Outgoing, loyal, active, affectionate, and agile, Labrador Retrievers are America’s most popular breed of dog. Their stamina, friendliness, and trainability make Labs great companion, search-and-rescue, and assistance dogs. As any Lab owner can tell you, these dogs are full of energy! Most are water enthusiasts and fetch aficionados.
Are Labrador Retrievers Prone to Hip Dysplasia?
According to the American Kennel Club, all Labrador retrievers are inherently plagued by hip dysplasia due to genetics, which causes issues for many owners. When active Labs can’t get enough exercise because of an injury or chronic ailment, no one in the house is happy.
Therefore, we need to know the symptoms of this condition, its causes, and how to care for it. If our dogs have this disease, we can know how to take care of them. Of course, we can do everything in our power, as pet owners, to stop it from happening in our dogs.
Signs of Hip Dysplasia in Labs
Lab Hip dysplasia is a malformation of the hip joint where the head of the femur bone doesn’t fit precisely into the hip socket. Instead of fitting together normally and sliding smoothly, pieces of the joint (the ball and socket) painfully rub together. As there is a loss of cartilage over time, this condition can result in chronic pain in the hip joint, lameness, or long-term degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis).
Because this disease is so severe, early detection is key to the most successful treatment. The severity differs based on each lab, but overall muscle mass will decrease because of their reduced mobility due to the pain. Exercise will dwindle but the time frame depends on each lab.
Labrador retriever hip dysplasia can have a gradual or sudden onset. Symptoms include:
- Hind leg lameness
- Stiffness in legs
- A froggy sit
- A bunny hopping gait or loose walk.
- Trouble getting up
- Reluctance to jump, run, or climb stairs
- Decreased activity
- Decreased range of motion
- Enlargement of shoulders to compensate for hind leg
Always consult your veterinarian if you see the symptoms of Labrador hip dysplasia. X-rays and a full exam are necessary for proper diagnosis.
Causes of Hip Dysplasia in Labs
Hip dysplasia is mainly caused by the following three reasons:
The leading cause of joint issues is genetics. Hip dysplasia is hereditary in specific dog breeds, particularly with Labrador retrievers, German Shepherds, and Saint Bernards. Unfortunately, simply being one of these breeds increases their chances of contracting the disease tenfold.
Diet is the most important aspect other than genetics for joint issues. Lab puppies should be kept at a lean weight during their growing years, instead of being overfed to grow big and strong. Not only can overfeeding lead to pet obesity, it can also cause puppy hip dysplasia.
Recent studies show that when puppies were overfed during their youth, more than 70% of them went on to develop hip dysplasia. Since this normally occurs during the first year of their lives, the puppy stages are the most critical for their health.
Overexercise is another cause of hip dysplasia. Since the beginning of a lab’s life is so crucial to their health, vets recommend keeping your pooch lean and fit to avoid added weight. But excessive exercise can also damage their hip joints, causing them body pain. Choosing the right exercise and controlling the timing of the exercise is important for pet owners.
How to Prevent Lab Hip Dysplasia？
A lot of the joint issues begin with poor nutrition, which is extremely important for your little lab. Make sure to feed your pooch suitable foods that prevent excessive growth. This can allow their joints to develop without putting too much strain on their body to carry their weight, thus maintaining their growth and weight.
Diet is important to hip dysplasia prevention, but exercise is just as crucial to the health of your lab. Too little or too much exercise can lead to joint problems. Overworking your doggo can cause the joints to rub too frequently and fast thus creating irritation and loss of cartilage, which causes hip dysplasia.
Labrador Hip Dysplasia Surgery
If your dog’s case is medium to severe, your veterinarian may refer you to an orthopedic surgeon to discuss surgical options. Dog hip dysplasia surgery for severe cases in medium-to large-sized dogs can be expensive. Options include Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (pelvis is cut in three places), Femoral Head Osteotomy (removal of the ball of the hip joint in mature dogs), and Juvenile Pubic Symphysiodesis (fusion of cartilage connecting the two sides of the pelvis in puppies), which can each run from about $1,000 to $3,000 per hip. Total Hip Replacement (prosthetic replacements) is the most expensive at $3,500–$7,000 per hip.
In most cases, rehabilitation services can also be costly and postoperative care can be long and arduous. Age may keep your dog from being a good candidate for surgery. Non-surgical treatment options often have no age restrictions.
Labrador Hip Dysplasia Home Remedy
If invasive surgery is not be the best choice to treat your Labrador retriever’s hip dysplasia, look into non-surgical, conservative management options, such as physical therapy, canine chiropractic, weight control, acupuncture, anti-inflammatories, and massage therapy. Glucosamine support the body’s process of repairing tissues and fish oils can help lubricate the joints. As far as physical therapy is concerned, the following two methods are more effective:
Applying heat therapy for taking preventative measures for strained muscles before exercise helps increase the elasticity of joint connective tissues and increases blood flow to the affected area. Devoting time to heat therapy for just 15 minutes before begin the workout will help relax tight muscles and muscles spasms and future reduce pain and swelling.
The Canine Hydrotherapy Association reports that “muscle wastage begins within three days of any immobilization so to prevent further weakness or injury it is important to rebuild, through safe exercise, any muscles that have deteriorated.” Taking place in a heated pool or aquatic treadmill, hydrotherapy improves muscle tone and promotes tissue repair.