Hip Dysplasia

HIPS: It has been a long held belief that Hip issues are exclusive to big dogs. While hip dysplasia most often occurs in medium, large and giant breeds, a number of small breeds, the Havanese included, can also suffer from hip problems.

Hip dysplasia, also sometimes referred to as HD, is abnormal looseness or laxity of the hip joints that leads to joint instability and degenerative bony changes. In a dysplastic animal, the normal tight fitting hip joint is much looser, allowing the femoral head to move around in the acetabulum (the socket portion of the ball and socket hip joint). This damages the joint surfaces and leads to degenerative changes and osteoarthritis which causes pain during movement and in extreme cases lameness. Hip dysplasia can severely curtail the activities and quality of life of a lively active dog like the Havanese that delights in running and jumping.

The only way to help minimize HD in our Havanese is to get all breeding dogs tested, and breeding only parents free of hip dysplasia. Puppies of dysplastic parents are more likely to develop HD than puppies of normal parents. Reputable breeders want to improve the breed; they do not want to breed unhealthy animals or cause unfortunate puppies and dogs long term effects and possible lameness. Testing for normal hips is a step in the right direction. Diagnosis for hip dysplasia requires pelvic radiographs and treatment can range from restricted exercise, changing diet to reduce weight, medication and possibly surgery depending on the severity. Hip dysplasia can occur in one or both hip joints.

Most veterinarians can do the x-ray required to diagnose HD. The Havanese, being a smaller breed, normally do not need to be anesthetized for the required diagnostic X-ray (which can be done by most veterinarians), although some veterinarians feel they get a better reading with light sedation as the dog can be positioned more easily. In order to get an OFA Hip certification number, the dog must be 2 years of age. Testing done on dogs prior to 2yrs. old will allow a preliminary reading. Hips are one of four health test requirements in order to get a CHIC # (Canine Health Information Centre) for the Havanese.

When the X-ray is sent in to OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals), a panel of 3 radiologists read and grade the x-rays. OFA has a grading system from excellent, good, fair, borderline, mild, moderate and severe. Ratings of Excellent, Good and Fair are considered normal. If your Havanese is over 2 years of age, you can get an OFA certification, if under two years of age, you will only get a preliminary reading. Dispelling the big dog myth, you might be surprised to know that the Havanese rank 91st for hip dysplasia according to the statistics kept by the OFA. From 1974 to December 2007, a total of 1522 Havanese hip evaluations have been done; 7.6 % received an excellent rating while 9.9 % received a dysplastic rating. This is a significant and worrisome number but may not give the whole picture as not all Havanese are tested. Although more and more Havanese owners and breeders are testing for hips and registering with OFA, this is still a relatively low percentage of tested dogs for the breed. It is entirely possible that the number of dysplastic Havanese is higher than this. The only way to help minimize HD in our Havanese is to get all breeding dogs tested and breed only parents free of hip dysplasia, as puppies of dysplastic parents are more likely to develop HD than puppies of normal parents. Reputable breeders want to improve the breed; they do not want to breed unhealthy animals or cause unfortunate puppies and dogs long term effects and possible lameness. Testing for normal hips is an important step in the right direction. Hips are one of four health tests required in order to get a CHIC # (Canine Health Information Centre) for the Havanese.

Penny Will Condensed version published in Dogs in Canada Breedlines Jan 2009