Hip Dysplasia in Labradors: What Can I Do to Prevent it?

While dysplasia is not as prevalent in Labrador Retrievers as the giant breeds, such as Newfoundlands and Irish Wolfhounds, for example… they are still a large breed that have the potential to develop this, at times, debilitating disease.

Scotch- Endless Mt. Labradors

Why do OFA’s?

On one hand, there are certainly genetic factors when it comes to both hip and elbow dysplasia.  If you look up any reference for “what to ask a breeder before buying a puppy”, any advice guide will tell you to ask if they screen their dogs with the OFA for hips and elbows.  All of our breeding dogs here have clearances with the OFA before breeding.  And everyone has an either “Good” or “Excellent” rating.  We don’t take the chance with a “Fair” rating… Not only does it help to see your puppy’s parents’ clearances, but knowing that a breeder can show a history of OFA clearances throughout generations can also put your mind at ease.  If there is a family history of dysplasia in your dog’s lines, then they will obviously have a higher predisposition for the ailment.

Scotch OFA- Endless Mt. Labradors

Example of an OFA clearance

What are the Environmental Factors?

Aside from the genetic influence, there are other factors when dealing with hip dysplasia…

  1. Exercise–  The first is exercise.  This does not mean that you should not exercise a pup.  On the contrary, regular puppy play and natural exercise out in the yard, at the park, etc. is a good thing for your pup.  It’s promoting movement of joints and strength building.  HOWEVER, you should limit your puppy’s exercise until they are physically mature.  This means you should not run or jump a puppy at a young age.  From time to time I have people ask me about their new pup being a running partner for them.  Absolutely NOT.  Anything more than brisk walk down the street and back is probably too much for your puppy.  Forcing a puppy to exercise any more than they would normally do is a generally a bad idea.  Jumping to catch a frisbee, jumping on the bed, jumping off the bed (AH!), are all high impact actions for a developing puppy.  Swimming is a GREAT low impact exercise for dogs of any age.  In fact, it’s HIGHLY encouraged!  And generally, you won’t have a problem getting a lab in the water! 😉
  2. Stairs– The general consensus is that daily stair use is not good for your labby’s joints.  Especially as a young puppy, if you can carry them as opposed to them having to climb up and down, do it.  Some people don’t allow their labs upstairs on the bedroom floor of their houses for this reason.  You may be thinking, “but Rufus likes to cuddle with be at bedtime!”  Well, weigh your options… cuddle with Rufus in your bed for only 8 years potentially? Or cuddle with Rufus downstairs for 10+??
  3. Injuries– Obviously your goal is that your lab has NO injuries, EVER.  But realistically, on the off chance that your clumsy adolescent pup falls down the steps (another reason to be cautious of stairs!), any injury he gets from that can affect him for the rest of his life.
  4. Rapid growth– Some studies have shown that puppies that basically grow too fast, can have a higher risk of developing dysplasia. This is why we caution people on feeding super high protein puppy foods for large breed dogs, as it can promote rapid growth.  Another effect of this is panosteitis, or to put it simply, growing pains.  This is why we feed an all life stage food from Life’s Abundance.
  5. Weight maintenance– This is somewhat of an obvious influence.  If your dog is overweight, they are putting more pressure on their bones and joints than is healthy for them. Maintaining a healthy weight is a good idea, overall, for your lab’s health.  (Are you worried your dog is overweight? Click here: Is My Dog Overweight?)  Look at what you are feeding them… SO many commercial dog foods out there have ingredients and fillers that you wouldn’t BELIEVE…

Read more about nutrition and hip dysplasia here: EML Blog

 Food- Endless Mt. Labradors

Want to learn more about the food we feed?

Labrador Puppy

Nothing like a chunky Romeo puppy to end a post…


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