developing the condition.