Hip dysplasia is a very complex subject. There are no hard and fast rules and no easy answers.
Most of the blame has been placed on genetics, however, it does not have a simple mode of inheritance. Most research indicates that it is "polygenic", that is, there are a number of genes that combine to result in dysplasia, as well as multi-factorial meaning that there are non-genetic factors including nutrition and environment that factor in. Add to this growing evidence that it is a systemic disease not limited to just the hip joints. This makes the task of planing a breeding to eliminate it almost impossible. Even when the parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. show no signs of dysplasia, the offspring can still show up with it. We have seen two OFA Excellent dogs with many generations of clearances behind them produce dysplastic puppies. So even under the best of conditions there are no absolute guarantees against dysplasia, however conscientious breeders will screen their dogs hips through OFA or PennHip for dysplasia to minimize the risks and breed only animals that have been found free of dysplasia.
Here are some sample radiographs from some golden retrievers.
OFA "Good" Rated Hips
OFA "Good" Rated Hips
Moderate/Severely Dysplastic Hips
Some of the important features in comparing these x-rays is that the two "good" rated x-rays are well set in the sockets with about 2/3 of the ball in the socket. The dysplastic dogs hips are barely 1/4 into the socket. The two "good" rated x-rays also don't show any degenerative changes to the socket or around the ball joint. It's difficult to see due to the density of the x-ray but if you look at the top of the leg bone on the dysplastic x-ray there is additional bone that has been deposited around the neck of the bone and in the depression between the ball and the outer edges of the bone. For a more detailed description of how Hip Dysplasia is determined by viewing an x-ray go to the OFA site click on the link for "Questions and Answers" and then the link for "What happens to a radiograph at the OFA".
How an individual animal will respond to being dysplastic and whether you can tell by watching the animal varies greatly. Some animals show great discomfort with only a mild case of dysplasia while others that are severely dysplastic can get around with little or no obvious discomfort. Down below is a link to a series of articles published on the Acme Pet web site, parts 6, 7 & 8 deal with management of the disease and surgical treatments.
However, your best defence is a good offense and you want to avoid having a dysplastic pet in the first place. There is a lot of controversy as to how much of Hip Dysplasia is genetic and how much is environmental. Both play a part. Because of this, we would like to inform you of some of the things you can do which may help your puppy to live a long and happy life.
A puppy requires a moderate amount of exercise to help maintain muscle tone and minimize laxity in the growing joint. The puppy shouldn't be exercised to the point of exhaustion. Long walks are excellent, jogging is also great but should not be done with very young puppies. If you jog you should start the dog out slowly, gradually increasing the distance traveled, but 2-3 miles a day is probably a maximum, and jogging should not be started with your dog until it is over a year of age. Also the dog should not be jogging on hard surfaces such as concrete or asphalt as these can injure the pads of their feet. If the dog is allowed to become overweight it will place unnecessary strain on the hips as well as the heart and spine. For most breeds in order to tell if the dog is overweight you should feel its ribs. You should be able to feel the ribs just below the skin. If you have to dig for them, the dog is overweight. If you can not feel them at all, the dog is obese. On the other hand, you should not be able to see the ribs just by looking. If the dog is fat, the best way to reduce its weight is to feed it less until you can feel ribs again. A word of warning, most dogs have big sad brown eyes which they use to great advantage when they are hungry. For your dog's sake, learn to ignore them.
A problem during puppyhood is overfeeding a puppy so that it grows too quickly. This results in strain to the skeletal system as it tries to grow too fast. Unfortunately, when a puppy overeats it does not always get fat. What often happens is that the pup will stay skinny but will sprout like a bean. This is a little harder to watch for than checking the weight of an adult dog.
The effects of nutrition on hip dysplasia cannot be overlooked. We have seen a report of a study done on Labradors comparing feeding puppies as much as it desires and dogs on a more restricted caloric intake. When the hip conformations we evaluated at regular intervals it showed that at every stage the puppies given more food were more prone to hip dysplasia.
Calcium and vitamin supplements should not be given to a puppy or an adult. Instead, a good quality food should be used. Until the pup is four or five months of age, you should feed it a puppy food. After that, use a food with an adult or "maintenance" formulation. The puppy food will give him all the calcium he needs to grow and the adult formula will have enough for good health. As the dog grows older, you may want to consider a "senior" dog food to match the dog's changing nutritional needs.
Many people have taken up feeding raw diets in an effort to help their dogs live healthier lives. The reasoning behind the diets is that they better approximate how a dog would eat in the wild and how the dogs ancestors would have eaten. Wild dogs will eat raw meat as well as the animals bones. These foods contain potentially vital ingredients that are destroyed during the manufacturing process in making commercial dog foods. We will provide links below to sites on feeding raw diets so that you can educate yourself on the various options and decide what is best for you and your dog. Many dog foods are now including ingredients to help with joint growth. Only time will tell if this reduces the incidence of the disease.
The dog's hips and shoulders can be injured by rough treatment. NEVER drag a dog around by the back legs. NEVER pick up a puppy by the front legs or with one hand under each arm. Dogs do not have collarbones as people do. Picking a puppy up by the forelegs can strain the muscles and ligaments. The proper way to pick up a puppy is with one hand under the chest and the other hand supporting the rear end. This will not injure the pup and he will not be able to wriggle out of your grasp.
Orthopedic Foundation for Animals
Skeletal Diseases of the Growing Dog - Nutritional Influences And the Role of Diet
Canine Hip Dysplasia - Margaret Muns DVM
Dog Owner's Guide - When Ranger Has Hip Dysplasia
Canine Hip Dysplasia Resources
The Pet Center - Hip Dysplasia (comparative x-rays)
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