I have been asked by many people about the occurence of hip dysplasia in my breeding program. I have told all of you the same thing – that it is not a major concern in the English Setter breed. I also mentioned that a great contributor to dysplasia is the carrying of too much weight. I did find the following article that sites scientific screening that supports my theory.
Please read and take to heart – your best friend deserves the best . . .
Cause of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs??
There is probably no other non-lethal health problem except perhaps allergies that afflicts so many breeds of dogs as hip dysplasia. It cripples dogs with pain, sometimes in the prime of their lives, and there is very little modern veterinary care can do about it. It seems clear that it has some genetic component (it is thought to be polygenic) but there are clearly environmental influences as well. There has been some modest success in reducing its incidence in some breeds by screening programs, but for the most part it remains an intractable problem and the focus of many research programs.
There was a paper published in 2006 about a study that was able to substantially reduce in incidence and severity of hip dysplasia in Labradors – not by locating particular genes or implementing strategically designed breeding programs, but by reducing food consumption. Conducted by Nestle Purina in collaboration with a slate of veterinarians and academics, the study used 48 Labrador Retriever puppies from 7 litters. In each litter, puppies were paired, one assigned to the control group and one to the treatment group. The control group was provided food ad libitum (unrestricted) starting at 8 weeks, and the treatment group was fed 25% less than the amount consumed by the pair in the control group. Their weight was monitored and hips x-rayed at regular intervals throughout the lifetimes of the dogs.
Dogs that were fed less had dramatically lower incidence of hip dysplasia. How dramatic? Dogs allowed to eat as much as they wanted showed evidence of hip dysplasia at younger ages than dogs fed less, and the difference between the groups got worse as they got older. By 6 years of age, 50% of dogs in the unlimited food group had evidence of osteoarthritis, compared with only 10% of dogs in the restricted food group. More than 50% of the dogs in the restricted food group still had radio-graphically normal hips at 12 years old. In the other group, 90% were arthritic. Dogs fed 25% less food than their pair in the control group weighed about 25% less throughout their lives. Heavier dogs had worse hips.
By any scientific, medical, or veterinary standard, the effect of diet restriction on incidence of osteoarthritis in Labradors would be considered profound. If somebody was to submit a grant proposal to test a treatment that promised to reduce the incidence of hip dysplasia in dogs – not by 10%, or even 25%, but 50% – one would hope it would receive very serious consideration for funding. And what about the Canine Health Foundation and also the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), which owes its founding to concern about the high incidence and crippling effects of hip dysplasia in dogs? A browse of the information on their websites about the disease makes no mention of this study or the potential benefits of lifelong food limitation. Some breeders, especially of large breeds, manage food intake of their puppies so they didn’t grow too fast, but they are worried about growth rate, and not adult body weight.
– such a simple and cost-effective way to substantially reduce the suffering of the dog
– reduce veterinary bills for treatment, x-rays, and pain relief
– increase the amount of time the dog can continue to lead an active life
Millions of dollars are spent every year looking for sources and cures of disease in dogs so that we can offer them better lives. Maybe we should direct some of this funding to an informational public service campaign to get this simple information to breeders and pet owners, and perhaps also some clear recommendations on dog food bags, maybe even brochures in veterinary offices.