Health conditions can be pretty scary when it comes to our four-legged friends. Certain issues are genetic, typical, and easily foreseeable in some breeds. As unfortunate as it might sound, hip dysplasia is one of the most common disorders dogs can develop later in life, affecting their mobility.
But what about Golden Retrievers specifically? Are they particularly prone to this issue? Here we’ll learn much more about hip dysplasia, what causes it, and how to avoid it for your golden retriever potentially.
Hip Dysplasia in a Nutshell
Hip dysplasia is an all-too-prevalent bone issue that plagues larger breeds of dogs. If you’ve ever seen any diagrams, you know that the hip consists of a socket and a ball that rotate together using cartilage to support the rotation.
When a dog develops hip dysplasia, the functionality of the joint decreases due to degenerative changes. If your dog’s hips haven’t correctly formed, it can cause laxity of the joint and rubbing of the bones, which is extremely painful. In many cases, hip dysplasia requires treatment and regular follow-ups.
The signs can be manageable for a while, in some dogs lifelong with the help of pain relief and joint supplements, but sometimes, it requires surgery. Hip dysplasia can lead to a total loss of hip mobility.
Many factors can influence the risks of hip dysplasia1, but it’s often seen in specific large and giant breeds. Even medium or small dogs can develop hip dysplasia, but it is fairly uncommon. Large dogs like golden retrievers are prone to hip dysplasia since they are larger and carry more weight, but it also depends on their genetics, diet, environment, exercise, growth rate, muscle mass, and hormones.
What is interesting about hip dysplasia is it can skip generations. That means a mother could give birth to an entire litter of puppies, none of which have this genetic condition.
However, the parent completely free of the hip dysplasia gene can grow up and have their own puppies but pass the gene from the affected line. That is why it is so important for breeders to screen their dog’s generation to generation to ensure none of these breeding conditions are passed through the bloodline.
Initially, most puppies are born with perfectly developed hips. But the growth process carries on rapidly once the puppy leaves the mother’s womb. This can cause a slight miss between the speed of growth of the socket joint parts, making them much more likely to develop this painful condition. Overweight or overfed puppies are more likely to develop hip dysplasia.
Statistics on Golden Retrievers with Hip Dysplasia
According to the OFA, 20% of Goldens who are tested in America and elsewhere test positive for hip dysplasia.
Do Breeders Test for Hip Dysplasia in Puppies?
If you go to a reputable breeder, they should have gotten all parental testing done prior to choosing parents. If that parent shows any genetic defects, they should not be entered into any breeding program whatsoever.
Hip dysplasia is a disqualifying condition that should not risk passing into a new litter of puppies. So, if the breeder you select has proof of testing, you can rest easy knowing that the likelihood of your golden retriever having this as a genetic condition is very small.
However, suppose you get your golden retriever from a backyard breeder, puppy mill, or otherwise unfavorable situation. In that case, the same testing is unlikely to have been completed, and there might not be a lot of background or history on the parents.
This leaves a lot of room open for potential health conditions to develop. The same could be said for golden retrievers you rescue from a shelter. It can be a little uncertain until your vet runs proper testing without knowing the entire history of that dog’s background.
While hip dysplasia is a manageable condition, it can be costly, painful, and difficult to manage.
Can You Prevent Hip Dysplasia in Golden Retrievers?
Oh, there is no surefire way to completely prevent hip dysplasia, especially as it’s a hereditary condition. There are ways you can work around it. Proper growth and diet are absolutely crucial during the puppy stages.
These developmental periods form your dog’s skeletal structure, setting the bar for the adult years. Your dog requires nutrient-rich dog food that supports all growing bodily systems adequately.
That’s not to say dogs won’t develop hip dysplasia despite what you try, but it’s likely to be much less severe. Overfeeding your puppy is something that needs to be avoided, as well as overexercise. Speak to your vet about the best way to ensure your puppy’s adequate growth and development.
Is Hip Dysplasia Always Hereditary?
Hip dysplasia is always a hereditary genetic orthopedic disorder. It can worsen due to many contributing factors that mainly involve the environment and lifestyle.
Dogs should be heavily screened before breeding to prevent such issues from arising.
However, do not assume just because your dog has hip dysplasia, improper breeding has taken place. It could be exaggerated due to incorrect diet, lack of exercise, and weight gain.
Importance of Moderate Puppy Nutrition & Exercise
Several ways to prevent those include giving your dog a well-rounded, nutritious diet as they maintain its rapid growth in the puppy stage. Your puppy requires a calorie-dense, nutritious puppy chow to support their growing bodies, but they should be fed according to the manufacturer’s guidelines to avoid them becoming overweight.
Your vet can monitor them to ensure they are on par with growth. You don’t have to wait too long to determine if your puppy is at risk for hip dysplasia.
Vets can do testing called PennHIP testing, which can be done as young as 16 weeks old and requires anesthesia. If it is diagnosed earlier in development, it’s easy for breeders to identify potential problems in future litters and helps owners prepare for the future.
However, dogs have to be at least 24 months old to receive a permanent hip evaluation from the OFA before a diagnosis can be finalized.
If your Golden’s parents have been tested, yours probably won’t display this trait. However, remember that hip dysplasia can skip a generation. So, just because the parents are free and clear doesn’t mean it’s not in the bloodline.
To be on the safe side, your vet can check your puppy for this condition after 16 weeks of age. If you have an older dog who might be suffering, your vet can help determine how severe the condition is and discuss treatment options.
Featured Image Credit: tanatat, Shutterstock