Hip Dysplasia

Two words which, because of misunderstanding and misrepresentation have collectively acquired a mystique and menace out of all proportion to their significance

Dysplasia is a medical word which means the malformation of tissue or organs, in this case, the bones of the hip joint, it follows, therefore, that hip dysplasia is not a disease or an illness in the everyday understanding of the words, more a description of the shape of the bones which make up the hip joint.

Hip dysplasia cannot be detected visually, it is not possible to look at dog and say “that dog has good hips” or “that dog has hip dysplasia” The condition can not be identified or evaluated without the use of radiographic equipment.

In order to establish the condition of a dog’s hips under the Kennel Club/ British Veterinary Association Scheme, the dog must first of all be x-rayed by a vet. This entails the dog being laid on its back, with its hind legs being stretched out straight and an x-ray photograph being taken of its pelvic region, all of which is completely painless to the dog.

The resultant x-ray plate is then submitted, by the vet, to the BVA, where a panel of two suitably qualified specialists assess the two dimensional image and score the dog’s hips.

This consists of the panel allotting points from a set scale, devised by the BVA, to various locations throughout the joint, wherever there is considered to be an imperfection. The points gained by each of the dog’s hips individually is then totalled and the result is known as the hip score.

This score is then recorded by the BVA and a copy supplied to the owner of the dog and it is subsequently published by The Kennel Club in one of its releases.

The scale of points used under the scheme relates to various locations in both the pelvis where the cup lies and the head of the femur which carries the ball. Starting from a base of 0, each perceived flaw in every part of the joint is allotted points, up to a maximum of 53 in each hip. From this, it can be seen that an ideal score is 0:0, indicating that the dog does not have HD and any score above this indicates the degree of dysplasia

Since hip dysplasia is not an illness or a disease, in the generally understood meaning of the words, hip scoring does not offer a cure or a treatment, and is, in fact of no benefit to either dog or owner, the procedure is only of value to breeders and the veterinary profession.

In Germany. the scheme used by their authority, grades the dog’s score from A to D, where A equates to the BVA score of 0- 9, and is described as normal, B equals 0-15 and is known as slight and so on, which seems to be somewhat less judgemental.

Hip dysplasia became the focus of attention when it was established that severe cases of the condition can give rise to arthritic developments in the joint producing lameness or ultimately complete disability and the associated agony for the dog and distress for its owner. The object of the scheme being to identify affected dogs at an early age, avoid using them for breeding and thus hopefully eradicate the condition.

Unfortunately, the condition does not occur to any discernable pattern and indeed it has not been established to what degree it is hereditary and may also be attributable to other causes such as feeding, environment or trauma. Moreover, in the breeds which have been involved in the scheme for many years and have had many thousands of dogs examined, it is probably true to say that there has been very little alteration in the number of dogs affected and the variation of the scores. In addition, since dogs with a 0:0 hip score represent only a small percentage of the total of dogs of all breeds scored, it could be inferred that HD is a normal condition in the domestic dog

The problem is further compounded by the fact that two low scoring parents, which themselves are by low scoring parents, can produce one or more pups in a litter which eventually prove to have high scores and conversely a high scoring parent can produce low scoring off-spring. Moreover there are numerous instances of dogs with very high hip scores living a long and active life and never displaying any sign of discomfort.

The scheme has produced a figure known as the breed mean average, which is an average of the hip score of all the dogs in each breed which have been hip scored; in the case of the Large Munsterlander this is currently 13. Unfortunately since only a very small percentage of the pups registered in each breed is actually hip scored, this figure is of doubtful value.

However, breeders are advised to use the mean as a guide when planning a litter.