Dog Arthritis: Are Certain Breeds at More Risk?

Dog hip dysplasia, or canine hip dysplasia as it is more frequently called is a bone disease that happens more often in larger dogs. European Veterinary Specialist in Behavioural Medicine Companion Animals expert Sarah Heath notes:

“Canine osteoarthritis affects all breeds and sizes of dogs. However, some breeds are more susceptible than others, including the Labrador, Golden Retriever, German Shepherd and other larger breeds”.

This developmental orthopedic disease happens when the hip socket is not well developed and the ball and socket of the hip joint just don’t fit together right.  The muscles around the hip joint don’t develop as good as they should and the result is much more stress on the joint than it can handle.  This causes excess friction, and destruction of the tissue all ending in painful and often crippling arthritis.

Unfortunately dogs don’t complain much and  they can go along for years with this pain not really showing any symptoms until the arthritis is quite far gone.  However, issues can start to appear as early as 4 months and the sooner the better since early treatment can save heartache later on.

Symptoms of dog hip dysplasia include stiffness in the back legs, difficulty getting up, generally not wanting to run and play like usual, not wanting to go upstairs or jump.  The only way to tell for sure is to get your Vet to take some x-rays as well as give your dog a physical exam to see if this is indeed what your dog has.

If caught early enough, the surgery – called a triple pelvic ostectomy – often has a good outcome particularly if it is performed before arthritis sets in.  Once the joint has become arthritic, the chances for success are greatly reduced.  In extreme cases, a total hip replacement usually works pretty good, although the surgery itself has some risks.

Canine hip dysplasia is passed on genetically.  If a dog that has it is bred, there is a chance some of the puppies will have this – if two dogs with hip dysplasia are bred that chance is greatly increased.  Although most breeders make a good attempt to not breed dogs with dysphasia, this is easier said than done because not all dogs show that they have it until they are rather old.

Since dog hip dysplasia is a genetic problem, buying your dog from a reputable breeder will give you some protection from it.  Good breeders try to prevent the disease by not breeding dogs that have it.  You can check the pedigree of your dog to see whether they have been certified with the Orthopedic Foundation For Animals.  In addition, obesity as well as feeding your puppy a food that is over supplemented can add to the onset of this disease.

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The growing popularity of larger breeds of dogs has brought with it a threat of a crippling disease of the hip joints known as hip dysplasia.

This disease was first described in the United States back in the 1930s.  Research has produced abundant information on hip dysplasia, but many questions still remain unanswered. It is one of the most popular topics discussed among owners, breeders, and veterinarians.

Hip dysplasia is uncommon in small dogs (toys and miniatures), as well as Greyhounds, but it has been found in almost every breed. The disease is an improper development of the hip joint (properly called the coxofemoral joint) which leads to looseness of the joint, partial dislocation (subluxation), and finally, arthritis.

Basically, the hip is a ball-and-socket type of joint. If the socket is too shallow, or the ball to flattened, the result is an unstable joint which tends to come out of place.

The most commonly affected breeds are: German Shepherd, St. Bernard, Labrador Retriever, Boxer, Springer Spaniel, Great Dane, and the Bull Mastiff. This is by no means a complete or accurate list, since incidence depends a lot on breed popularity.

That is to say, it is possible that the Komondor or Great Pyrenees breeds have a high incidence of dysplasia, but, when the average veterinary clinic sees one of either breed every two to three years, how can an accurate breed incidence be determined?

Dysplasia is the most common disorder of the hips that a veterinarian will encounter in practice. Because it is considered to involve several genes, more work is necessary to establish the exact means of inheritance. Other factors, such as rapid growth, management, nutrition, hormones, and anatomic variations have been put forth as construing causes, but thus far selective breeding has given the best results in controlling hip dysplasia.

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Article Brought To You By Canine Arthritis Awareness Month

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Jasmine Kleine

Jasmine Kleine

Jasmine Kleine is the the online editor at She is an experienced dog owner and professional writer who lives with her two beloved dogs, Mabel and Charlie.

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