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How to Help Your Dog Prepare for Hip Dysplasia

Diagnosis, Dogs

Canine Hip Dysplasia is probably the most common inherited orthopedic disease in dogs. Animals with this disease develop stiffness in their joints, arthritis pain, and difficulty getting around. There’s no cure for the disease, but breeding dogs can be screened to make sure puppies are less likely to have dysplasia. For non-breeding dogs that are susceptible, screening helps owners plan for palliative care early on, before their pet develops clinical signs.

The best screening test is called PennHIP, and it uses three radiographic scans of the hip joints to determine a dog’s dysplasia risk. The first scan is a conventionally extended hip radiograph (similar to the OFA method), which looks for existing arthritic changes. This view alone cannot reliably distinguish between “normal” and disease-susceptible dogs. What this means is that if your dog is “normal” at 2 years of age, your dog could still develop hip dysplasia later on in life but there is no way to know if only this one radiographic view is used.

The two additional scans are called compression and distraction radiographs. These get taken while the dog is in a neutral weight-bearing orientation. The vet will analyze these scans for indications that the hip joints have excess laxity. This laxity is measured and then expressed as a number known as the Distraction Index (DI). The degree of laxity represented by this Distraction Index number can be ranked among other dogs within the same breed. For breeders, this means they can choose to breed with dogs that have tighter hips (a lower DI number) than theirs, in order to cancel out the possibility that offspring will develop dysplasia.

For non-breeding dogs, knowing if your pet is susceptible to developing hip dysplasia can help in developing an early strategy of diet, appropriate exercises and supplements which may delay or diminish the onset of the disease.

At CEDARCREST we are PennHIP certified, which allows us to perform the necessary radiographs to take advantage of this evaluation program. For more information call us at 540-943-7577 or visit

CEDARCREST Animal Clinic provides medical and surgical care for every stage of your pet's life including preventive wellness care exams and vaccines, spays/neuters, and a variety of specialized care for your dog, cat, avian, or exotic. We are home to the only veterinarian practitioner in Virginia to be double Boarded in Avian and Canine/Feline care and provide care for birds, small mammals, and reptiles of all sorts! Plus, we are home to Virginia's most exclusive dog boarding resort that includes heated floors, an expansive play area, and even webcams so you can watch your pet while you're away. We're located in Fishersville, Virginia, and serve Augusta County and surrounding areas including Waynesboro, Staunton, Harrisonburg, and Charlottesville. 

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