Hip dysplasia in Labradors is a congenital disorder that may be due to hereditary or birth defect problems. Environmental factors also play a part. Labrador Retrievers as well as other large dog breeds are at a greater risk of developing this condition if their parents have musculoskeletal issues.
About Hip Dysplasia in Labradors
Hip dysplasia in Labradors occurs when the hip joint is malformed in a dog. The failure of the joint to develop normally results in loosening of the bones and restriction on leg movements. It is a common skeletal disease with multiple factors contributing to it. Dogs, who have parents with hip dysplasia, may have malformed hip joints with loose acetabulum or hip sockets. Dogs born with this condition have a much shallower hip socket, wherein the head of the femur does not fit well.
How does Hip Dysplasia develop in Labradors?
A parent Labrador with hip dysplasia can pass this disorder to his or her offspring. Dogs can inherit hip dysplasia and it is the most visible reason of this skeletal disease in large breed of dogs.
However, whether a dog will develop the problem depends on different factors, such as
- his daily activity level
- the environment he resides
- type of diet he has
- the intensity of training
- hereditary factor
Since dogs with hip dysplasia have deformities in hip joints and sockets, the cartilage in the area can wear down and become torn easily. The friction between the area around the hip sockets and head of the femur causes pain and damage in your Labrador’s muscles and bones – making it hard for him to move.
Hip dysplasia can develop as early as when your dog is around 16 weeks of age. Hip injuries can also ignite or speed up the development of this condition– even if a Labrador does not have a hereditary predisposition to it. Labradors are likely to develop the skeletal disorder because they are more playful and active and this put them at the risk of injuries.
However, even dogs born with normal hips can also develop hip dysplasia. If not given the correct diet and exercise, the muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues around the hip joint of a puppy may have a hard time holding the hip socket and the femur together. This results in rapid wearing and tearing of bones and cartilage that ultimately lead to hip dysplasia.
Signs of Hip Dysplasia in Labrador Retrievers
A Labrador who is developing or has developed Hip Dysplasia may have the following signs.
- Hard time standing up
- Limping while walking
- Sudden weight gain
- Gait issues
- Struggle to walk or run
- Hops instead of walking
- Walking in favor of one leg
- Lethargy, depression or refusing to stand up
- Sudden aggression when the hips are handled or touched
- Reduced activity
- Unexplained hip injury
If your Labrador is showing one or more signs of hip dysplasia, limit his exercise and movements and take him to your vet immediately.
Preventing Hip Dysplasia in Labradors
Reputable and responsible breeders make sure to have their dog’s health screened and cleared from hip dysplasia and other diseases before mating them. Breeding healthy and cleared dogs lessens the chance of occurrence of hip dysplasia in the offspring. However, despite health screenings, some puppies still develop hip dysplasia because of their diet and activity level.
To help prevent the occurrence of hip dysplasia in Labradors, it is important for owners to payy attention to following suggestions.
- Choose a reputable breeder and ask if their dam and sire have been checked and cleared for hip dysplasia and other skeletal disorders.
- Do not overfeed your Labrador to avoid putting on extra weight that may strain the muscles around his hips.
- Select a dog food that is made for puppies of large breeds. Regular puppy food may contain too much calories and this may cause your lab to gain weight and strain your lab’s back and hip area. Also, Labradors grow up very quickly while their hips do not really develop at the same speed. This leads to veterinarians recommending switching their diet to adult food.
- Watch your Labrador’s weight and make sure he does not get too fat or heavy.
- Avoid forcing your Labrador doing too much exercise. Limit his daily activity or workouts that may potentially strain the hips.
- Keep your Labrador fit by walking him shot distances twice a day instead of long walks.
- Do not let your Labrador climb up and down the stairs while he is still a puppy or if he is not fit enough to do the task.
Treating Hip Dysplasia in Labradors
The treatment for hip dysplasia in Labradors and other dogs depends on the severity of the condition. Some dogs need only pain relievers, supplements, and exercise, while others have to undergo surgery or hip replacement.
Once a dog develops hip dysplasia, his condition gets worse with age. Most vets prescribe treatments to slow its development, ease the pain it causes, or promote hip mobility in your Labrador.
A change in diet may also be recommended. Your vet may recommend a low-calorie diet to make your Lab lose weight – thus putting less strain on his hip joints. Gentle and less-impact exercises, such as short walks and swimming, are also good for dogs with hip dysplasia. These exercises have less impact on the joints but help develop muscles around joints.
Pain relievers are often prescribed to ease the pain associated with hip dysplasia. If your floor is made of smooth and slippery material, your Labrador may not be able to have a good grip while standing or walking. He needs to exert pressure on the hip joint to stand firm and walk safely. This increases the pain in the hip.
For severe cases of hip dysplasia, surgery is what veterinarians recommend. Some dogs only need a simple corrective surgery while other may require hip replacements.