Q3 – I have been thinking of buying a Labrador puppy but am very worried about it developing hip dysplasia later in life as I keep hearing people mentioning it but I don’t really know what it is and don’t know what to check for when I start looking for a puppy.
Put simply, hip dysplasia is a condition in which the ball and socket joint of the hip does not form properly, such that the joint becomes unstable and there is abnormal wear and tear. Over time it is a disease that leads to reduced exercise tolerance, lameness and arthritis. Essentially it is something that effected dogs are born with, but becomes a progressive problem over time. It cannot be diagnosed until a dog has matured, as up to this point their skeleton is changing and we would not be assessing the final outcome. However, once fully grown dogs can be radiographed and the British Veterinary Association (BVA) has a team of experts who will examine the x-rays and then assign a score to give a quantitative indication (a number) that measures how well formed a particular dogs hips are. The lower the score the better, and each dog is marked out of a maximum of 106 (each hip up to 53).
This distressing condition has a higher incidence in some breeds, of which the Labrador Retriever is known to be one. To try and counteract this, responsible breeders will only use dogs with ‘good hips’ for producing litters. Good hips basically means choosing parent dogs who have a score lower than the average for that breed. The average can be marked in two ways, either as a mean or a median. The mean score can be markedly effected by a small number of dogs with very high scores, and can create an artificially high marker. Therefore the median, or middle dog, within a population of scores is now the figure recommended to be used by the BVA. As of Nov. 2011 the ‘mean’ score for the Labrador Retriever was 14, and the median was 10.
More information is available on this complex subject from the BVA at www.bva.co.uk.
Written by Miss Gemma Clark BVSc, PG(Dip), MRCVS.