Hip Dysplasia and Hip Scores.
Canine hip dysplasia or CHD is a ‘malformation’ of the hip-joint, the hip socket becomes shallow and this leads to further damage within the joint as the dog ages.
This results in symptoms from severe disability in a young dog to premature arthritis and lameness in middle-aged dogs.
For an in-depth explanation of Hip Dysplasia and the various treatments for this condition please CLICK HERE.
A Labrador Retriever standing with hind legs close together to compensate for weak hips caused by an altered gait from hip dysplasia
How do dogs get hip dysplasia?
Hip dysplasia is not just dependent on a faulty gene being passed down from one or both parents, there are several genes as well as some environmental conditions, such as the growth rate of your puppy and the stress applied to the joint whilst it is still developing (overexercising).
This can make it quite difficult to know if your dog will suffer in later years from hip dysplasia.
How can we prevent hip dysplasia?
We cannot be certain that a dog will not develop hip dysplasia, but we can limit the factors causing it to a minimum, greatly improving the odds against your Labrador developing it by following these guidelines.
- Check the ancestry
- Feed correctly
- Do not over-exercise
1. Check the hip and elbow scores.
All pedigree Labradors should have BVA (British Veterinary Association) hip and elbow score certificates.
This means that the dog’s hips and elbows have had x-ray images taken and those images have been examined and assessed for nine different anatomical features by vets who specialize in this field.
As a result of this examination, each joint is allocated a score. The lower the score, the better the hips and elbows.
As this is a check for genetic traits, when a dog's parents have very low or zero hip/elbow scores it can be safe to assume they have inherited a similarly low score and the distress of the test for your dog can be avoided.
Follow the unbreakable rule:
Always ask for verification of hips scores for both the Dam & Sire of your puppy (or their parents if they have scored extremely low).
Any Kennel Club registered breeder will have copies of certificates ready to show you.
In some cases one or both of the parents may have had parents & grandparents with very low scores and these documents should be available.
If they is no history available walk away and look for another puppy.
Under no circumstances should you ever take a Labrador puppy home without seeing the parents or ancestral hip and elbow scores.
Not only will you be a saving the heartache of having a dog which will can develop a painfully crippling disease early on in its life and saving the financial stress of potential vets bills of £1000s, but you will also be helping to stop the activities of unscrupulous breeders and puppy farmers who have no interest in the welfare of their dogs, or maintaining the well being of the breed.
Interpreting the scores correctly.
The minimum individual hip score is 0 the maximum is 53.
On the certificate, the score is written as two numbers – one for each hip, and are usually written like this 4/3 (right / left).
The final hip score is the total of the two figures added together (In this case 7). The minimum combined (total) hip score is 0 the maximum is 106.
Each dog breed has a recommended average (mean) hip score, on or below this average means the dog has little chance of developing the condition due to hereditary.
The further above the mean is the more likely your dog will be affected, the mean total for Labradors is 12, but most Labrador enthusiasts will advise looking for a total hip score of under 10.
You must see the hip scores as written for both hips e.g. 2/3 or 3:5, not as a total number e.g. 5 or 8.
You are looking for an evenly balanced hip score and a dog with a total hip score of 10 could have an individual hip score of 9/1 meaning one hip is significantly worse than the other.
Would you be happy if your dogs hip score was 9/9 so why accept one hip at 9?
The same process applies for elbow scores with the grading from 0 – 3 per joint, with 3 being the most severe.
Note: Even with if both your puppy’s parents have hip and elbow scores of 0/0 Labradors are prone to dysplasia caused by a range of conditions, such as over-exercising at a young age, and she may still suffer from it in later life.
Sample Labrador Hip score certificate
Sample Labrador elbow score certificate
2. Monitoring your dog's growth
Another contributing factor to hip dysplasia is too rapid growth, causing the hip joints not to develop properly, this is caused by overfeeding your pup.
Labradors (like most dogs) are greedy and will try to eat everything you put in front of them, they will also beg constantly for food.
A responsible breeder will give you a feeding schedule, stick to it (don’t be fooled by those sorrowful eyes and pathetic whimpering, if you are following her recommended feeding regime she’s not hungry, she’s just trying to train you to feed her on demand).
When using treats to train your puppy, remember to alter her main meal portions, especially if using pre-packed high-calorie treats.
3. Regulating your pup's exercise
Over-exercising your puppy puts too much stress on still developing hip joints, so don’t be tempted to take puppies for long walks at too young an age.
Your puppy will try to please you and carry on walking long after her body tells her she should stop.
It’s best in those first few weeks to let her play at her own pace in the garden, and take her for short walks so she can familiarize herself with the immediate neighbourhood.
The most important way to ensure your puppy does not develop hip dysplasia is to buy a puppy from hip scored parents/ancestors whose scores fall below the mean score and are balanced (both hips scored within 1 point of the other).
International Hip score comparison table
Hip scoring is classified differently in other countries, if one of your puppy's parents is from outside the UK, use this table to compare hip scores.
|OFA (USA)||FCI (European)||BVA (UK/Australia) 1 Hip||SV (Germany)|