Can You Prevent Hip Dysplasia?
Updated: Aug 18
Yes, there are several things you can do to help prevent hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia has both environmental and genetic components. The first step is obtaining your dog from a reputable breeder who checks hip conformation. However, you as an owner can also cause hip dysplasia in a dog that otherwise would not have gotten it. In this blog, I will list ways you can do your part to prevent this devastating disease.
What is hip dysplasia?
Hip dysplasia is a disease in dogs' hips that causes the joint to not function properly and can result in pain. It is caused by an abnormally developed hip joint or damage to the joint. In the United States, the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) is the most commonly used program to determine hip conformation. The OFA has 7 classifications for hip dysplasia: excellent, good, fair, borderline, mild dysplasia, moderate dysplasia, and severe dysplasia. The first three are passing scores and are considered breeding-quality hips. Dogs with borderline hips are not recommended to be bred since there is a possibility of them developing dysplasia, and those already dysplastic should never be bred. Here is an example of x-rays comparing excellent hips to severely dysplastic hips (taken from OFA website).
What do we do as a breeder to help prevent hip dysplasia?
We understand that hip dysplasia has two components: environment and genetics. We can only control the environment up until they leave our home and go to yours. However, we only select from the best genetics for our breeding animals. We also do all of the proper tests to ensure they are of breeding quality, including hip x-rays and expert analysis. We would never breed any dysplastic dogs. We believe in enhancing the breed in conformation. Although we do our best to screen for hips, good quality hips can still contain hidden genetics that would produce dysplasia. Additionally, environment also plays a major role in the development of the disease. For this reason we do our best to educate our puppy families on the safest way to raise their new puppies.
What can you do to help prevent hip dysplasia in your puppy?
As puppies grow, their hip joints are also developing. A golden retriever is not fully developed until about 18 to 24 month. They are considered fully developed once their growth plates are closed. At this point the hip joint will also be developed. During that growing period from birth to adulthood, it is extremely important not to put excess stress on that joint! Here are some examples:
Playtime: Limit excessive heavy exercise to short periods as they are growing. You don't want to overwork those growing hips. You can play fetch, but limit it to small periods of time (under 15 mins). Don't go running with your puppy until they are an adult, and keep the walks short as well. Those developing hips just can't handle the extra stress and may develop abnormally.
Jumping: Limit the amount of jumping while they are still growing. For example: use a ramp or a step to help the dog in and out of a truck. Don't have your puppy jump up on the bed or the couch. You can help them up or use a step.
Stairs: If you have a large number of stairs in your house, try to limit how often your puppy has to use those stairs. Stairs can be hard on the hips.
Nutrition: It is important that your puppy be on a well balanced diet. This will not only be important for the development of the joints, but also for his/her overall health. We only recommend using a brand of complete diet dog food that has a veterinary nutritionist who develops the diet. Unfortunately, there isn't much regulation in the pet food industry, and a lot of those fancy dog foods just aren't as healthy for your pet as it may seem. Some of the brands that fit a good standard of dog food are: Purina, Science Diet, Eukanuba, Iams, and Royal Canin. We never recommend a grain-free diet as that has been linked to heart conditions. A raw diet is good, but you must make sure it is completely balanced. If you are feeding an unbalanced diet, your puppy can develop health issues. It is also important to allow your puppy to grow at a nice slow pace. Feeding a large breed puppy food is ideal for keeping their growth optimal. It is vital that your puppy doesn't grow too quickly or get too heavy. We start the puppies off on a free choice diet so they aren't prone to gobbling down their meals. However, if your dog tends to eat more than the recommended amount or is growing too heavy, then we recommend to make a more regimented feeding schedule. You do not want extra weight on those hips EVER if possible. Also, being overweight can cause additional unwanted health issues.
It is a combined effort!
We do everything we can to ensure healthy puppies, but we can only do our part. We know you want what is best for your puppy as well, so we put together these suggestions to help guide you in the process. Even though this disease is pretty scary, if we continue to breed solid hips and take care of our growing puppies, these beloved Goldens should live long, healthy, active, happy lives. However, the chances of hip dysplasia can never be 100% eliminated, even when everything is done perfectly. Hopefully together, we can limit this crippling disease!