"Identifying the early indicators of hip dysplasia in dogs
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"Identifying the early indicators of hip dysplasia in dogs

Dogs
Health & Safety

Hip dysplasia is one of the most commonly occurring conformation issues that can affect dogs, and is particularly prevalent in certain breeds, such as the Labrador retriever, German shepherd, and many large and giant breeds with heavy builds, such as the Great Dane.

While hip dysplasia is classed as a hereditary health condition insomuch as the fact that the parent’s propensity to hip dysplasia directly impacts on that of their offspring, it is not like many hereditary conditions that develop due to a fault or anomaly at a genetic level, but rather due to the heredity of a certain style of size, shape and build, as well as a propensity to weaknesses of the hips, which is due to a conformation fault rather than a specific gene marker.

If your dog belongs to one of the breeds that are known to be particularly at risk of the condition, or if there are other warning signs in place, it is a good idea to research hip dysplasia in more detail so that you can learn to spot it early on if it does begin to manifest in your own dog. In this article, we will look at some of the early indications of hip dysplasia in dogs, and how to tell if your dog is at particularly high risk of the condition. Read on to learn more!

How to identify risk factors

When you are considering buying or adopting a dog or puppy, it is of course very important to research the core traits of the breed and see how well they match your lifestyle, as well as doing what you can to find out about the hereditary health of the breed as a whole, and if they are at risk for any specific health conditions. If hip dysplasia is one of the risk factors for the breed you are considering, this is information that you should use as part of making your final decision, and find out a little more about the potential risks before you take on the dog or puppy!

Some of the main risk factors for the potential to developing hip dysplasia include:

  • A breed-specific predisposition to the condition.
  • Being of a large or giant breed, particularly those that are very muscular and heavy.
  • A dog or puppy that has a history of hip dysplasia within their lineage.
  • A dog or puppy who has received a poor hip score, or whose parent dogs were hip scored and returned a poor result.

When does hip dysplasia present itself?

When you buy or adopt a puppy or young dog, you are always taking something of a gamble when it comes to their future health! Hip dysplasia in dogs rarely becomes fully evident in dogs below the age of two, which is why the hip scores of the parent dogs, if known, are an important part of ascertaining your own dog’s potential future hip health.

Generally, hip dysplasia becomes apparent between the ages of around two and four, although for some large and giant breeds whose hip scores or general hip condition were not borderline, the condition may present in maturity, as part of aging as the wear and tear of a long life and the effect that the dog’s weight and build has in terms of the strain it places on the hips begins to show.

The early indicators of hip dysplasia in the dog

While surgical correction or treatment of hip dysplasia in the dog will rarely be performed until the dog is fully grown, which may mean that even when a diagnosis has been made, treatment will have to wait, the earlier that your vet can diagnose and assess the condition, the greater your options will be.

If you are not sure if you would be able to spot a case of hip dysplasia in the making, it is wise to keep an eye out for any of the following symptoms, and monitor any changes to your dog’s gait and general behaviour carefully.

Some of the earliest indicators of hip dysplasia in the dog include:

  • Reluctance to jump or climb stairs, or displaying a very careful, uncomfortable looking movement when attempting to do so.
  • The dog preferring to sit or lie down rather than standing up when stationary, even if they will only be still for a few moments.
  • Reluctance to sit when told, sometimes hovering rather than fully sitting, can also be an indicator.
  • A strange position when sitting, with the back legs or hips splayed, uneven, or otherwise appearing unusual.
  • A shortened gait, particularly when it comes to the back legs, is one of the main indicators of hip dysplasia, particularly if the dog seems to hop along with the back legs together rather than walking or running normally.
  • Reluctance to exercise, particularly when walking up or down slopes or encouraged to run.
  • Indicators of pain in the hips, particularly when touched or handled.
  • Stiffness in the mornings after a night’s sleep, and problems getting up again.

Like all canine health issues, early diagnosis can help to resolve problems before they become highly pronounced, and intervention during the early stages of the condition can mean a larger range of viable treatment options are available for your dog, before their hips and the surrounding bones and joints become significantly damaged.

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