New Study Finds Environmental Factors Can Affect The Incidence of Hip Dysplasia

New Study Finds Environmental Factors Can Affect The Incidence of Hip Dysplasia

Claudia Bensimoun

A study by Norwegian researcher Dr. Randy Krontveit at the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science indicates that conditions in early puppyhood can affect the appearance or severity of hip dysplasia in genetically predisposed dogs.



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Image Credit: Claudia Bensimoun


Hip dysplasia (HD) in dogs is affected to a larger degree than previously believed by the environment in which puppies grow up. It is particularly during the period from birth to three months that various environmental factors appear to influence the development of this disease. During the puppy stage, preventive measures can therefore be recommended with a view to giving dogs disposed to the condition a better quality of life.

There’s probably no better subject on evidence-based dog health care than the benefits and risks of early-age preventive measures for hip dysplasia. Because hip dysplasia is a hereditary developmental disease in which the hip joint fails to develop properly, determining both the genetic and environmental factors would help eliminate the disease through informed breeding and training practices.

Although hip dysplasia is a hereditary condition, a recent doctoral research study by Krontveit examined the role that environmental factors played in its development. Hip dysplasia is a genetic disease that occurs in other species. Dogs are not born with hip dysplasia, nonetheless some genetically predisposed puppies can develop varying degrees of hip dysplasia .The severity of hip dysplasia has an effect on when the dogs show symptoms of this disease and on how long they tend to live for.

Any dog can develop hip dysplasia, but the condition is most common in large dogs such as Newfoundlands, Rottweilers, Golden Retrievers, Saint Bernard’s and German Shepherd dogs. Previous studies have indicated that rapid growth in a puppy and a high body weight were factors that increased the likelihood of developing hip dysplasia.

Another factor that may influence the development of hip dysplasia in dogs is exercise. Many breeders will advise against exercising a pup to prevent the development of orthopedic conditions. Nonetheless, veterinarians believe that gentle low impact exercise can be beneficial for pups, but that all forced exercise beyond what a puppy would normally do should be avoided. Veterinarians maintain that running should be avoided until a puppy is physically mature, and that puppies should stay away from high impact sports such as jumping/agility. Both of these activities are believed to be traumatic on a puppy’s immature joints.

It turns out that Randi Krontveit’s research indicates that rapid growth and high body weight in the first year of the pup’s life did not result in an increased risk of hip dysplasia. The study finds that the breed with the slowest growth rate-the Newfoundland-had the highest incidence of hip dysplasia.(36%)The Irish Wolfhound had the lowest incidence of hip dysplasia(10%), yet the highest growth rate.

Puppies live together with their mother at the breeder’s for the first eight weeks of their life.Dr.Krontveit found several factors related to the living conditions at the breeder’s were shown to have an influence on the incidence of hip dysplasia. The study suggests that puppies born in the spring or summer and at breeders, who lived on a farm or small holding, had a lower risk of developing hip dysplasia. Then, after about eight weeks, the puppies began a new life with their owners. Through observations, Krontveit confirmed that the opportunity to exercise daily in parks up until the age of three months reduced the risk of hip dysplasia. Whereas the daily use of steps during the same period increased the risk of hip dysplasia. The study reveals that daily exercise outdoors in gently undulating terrain up until the age of three months gives a good prognosis when it comes to preventing hip dysplasia.

Five hundred privately owned dogs participated in this study. The four breeds included were the Newfoundland, the Labrador Retriever, the Leonberger and the Irish Wolfhound. The dogs involved in the research were registered by means of questionnaires that were completed by the breeder and the new owner, as well as by examinations filled out by the veterinarians.

For this study, Krontveit researchers followed up on the dogs until they reached 10 years of age. Researchers found that dogs that were seriously affected with hip dysplasia were euthanized earlier than dogs that had a milder form of hip dysplasia. Newfoundlands and Leonbergers tended to suffer from the more serious forms of hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia did not have such a large effect on the longevity of Labrador Retrievers or Irish Wolfhounds. Krontveit found that serious and moderate degrees of hip dysplasia increased the risk of all hip dysplasia symptoms such as limping and hip pain and that these symptoms occurred the earliest in the Newfoundlands.Labrador Retrievers was the breed in which symptoms appeared much later on in life.

Through observations, Krontveit confirmed that varied exercise had a positive effect and dogs that exercised on a daily basis on a leash, as well as running free in different types of terrain were free of symptoms longer than the dogs that were less active.

She adds that canine hip dysplasia in its most serious forms can be prevented, and that the life quality of dogs improves if preventative measures related to early canine life is introduced.

To obtain more information about this research, please visit: USDAA.

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