I received a question from one of our policyholders not long ago about their new puppy, Gunther. Gunther is a purebred German Shepherd. Like all purebred German Shepherds, the policyholder knew that Gunther would be at risk for hip dysplasia during his lifetime. She wanted to know if there was anything she could do to help reduce his risk of getting the disease.
German Shepherds are one of the many breeds at risk for hip dysplasia. This painful and potentially crippling disorder affects approximately one-in-five large breed dogs, and is a frequent claim here at Petplan (and a great reason for pet parents to carry Petplan pet insurance, since many other insurers won’t cover hip dysplasia). There are many factors that can contribute to hip dysplasia, but genetics plays the largest role by far.
To help reduce the risk of Gunther developing hip dysplasia, I advised her to feed him a puppy food specially formulated for breeds at risk for dysplasia (your vet can help guide you on this).
At-risk dogs should also be started on joint supplements to protect healthy cartilage in both young and older dogs. A combination supplement that includes both glucosamine and chondroitin, such as Dasuquin®, can help promote healthy joints.
Thirdly, one of the most important, and easiest, steps she can take to protect Gunther’s joints is to keep him lean and lightweight. Obese dogs have a higher incidence of osteoarthritis, even when they’re young.
Recognizing Hip Dysplasia in Your Dog
Many times, pets with hip dysplasia will develop a bunny-hopping gait or some degree of hind limb lameness. Muscles in the legs may also appear to atrophy. A sudden reluctance to climb stairs or jump into the car can also indicate your pet is experiencing pain in her hips and should be evaluated.
Dog lovers interested in acquiring a large-breed dog should make sure the parents are certified dysplasia-free by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or the Penn-Hip system. Breeding from certified individuals will help to stomp out this genetic disease.