Hip Dysplasia in Dogs: Risk Factors & Prevention
By: Jody Smith | Reviewed by Dr. Clayton Greenway, B.Sc., DVM | Jun 5, 2017
Large breed dogs have a lot going for them. When you see a big dog, it may give the impression that it’s powerful and healthy. But large breed dogs run some risks for some serious health conditions. One of these conditions is hip dysplasia.
What is Hip Dysplasia?
Canine hip dysplasia is a degenerative condition where the ball and socket joint of the hip don’t fit together properly.
Abnormal development in one or both hips can result from problems with connective tissue, ligaments or muscles. The femur, which is the long leg bone, is malformed, and so is the acetabulum, or the cup of the pelvis.
Puppy hip dysplasia is more common although it can certainly appear later in a dog’s life. A puppy is most vulnerable to the emergence of hip conditions between birth and eight weeks.
Canine hip dysplasia can lead to a number of issues, including osteoarthritis. A dog with this condition may have trouble getting up and around due to joint degeneration. Jumping, running and managing stairs are a problem. The dog may stand with its back legs are very close together. It may have a restricted range of motion and decreased muscle mass in its thighs.
Risk factors for Hip Dysplasia
The cause of canine hip dysplasia is unknown at this time. But we do know that there are several risk factors to be aware of.
Genetics can play a role as far as which breeds of dogs might develop this condition. Purebreds are most often prone to hip dysplasia. Bernese Mountain dogs, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Great Danes, Irish Wolfhounds, Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers and St. Bernards are all in the high-risk category.
Too much calcium:
It is not helpful to give your dog supplements, such as calcium, in the hopes of preventing dysplasia. And in fact, it may be detrimental to your dog’s health instead. Too much calcium in the diet encourages rapid bone growth, which can be a contributing factor for hip dysplasia.
Too many calories:
Dogs are at high risk if they are eating more food than they need. A puppy who puts on an excessive amount of weight is more prone to hip dysplasia. This is a very common factor. If the dog goes down to a healthier weight, its risk for dysplasia goes down, too.
Preventing Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
Paying attention to nutrition specific to large breed puppies can be very important since improper nutrition is an important risk factor for canine hip dysplasia.
The AAFCO does not have a required nutrient profile specific to large breed puppies. Most experts agree that large breed puppies should be fed a food designed for large breeds until at least 12-18 months of age. The food should contain at least 30% protein and 9% fat (dry matter basis). The calcium content should be around 1.5% (or 3 grams/1,000 kcal).
It’s a good idea to consult with your vet to choose appropriate portions sizes and dog food for hip dysplasia in a large breed puppy. Be sure that treats are accounted for when calculating the total amount of calories you are feeding to your puppy.
An appropriate diet along with a healthy amount of exercise can be a winning combo for hip dysplasia prevention.
If your dog is overweight and has bad hips, he will be able to walk better if he loses some weight. Exercise, to be safest and most successful, should be on surfaces that don’t promote slipping, and that don’t involve stairs.
It is possible that young pups who do a lot of their running around on soft and uneven ground can reduce the risk that they will develop hip dysplasia. Some regular walks in the park, for instance, may be beneficial.
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