Top Dog Breeds Prone to Hip Dysplasia

Choosing what kind of dog to raise, train, play with, and eventually come to love, is one of the most exciting moments for dog lovers. Many people make their decisions based on obvious physical characteristics. Others choose their pets based on history or emotional connection. And still others based on need. 

Whatever the driving reason may be, canine owners should get to know the traits and tendencies of their newfound companions in order to provide them with the highest quality of care. This includes the preferences and habits of their dogs, and even their particular susceptibility to illnesses. Caring for a dog is a big responsibility!

What’s the Big Deal With Canine Hip Dysplasia?

Canine hip dysplasia is one of the most common diseases in dogs—with up to 70% of dogs of certain breeds having to deal with it at some point—which gives dog owners a good reason to learn about the bad boy. As is the case with the majority of illnesses, hip dysplasia in dogs is believed to be affected by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Currently, no precise genes have been identified as being directly responsible for dog hip dysplasia. What is more clearly understood is that certain breed-specific genes are strongly associated with onset of the disease.

A genetic predisposition for dog hip dysplasia seems to be the case for particular types of dogs. To follow is a brief layout of breeds that have been reported as most likely to struggle with the illness.

Great Danes 

Nicknamed the “Apollo of dogs,” the standard Great Dane hails from Germany and is most famous for its giant size. It is a top contender for tallest dog breed along with Irish Wolfhounds.

Great Danes were used for hunting large animals, like bears and deer, ages ago, but are now considered purely domestic pets best kept indoors. The breed has generally been marketed as a dog of luxury and a choice home companion in the evening because of its naturally affectionate nature.

Despite their typically calm lifestyle, Great Danes are a common victim of dog hip dysplasia simply due to their massive stature. Carrying around a heavy load for years on end while casually walking around and dashing through the backyard has proven to have a lasting toll on their joints. 

Bulldog (and Pugs)

The Bulldog is frequently referred to as the English Bulldog because of its longstanding tie to British culture and nationalism. It is a medium-sized dog with wide head and shoulders (like Pugs), a short muzzle, and a seemingly muscular build.

At a whopping 71.8%, Bulldogs and Pugs have, by far, the highest occurrence of canine hip dysplasia. The passive nature of these breeds makes them very susceptible to a variety of other diseases as well. Overall joint health is likely to improve with consistent and cautious exercise. Proper training is strongly recommended since Bulldogs have tiny nasal cavities that make it difficult for them to cool.

German Shepherd

A relative newcomer in the dog family, the German Shepherd originates from Germany not too long ago. It is a medium to large-sized dog that has been classified as both a working and a herding dog due to its intelligence, commanding presence, and extremely good trainability.

Its standout obedience has motivated many groups to train German Shepherds for very specific uses, including disability assistance, police work, search and rescue, and even military assignments.

The often highly demanding workload of this breed possibly contributes to the elevated rate of German Shepherd hip dysplasia. Other large working dogs, like the Saint Bernard, face similar health challenges. 

Surprisingly, research suggests that one of the main causes of ailments in German Shepherds may actually be the heavy amounts of inbreeding that took place early on in the breed’s history. German Shepherd hip dysplasia is a recognized concern that many professional handlers are aware of.

Labrador Retriever (and Beagle)

The Labrador breed, along with the Beagle, is extremely popular in the United States and the United Kingdom for a mixture of reasons, including their speed, short and smooth hair, and deference. They are extensively used to aid people with disabilities, especially blindness, as well as to retrieve objects for their owners. 

Hip dysplasia in labradors possibly stems from their long history of participation in hunting, which is a similar situation for many other hunting dog breeds as well, such as the Beagle. Labradors are especially prone to hip pain and hip dislocation, either directly as a consequence of dysplasia or secondary to a muscle disease known as hereditary myopathy that frequently ails Labradors.

Dog Breeds and Hip Dysplasia: Connecting the Dots

So what makes these four dog breeds most susceptible to dog hip dysplasia? Taking a look at some of the most commonly affected dog breeds, it seems that a combination of naturally large size and physically-minded rearing and lifestyle built up over the course of generations upon generations have the biggest impact on dysplasia in dogs.

Hunting dogs (and most dogs utilized by people for active tasks) have been found to be profoundly affected by canine hip dysplasia because of a combination of their large stature and high amounts of physical activity.

According to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, some of the dog breeds most affected by dog hip dysplasia include: 

  • Neapolitan Mastiff (51.3% have some form of dysplasia) 
  • Otterhound (49.3%) 
  • St. Bernard (49.1%) 
  • Brussels Griffon (45.5%) 
  • Clumber Spaniel (43.7%) 
  • Boerboel (42.7%) 
  • Norfolk Terrier (35.2%) 
  • German Shepherd (20.5%) 
  • Golden Retriever (20.0%)
  • Beagle (17.8%)

On the other hand, certain dog breeds have been found to be considerably less susceptible to canine hip dysplasia, such as Greyhounds and Borzois. Such breeds may be inherently built with fit bodies, including physical characteristics like strong, lengthy legs, a flexible spine, and a deep chest. Historically, many of these dog breeds have been engaged in power activities and speed-dependent tasks, like racing.

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