Hip dysplasia is an all too common degenerative disease found in Labradors that typically causes discomfort and mobility issues. If you’re a Lab lover it’s important to be educated about this nasty condition and ways it may be prevented or treated.
What is hip dysplasia?
According to the Baker Institute For Animal Health at Cornell University, “Hip dysplasia refers to the development of a poor fit between the femoral head and the acetabulum that allows loose movement and altered pressure. These changes result in joint damage, inflammation, and pain.”
Translated into plain English, the end of the femur (which is a ball made of bone) starts to be loose inside the joint, so that the hips aren’t properly supported. The joint moves around in ways it’s not supposed to and this causes further damage to the joints.
How does a dog get hip dysplasia?
Hip dysplasia is believed to have both genetic and environmental causes.
If two dogs who are both prone to hip dysplasia are bred, it is highly likely the puppies will inherit the condition. Quality breeders test all their breeding dogs and ensure that a female dog prone to hip dysplasia is never bred to a male with the same issue. When dogs are bred in a puppy mill or by breeders lacking appropriate knowledge of a breed and genetics, conditions such as hip dysplasia continue to be passed along to puppies.
Research is ongoing, but some environmental causes of hip dysplasia listed on Wikipedia are “overweight condition, injury at a young age, overexertion on hip joint at a young age, ligament tear at a young age, repetitive motion on forming joint (i.e. jogging with puppy under the age of 1 year).”
How can I tell if my dog has hip dysplasia?
Basically, you should begin to think about hip dysplasia if your Lab seems to have something abnormal and long term going on with her hind legs. This might include things like being stiff or sore after resting, being reluctant to exercise, using a “bunny hop” running style (where both hind legs move together), reluctance to stand up on her rear legs or jump or climb stairs, and so on.
This short video gives some examples of how dogs with hip dysplasia move.
Keep in mind that this is a chronic condition so a Lab may have been living with this pain and compensating for it since just a few months old. This means that symptoms may creep up and get progressively worse -- they may not just show up all at once.
The only real way to confirm hip dysplasia is with x-rays, so check in with your vet if you suspect this may be an issue.
What should I do if I suspect my dog has hip dysplasia?
If you are concerned about your dog’s health, see your veterinarian. The only certain way to confirm hip dysplasia is with x-rays.
How do they treat hip dysplasia?
Vets generally start with conservative measures such as medication, weight management, and managing appropriate levels of exercise. Alternative treatments such as dietary supplements, chiropractic care, and acupuncture may also provide some relief. When non-surgical measures fail to control a dog’s discomfort, your vet may suggest surgical options. Severe cases of HD which negatively impact the quality of a dog’s life may lead to euthanasia.
What are hip clearances?
The most important way to combat hip dysplasia is to avoid breeding puppies with the condition. As we mentioned before, responsible breeders screen their dogs to be sure they aren’t subject to hip dysplasia. Following an extensive review of x-rays, the Orthopedic Foundation For Animals (OFA) or Penn-HIP issues a physical certificate grading the hip joints for their degree of dysplasia. This helps good breeders decide which dogs to breed.
Pro-Tip: If you choose to get a Lab puppy from a breeder who claims their dogs are HD-free, be sure to physically view the hip medical clearance certificates.
Eliminating Hip Dysplasia
One of the kindest things we can do for our dogs is help them lead lives free from pain -- especially preventable pain.The best way to eliminate hip dysplasia is to ensure only dogs with healthy hips are being bred. That means having dogs with hip issues spayed or neutered so they cannot pass the trait along to their puppies. Breeders who act as ethical guardians of the breed take health standards seriously and work to eliminate defects like this one.
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