Hip, dysplasia, genetic, large breed, prevent, running, exercise, muscle, senior, disease, OFA, X-ray, triple pelvic osteotomy, breeding
Probably one of the most common development conditions recognized in large breed dogs is hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia can affect any dog, most commonly the large breeds, but seems to have a predilection for the retrievers, German shepherds, great Danes, chow chows, and Rottweilers. Hip dysplasia is known to have a strong genetic component, yet environmental influences also play a significant role in the disease. In fact, it is now believed that about 50 percent is genetic, and the other 50 percent is environmental. So, equally as important as what genetic influences a dog inherits from its parents, is how the dog is reared. Specifically, diet and exercise. That's right, how much a young, growing large breed is fed and exercised will play a major role on whether or not he or she will actually develop dysplasia!
When considering purchasing a large breed dog, especially one with a high genetic propensity toward hip dysplasia, it is highly recommended to make sure the dog's parents were certified by the ofa-the orthopedic foundation for animals. This registry certifies hips, so if both parents passed this certification, then, at least, you're heading in the right direction. This doesn't mean, however, that you're home free! It is very important to keep these predisposed puppies lean-no, they don't need to be the biggest, baddest, dog on the block as a growing puppy. Also, it is critical that these dogs are not over-exercised! So, if you are a runner or picked up that beautiful retriever to run alongside of you during those five-mile bicycle rides, you don't want to start that kind of rigorous exercise training until they are at least 18 to 24 months of age. The best activity for them during their critical growth phase would be a 15 to 20 minute jog with a lot of stopping and playing along the way, or a game of tennis ball or Frisbee at the park. Save the distance running until later-and make sure that you work him up to the longer distances slowly.
These recommendations are even more important for the growing dog whose parents did not have good hips, or if the parents are unknown. As I mentioned, about 50 percent of the dysplasia is a result of environmental influences, so even if the dog's parents didn't pass on the best genes, you're new little monster still has a good chance to be dysplasia-free.
As adult dogs, to avoid or minimize the clinical problems associated with hip dysplasia, it is important to keep these dogs lean and well exercised. Good muscle tone, especially in the hind end, can help alleviate the weakness, pain, and discomfort associated with this condition. As dysplastic dogs age and difficulties with movement and exercise begin to develop, there are many treatment options ranging from non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, vitamins, natural joint supplements like msm, glucosamine, chondroitin, and other glyconsaminoglycans, acupuncture, to more extensive treatments like surgery.
Of course, as with many diseases and conditions we are forced to deal with, prevention is better than treatment. We highly recommend leaving the breeding to the professional breeders who understand the issues regarding dysplasia and who have their dogs ofa certified. For growing puppies, we often recommend scan x-rays at about 9 to 11 months of age so see how the hips look. Though not a guarantee, if the hips look great at this point, they should probably continue to develop normally. If, however, hip problems are noted at this young age, the dog may be a good candidate for a procedure call the triple pelvic osteotomy, which can help re-establish the necessary relationship between the head of the femur, aka the "ball," and the acetabulum of the pelvis-the "socket," of the true "ball and socket" hip joint. For the greatest chance of success, this procedure is best done on dogs less than 11 or 12 months of age. Of course, if hip dysplasia is noted in any large breed dog at a young age, the dog should not be used for breeding-even if that was the original plan, so have these dogs spayed or neutered as soon as possible!
Hip dysplasia can be a crippling arthritic disease of older large breed dogs, but it doesn't have to be. With good breeding practices, common sense feeding and exercise programs, conscientious monitoring, and many treatment options, this condition can be controlled. As your veterinarian if you have any other questions or concerns about hip dysplasia.
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