Hip dysplasia (HD) is a degenerative condition that can occur in your dog when its hip joints do not form properly. It can actually occur in any dog, but larger breeds tend to be most at risk. It's something that happens in puppyhood, but you'll mostly see the effects manifest themselves once your dog enters the last years of their life — unfortunately, it's impossible to prevent the situation once you notice that your dog is suffering. Instead of letting that happen, follow these four rules.
1. Feed Your Puppies Right
Puppies, like full-grown dogs, seldom pass up the opportunity for food, but you need to make sure they aren't overfed — extra weight during their younger years could increase the risk of HD. However, feeding them too little can be just as bad since they won't receive the nutrients they need to develop healthily. Make sure you follow the advice of your vet when it comes to portions and treats.
2. Keep Your Adult Dog Trim
Once your dog is fully-grown, you still need to keep their weight in check. Even a very mild case of HD — one that might never have become noticeable — can be exacerbated when more weight is placed on the joints later in life. If you notice that your dog is looking a little bigger, speak to your vet about an exercise program that will help shed the pounds without doing additional damage.
3. Don't Let Your Puppy Use the Stairs
Emerging research suggests that preventing puppies from climbing up and down stairs can prevent HD. One study of Newfoundlands, Leonbergers, Labradors and Irish Wolfhounds, a total of 501 dogs from 103 litters, found that puppies who regularly walked on stairs from birth until 3 months of age had an increased risk of developing the disorder. Research has not yet been conducted using smaller dogs, but it makes sense to treat them the same.
4. Don't Exercise Them Too Much Early On
Some dogs were made to run all day, but that can be a big problem if you let them do so when their joints are not fully developed. You should also avoid having them walk long distances on hard surfaces. The same study mentioned above suggested that 'outdoor exercise on soft ground' was for the best.
Seeing a dog suffering from HD is horrible since they can't understand what is going on. It can be treated using drugs, or even surgery, but it's far better to prevent the disorder from occurring at all by following these four rules and planning veterinary consultations.