Canine Hip Dysplasia

Hip Dysplasia in the United States of America


Although hip dysplasia has been in existence since the form of many breeds, the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals was formed in 1966 by John M Olin and a group of veterinarians. Their mission was to provide evaluations via radiographs, record results within a database, and offer genetic counseling to improve the rate of hip dysplasia in the canine companion.

What is Hips Dysplasia and why is it a problem?

Hip dysplasia is a genetic disease of the hip joints, which eventually leads to the degradation of the femoral head and socket. The affected joint/s become arthritic to various degrees and lead to pain. It is an extremely debilitating disease in its severe form, with the patient requiring surgery or euthanasia.

Breeders are becoming more aware of this problem, especially since it has proven to be an incredibly difficult disease to eradicate. It's a polygenic disorder, plus recent research has shown that environmental factors also attribute to the degree of severity. Because of this, it is still a common genetic defect among breeding stock.

The problem with disease is ten fold. From a breeder's point of view, It can eliminate a prospective animal from a breeding program, cause puppies to be returned or a refund to be issued. In some cases, the breeder might be required to help fund hip replacement surgeries at a greater loss than the original monetary value of the pet. If enough puppies are reported as being dysplatic, it can harm a breeder's reputation or that of a stud dog who sired the pups.

From an owner's perspective, their pet might require life long medication or suffer pain, limping, or crippling arthritis. Hip replacement surgeries or femoral head ostectomies are needed to have any quality of life. For the families who cannot afford this option, they might be stuck with deciding between putting themselves in debt with a loan or euthanasia.

Visual and Radiographic Diagnosis

Due to high pain tolerance in some dogs, many with mild dysplasia probably go there entire life without pain. For others, pain symptoms might first start with reluctance to get up or down, bunny hopping in the back legs, stiffness of gait, or yelping if their legs are palpated.
Recognizing Hip Dysplasia in Dogs - VetVid Episode 014

Genetic Transmission

  • Polygenetic
  • No specific genetic pattern has yet been determined
  • a complex genetic model with multiple quantitative trait loci
  • Some researchers have identified four loci in the development of HD, but this is in the beginning stages of identification

Environmental Factors

HD is genetic, but can also be influenced by the environment. Below are a few factors that can increase the severity of the disease:
  • Body weight
  • Level of activity and stress on joints
  • Trauma
Due to genetic and environmental factor attributing to dysplasia, it can be difficult to determine what a breeding pair will produce. For example, two excellent dogs can still produce a dysplastic dog. On the opposite extreme, two fair dogs can produce an excellent.
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Phenotype can only be discovered via radiograph. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals is the leading evaluation method for breeders. Hips rated as Excellent, Good, or Fair are approved for breeding.

Breeding to Eradicate Hip Dysplasia

Breeders are currently using OFA, plus other organizations, to select breeding pairs based on phenotype. This has proven to be useful, but extremely slow going and not entirely accurate. Researchers hope to use genetic testing to eventually improve breeding programs and increase the rate of eradication. Recently, there have been break throughs on identifying loci involved in the occurrence of HD. Eventually, it is hoped to become an option for breeders to send in a swab of DNA to check for genetic markers and base future breeding pairs on genotype vs phenotype.

Will Hip Dysplasia be the end of our breeds?

Considering some breeds, such as the German Shepherd, are so prevalent with this disease, will a genetic test to identify carriers and at risk dogs be the end of a breed? If we no longer breed any dog who even carries the trait, the gene pool will be severely crippled in options.


Zhu, Lan, Zhiwu Zhang, Steven Friedenberg, Seung-Woo Jung, Janjira Phavaphutanon, Margaret Vernier-Singer, Elizabeth Corey, Raluca Mateescu, Nathan Dykes, Jody Sandler, Gregory Acland, George Lust, and Rory Todhunter. "The Long (and Winding) Road to Gene Discovery for Canine Hip Dysplasia."Veterinary Journal (London, England : 1997). U.S. National Library of Medicine. Web. 29 Apr. 2016.

"Hip Dysplasia." CAL Home. Web. 29 Apr. 2016.

"Genetics of canine hip dysplasia." National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Web. 29 Apr. 2016.

Genetics of canine hip dysplasia. - PubMed - NCBI

Zhou, Zhengkui, Xihui Sheng, Zhiwu Zhang, Keyan Zhao, Lan Zhu, Gang Guo, Steve G. Friedenberg, Linda S. Hunter, Wendy S. Vandenberg-Foels, William E. Hornbuckle, Ursula Krotscheck, Elizabeth Corey, Nancy S. Moise, Nathan L. Dykes, Junya Li, Shangzhong Xu, Lixin Du, Yachun Wang, Jody Sandler, Gregory M. Acland, George Lust, and Rory J. Todhunter. "Differential Genetic Regulation of Canine Hip Dysplasia and Osteoarthritis." PLoS ONE. Public Library of Science. Web. 29 Apr. 2016.

Differential Genetic Regulation of Canine Hip Dysplasia and Osteoarthritis

Youtube source

Recognizing Hip Dysplasia in Dogs - VetVid Episode 014

"Orthopedic Foundation for Animals: Hip Dysplasia." Orthopedic Foundation for Animals: Hip Dysplasia. Web. 29 Apr. 2016.