It’s important to understand the ins and outs of hip dysplasia, including causes and prevention. Sound genetics are important. That’s why, at Beloved Bernedoodles, we test our sires’ and dams’ hips and elbows through the OFA and PennHip and we do not breed unless we are satisfied with their scores.
However, it has been found that environmental factors also play a major role in hip dysplasia. For example: having a puppy climb up and down stairs before they are four months old, excessive exercise before the puppy’s growth plates have closed between 12 and 18 months of age, and allowing him or her to become overweight.
(That being said, PLEASE don’t believe a breeder who tells you that they don’t test their dogs for hip dysplasia because it has been proven to be caused solely by environmental factors. Most experts agree that it is caused by both genetics and environmental factors.)
In this important article from the Institute of Canine Biology, Carol Beuchat PhD outlines 10 important things that dog owners should know about hip dysplasia including:
- Joint laxity is the primary cause of hip dysplasia – Puppies are born with perfect hips, and if the hips do not develop laxity the dog does not develop hip dysplasia (Riser 1985). Joint laxity occurs when the head of the femur does not fit snugly into the acetabulum. This could be the result of traumatic injury, overloading of the joint by weight, lack of muscle strength, or adductor forces (e.g., bringing the legs together). Joint laxity is the primary factor that predisposes a dog to the development of hip dysplasia.
- Controlling joint stability is key – The teres ligament should hold the head of the femur securely in the socket of the growing puppy while the muscles that will support the hip develop and grow stronger. But in some puppies, the ligament shows evidence of damage before they are even a month old (Riser 1985)…The abnormal forces on the femur and acetabulum that are caused by joint laxity result in the trauma that causes hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis of the hip.
- Body weight is a MAJOR environmental factor – If there is laxity in the hip joint, the amount of damage done to the femur and acetabulum will depend on the magnitude of the forces in the hip joint. The heavier the dog, the greater the forces will be and also therefore the higher the risk of hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis. Puppies that weigh more at birth as well as those with higher growth rates (so they get heavier sooner) have a higher risk of degenerative changes in the hip joint (Vanden Berg-Foels et al 2006).
- We can dramatically reduce hip dysplasia now – Genetic selection should continue to produce modest progress in the reduction of hip dysplasia. But a significant and immediate reduction in the number of afflicted animals could be achieved by better control of non-genetic, environmental factors. Weight management, appropriate exercise, proper nutrition, and early intervention at the first sign of lameness are simple steps we can take that will dramatically reduce the pain and suffering caused by hip dysplasia.
While your Beloved Bernedoodle’s parents have been tested and cleared of hip dysplasia, it’s critical that you also help protect his or her hips by avoiding trauma, excessing stair climbing and exercise until the growth plates have closed between 12 and 18 months, and by keeping your Beloved Bernedoodle at a healthy weight.
Here is a terrific article from Puppy Culture about appropriate exercise for puppies: https://shoppuppyculture.com/pages/age-appropriate-exercise-1