What is Dysplasia?
Canine Hip Dysplasia or CHD is a genetic condition which effects certain breeds and causes malformation of the ball and socket in the hip joints. The result of this malformation is the separation of the two bones that meet at the affected joint. Put simply, an improper fit between the ball and socket occurs and results in a joint that lacks smooth movement, experiences undesirable friction and can eventually lead to degenerative joint disease (DJD).
Since advancement of the disease is partially the result of genetic factors, medical research has been able to identify certain breeds that carry the CHD gene and are, therefore, at greater risk of developing it. These breeds are as follows:
Although there are exceptions, the general rule is that the risk of hip dysplasia increases proportionately with the size of the dog. Since Saint Bernards are especially large, their predisposition to hip problems is great. Overweight dogs are more likely still to develop problems.
Both large and active, Golden Retrievers are at high risk of developing the condition and this risk increases with age, unfortunately.
Predisposed to hip problems for all the same reasons as their Golden cousins.
In German Shepherds, this condition is more common in dogs that have reached middle age or older, i.e. from the age of 7 onwards.
Characterised by the presence of an abnormal gait, e.g. a limp or a lean to one side, hip dysplasia in Rottweilers is not uncommon, unfortunately. Early diagnosis and treatment is best for good long-term prognosis.
Especially active examples of this breed are best encouraged to swim in safe locations as this form of exercise is low impact and unlikely to increase the already significant risk of hip problem development. Fortunately, this is a breed with a strong liking for water.
A breed rapidly increasing in popularity, the Alaskan Malamute is once again a dog whose combination of size and activity levels put it at risk of dysplasia.
An obvious exception to the large dogs rule, Pugs are at risk of developing hip problems from an early age.
A medium-sized dog capable of reaching up to 30 kilograms, the Boxer can be afflicted with the symptoms of dysplasia at any age.
Selective breeding has resulted in a dog that's unfortunately predisposed to a variety of health problems, including dysplasia.
Tips to avoiding development of hip dysplasia
Although the breeds listed above (and a number of others) are born with a genetic tendency towards this painful condition, there are practical steps that owners can take to reduce the likelihood of it developing.
•Puppies exposed to stairs and/or slippery floors in the home are more likely to develop hip problems. Whilst still young, keep your dog downstairs and off tiled or varnished floors where possible or put rubber matting down over those surfaces.
•Obesity increases the likelihood of dysplasia, so feeding a dog a healthy diet in a volume appropriate to age and size will keep your dog at the correct weight.
•Too much exercise when dogs with dysplasia tendencies are young (under a year old) may be detrimental to health but, equally, too little will have the opposite effect. Adequate exercise builds strength in muscles, joints and bones and helps maintain flexibility also.
•There is some evidence that hormones can play a part in the condition's development in males and that neutering before adulthood is linked to this condition.