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Inheritance or environmental - what causes hip dysplasia?

The simple answer is that yes Canine Hip Dysplasia is a genetic condition, it is hereditary.

The complex answer is that the mode of inheritance is not simple. There are a number of genes that combine to result in a dog developing dysplasia, and on top of this there are many environmental factors that will influence this genetic pre-disposition. In other words, 2 puppies from a litter can be raised in very different environments - one pup is fed a high quality diet, exercised well and never shows any dysplasia when xrayed as an adult, whilst the other pup is over-fed a low quality diet, kept confined a lot of the time on a cold hard surface, exercised only sometimes invovling a lot of jumping and impact activities and displays severe dysplasia on xray at the same age.

So the true answer is that the contributing factors are a mixture of genetics and environment.

Remember also that a dog could develop dysplastics hips due to injury or other disease without having a genetic factor.

Because we cannot diagnose hip dysplasia in a puppy, and it is not definitively diagnosed in young dogs, we need breeders to be hip scoring all their animals to give puppy buyers some kind of a guide as to the inherited health of their pups hips.

Also because of the complexity of the number of genes involved in hip dysplasia, simply one xray for the sire and dam does not give enough indication. Breeders need to test every possible dog within a bloodline to obtain a picture of how dysplasia is actually occurring within the bloodline. This will show how much environmental causes are affecting the incidence of the disorder appearing.

The other extremely important reason for hip scoring every animal in your bloodlines is that a true breed average is able to be registered, and future breeding choices become informed choices. For example if you are working with a breed that has a high breed average score, you need to choose your breeding partners by staying above the average, whilst if you are working with a breed with a low breed average score, you need to ensure your bloodline does not raise that average.

This video shows severe dysplasia in a dog that is only 8 months old. Even though the debate does rage in some circles, there can be no doubt that early onset hip dysplasia such as seen in a dog like this is not caused by an environmental effect (accident causing injury) as the veterinarians find on xraying young dogs like this that the looseness in the joints is to such a degree that they cannont weight bear.

These breed averages have been used, especially since the early 1970's to assist breeders to work together to better the quality of life for all animals within their breed as they have reduced the incidence of hip dysplasia. However there is still a long way to go and all breeders working within all breeds need to become well educated and work together honestly for the betterment of all.

Links to article sections for Canine Hip Dysplasia:

Introduction What is canine hip dysplasia?
Normal hips description and xray image of normal dog hips
Abnormal / dysplastic hips understand what it means to say hips are abnormal or dysplastic
Symptoms of dysplasia signs to watch for in your dog
Diagnosing dysplasia how canine hip dysplasia is diagnosed
Interventions and management what are the treatment options for canine hip dysplasia?
Genetics of dysplasia is canine hip dysplasia inherited or caused by environment?
Breeding decisions how do I know if I should breed my dogs?
The AVA/ANKC hip dysplasia scoring scheme an explanation of how this scoring scheme is used
PennHIP® method an explanation of the PennHIP radiographic method

male maremma playing with his pups displaying the loving nature of these livestock guardian dogs

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