Hip Dysplasia (CHD) is the deformity or distortion of the ball and socket of the hip joint, which occurs in a young growing dog. It is a painful, crippling disease that causes a dog’s hips to weaken, deteriorate and become arthritic. Overweight puppies and excessive exercise can exacerbate the condition and inheritance is known to be a significant factor.

Signs of Hip Dysplasia may include difficulty in rising from lying down, moving with both back legs together in a sort of hopping action, lameness after exercise, reluctance to exercise, or hunching the back to avoid extending the hips when standing. If clinical signs of Hip Dysplasia are evident in a young dog, veterinary advice should be sought. The condition is painful and incurable, though it may be treated surgically in some cases when the puppy is fully developed. It is important to understand that the only way accurately to diagnose CHD is through x-rays. The above symptoms may also be seen in dogs with normal hips, while some affected dogs may display none of these symptoms.

The scoring scheme, set up by the B.V.A. and the K.C., enables an assessment of a dog’s hips to be made. Hips are x-rayed by a vet when a dog has turned 12 months of age, and the radiographs sent to the B.V.A. to be scored by a panel of experts. Each hip is scored individually from 0 to 53, therefore total scores range from 0 to 106. The tighter fitting the joint, the lower the score, which is desirable. The average score of those Labradors for which x-rays have been submitted for scoring under this scheme is about 16.5. Very few Labradors score 0 and generally it is the high scoring dogs that would probably suffer from arthritis later in life. Unfortunately, the mode of inheritance in this condition is difficult to define, and although the parents may have low hip scores, it is not a guarantee that all of their offspring will do likewise. Furthermore, breeders need to keep in mind the whole dog when planning a litter, and the parents’ hip scores should not be the only factor considered.