Hip Dysplasia: Always in the back of your mind.

Posted: December 4, 2011 in Veterinary Considerations

Hip Dysplasia is a serious consideration, especially if you intend on breeding your dog.  But every time your dog appears to limp, stumble, or hesitates to run, it doesn’t signal dysplasia…German Shepherd owners seem especially sensitive to this inherited genetic condition, and so a simple post about it may offer all of us some comfort.

HD is a very common causative of rear-leg lameness.  The organization that rates hips in breeding dogs, the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, estimates that over the last 30 years of testing/certifying, between 25 to 40 % of the dogs tested were positive for the disease.  Be aware that the OFA does have a financial interest in this though, as they would like everybody to pay them for these certifications.  The gap between 25 and 40% is huge, and therefore somewhat vague.  Does your German Shepherd have a fair chance at developing HD?  Yes, but there is also a very good chance that it will NOT.  It is a genetic disease, wherein one puppy in a litter may develop it later on in life, and the other 7 won’t.  It requires more than a single genetic marker to develop.

The hip is a “Ball and Socket” construction.  Looking at the diagram provided, the “Ball”  is the head portion of the Femur bone(the femoral head) , and the Socket is the is a deep depression in the pelvis construction.  These two components work together to give the dog (or human) movement and articulation.

A "Normal" Hip Joint.

In a Dysplastic hip, the ball and socket seperate, and offer sloppy fit as well as poor connection.  The actual joint becomes unstable as muscle development lags behind skeletal growth.  Read that again: The actual joint becomes unstable as muscle development lags behind skeletal growth. One more time before I offer you some advice.  The actual joint becomes unstable as muscle development lags behind skeletal growth.   Here then is the reason that what, and how much you feed your puppy is important.  Your dog can develop poor skeletal/muscular construction if its growth rate is not monitored and kept under control.  Too many people are impressed when their dog is 10 lbs. larger that it’s littermates at 3 or 4 months of age.  Feeding a very high-calorie diet to a growing dog can exacerbate a pre-disposition to hip dysplasia, as the stress on the connective tissues becomes too great!!!
Feed foods appropriate to Puppies, and let your friends growth take place gradually. 
Another causitive can involve, yes, Over-exercise during the critical period of bone development.  Dogs younger than a year should be restricted from jumping to high, such as with frisbee’s, or off walls or obstacles.  It is also recommended that you not allow young dog to stand on it’s rear legs vertically.  In development, this can stress the bone, tendons and cartilage. 
 
   Hip Dysplasia usually begins to make itself manifest between 4 months to 1 year of age.  The dog will show pain in the hip, limping, and a swaying, side to side gait.  Another sign may be “Bunny-Hopping” when attempting to run.  Climbing onto a higher level, such as a bed, may prove difficult as well for the small puppy.  An x-ray is the only reliable way to diagnose HD.  These symptoms alone will not confirm it. 
 
    There are varying degree’s of HD. Mild, Moderate, and Severe.  The difference is in the area of movement possible within the joint, as well as the presence of the inevitable arthritis in later life.  However, even with arthritis present, some dogs are so tough, that they exhibit NO symptoms.  Lameness is an unpredictable indicator. 
   There are a variety of treatment protocols.  Some surgeries are possible, as is total hip-replacement. 
   While it is recommended that such a dog be spayed or nuetered, they can still live a good life as a pet and companion.  Breeders that become aware of such a product thru their line will make corrections to stop the possibilty of further breedings from that match.
 
 
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