[image credited to justdogbreeds.com]

Q: I've heard that hip dysplasia is common in breeds like Golden Retrievers. What is this condition? Could you advise how I can help prevent the onset of this for my own Goldie?

A: Hip dysplasia (HD) is a common hereditary (genetic) condition that occurs in dogs, cats and humans. In dogs, it most commonly affects large and giant breed dogs, from four months of age. Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Great Danes, and Saint Bernards appear to have a higher incidence of this disease.

HD results from the abnormal development of the hip joint in a young canine. It can affect one or both hips and affected dogs usually have increased joint laxity or looseness, increased instability and subluxation of the affected hip joint. Most dysplastic dogs are born with normal hips but due to genetic and other factors such as the environment and poor nutrition, the soft tissues that surround the joints start to develop abnormally as the puppy grows.

Clinical signs of HD include pain and discomfort during and after vigorous exercise, lameness, altered gait when walking or running, running with a "bunny hop", restriction or resisting full extension and flexion of the hind limbs, or stiffness and pain after exercise or when the dog first wakes up.

Risk factors include genetics, nutrition, environment, and exercise. Prevention should be aimed at breeding dogs that are free from HD as well as preventing obesity in predisposed canines, avoiding surfaces that are smooth or with poor traction, and running and swimming to build up good leg muscle mass and avoiding exercise that puts a lot of stress and force on the hip joints such as jumping or chasing after a Frisbee.