Picking up on where I left off in part one of this article, let’s look at the statistics of this condition. According to our friends at http://www.ufaw.org.uk/, figures for the number of Golden retrievers affected vary from study to study. A prevalence of up to 73% has been identified in one USA study (Paster et al 2005). From data on estimates of total dog population in the UK and on the percentage of all micro-chip registered dogs that are golden retrievers (Lucy Asher, 2011, personal communication), we estimate that the UK population size of this breed may be around 250,000.
But now you may be wondering how this condition is diagnosed. This answer is a simple one. If you or your vet suspects that your golden retriever has hip dysplasia, a diagnosis of HD is made by a veterinary surgeon examining the dog and taking x-rays of its hip joints. Unfortunately, Golden retrievers have a known predisposition to HD.
Going a bit back to when I talked about how to choose a puppy, I suggest that you choose a puppy whose parents have been screened for HD and have healthy hips. However, this does not mean that your puppy can’t develop the condition later in life. But the upside is that you were aware of it and you took some sort of precaution.
According to UFAW, all potential breeding animals should be assessed according to a recognized HD control scheme prior to breeding and the scheme’s guidance should be followed. It is currently not straightforward to identify dogs which carry genes predisposing to HD. But what about the signs of hip dysplasia? The signs that are seen with HD can vary in severity, the age at which they first appear and their progression. In mild cases dogs can be free from clinical signs for years; however, for more severely affected individuals, signs of pain can develop whilst they are still immature (less than a year old).
Signs include acute pain, particularly after strenuous exercise or movement. This may show as lameness or reluctance to jump, to go for walks, climb steps or move at all if really severe. The pain may be worse in cold, wet conditions (Brass 1989). Dogs may be stiff after rest and have difficulty rising (Shell and Harasen 2007), or show other gait abnormalities such as swaying of the hips or a “rolling hindleg gait” (Bennett and May 1995), or they may not pick their feet up properly when walking, leading to scuffing of nails (Brass 1989). Sometimes affected animals bunny hop, moving their hind legs together (Shell and Harasen 2007). These signs may start intermittently, but over time can become constant. Muscle wastage is often seen in the hind legs (Brass 1989).
This concludes our discussion of hip dysplasia for now. If you have any further questions, I’d be happy to address them in another article. Special thanks to http://www.ufaw.org.uk/ for all the information. I would also like to make a shout to my fuzzy friend, Willow, who was mentioned in part 1.