In recent years the domestic dog has grown into a fairly unfit animal, in comparison with its ancestors. Selective breeding has meant that lots of conditions are hereditary or inherent in a particular breed of dog.
Canine Hip Dysplasia
The dog's hip joint in common with that of other mamals is a ball and socket device, with tendons and muscles used to work the joint. When this joint is functioning correctly the ball and socket fit closely together and are protected by cartilage and lubricated by joint fluid. This lets the dog to run and move without restraint, but if there is damage or inflammation then serious issues can occur.
Hip Dysplasia is a deformity of the hip joint where extra bone develops within the socket or the cartilage becomes damaged, so that the ball begins to rub against the socket. The hip joint becomes damaged and doesn't perform correctly creating considerable pain to the dog and eventual lameness. In the worst cases the dog will become effectively crippled and cannot move about without agonizing agony. The disorder is generally common in the bigger breeds including German Shepherds or Labradors. There is certainly a clear genetic factor in this condition so dogs need to be monitored early on in life.
Hip Scoring is used to spot dogs predisposed to Hip Dysplasia, primarily to ensure that the owners don't breed from these dogs. The hip grade is calculated by x-raying the dog then awarding points for each of the features within the hip joint. The lower the score the less dysplasia is within the joint and the score can vary from zero to 106.
There are breed mean scores that confirm what level of dysplasia is standard within the breed. Therefore if the dog is lower than the breed mean score it is okay to breed with that dog. Those with scores higher than the average shouldn't breed. This procedure is gradually helping to curb the amount of dysplasia existing in dogs. Nonetheless even when the dog has a good grade there is no assurance that the dysplasia will not develop in any pups.
Hip scoring should be carried out from the age of twelve months, when the body is well established. Your vet will set up the x-ray and the result will be lodged with the OFA or Kennel Club.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Dysplasia is hard to spot as dogs are generally very good at handling pain and so make no outward sign. So monitor your dog carefully for any sign of limping or dragging the feet. Also watch out for any loss of interest in walks or exercise.
Treatment for hip dysplasia usually is in the form of of painkillers or heat therapy both of which can greatly diminish the pain. An exercise programme designed with your vet can help to limit the damage done to the joints. In acute cases surgery is sometimes the only remedy. This will either be by way of the reshaping of the joint or by artificial hip replacement, of a similar kind to that used in humans.
For both elbow and hip dysplasia weight management is important as an obese dog will put pressure on the joints. Fortunately most dogs can lead a fairly normal and energetic life when the disorder is being treated properly.