It is unfortunate that we even have to discuss hip dysplasia in dog agility, but we do as it is more common than you may realize. If you have a breed that is considered “at risk” and you have done the research to find a reputable breeder and have done all the preventative measures to keep your dogs joints healthy, you are not guaranteed that your dog will not develop this condition classified as a disease.
And for those of you with breeds that you think are not predisposed to hip dysplasia you may be surprised at the findings of the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. What breed is at the top of the list, go ahead and guess. Did you say German Shepard, Rottweiler or maybe a retriever? If so, you would be wrong. The Bulldog is at the top of the list followed by the Pug…that’s right these two “small” dogs had the highest percentage of cases with the German Shepherd at number 40 and Rottie at 33 and the Chesapeake Bay Retriever at number 34. If you want to know where your dog’s breed came in you can check it out on their site www.offa.org.
There are many signs of hip dysplasia in dogs including, limping, difficulty getting up, refusing jumps, bunny hop run and refusal to sit. They don’t all appear in all dogs or at the same time. Our GSD never limped even when his hips popped with every step. His first sign (which we were unaware of at the time) was a refusal to take jumps in agility class at 4yrs of age. Then one day he tried to get up from laying down and couldn’t. When we got him to the vet they took x-rays and found he had horrid joints and his hip had dislocated (It popped back when they did the x-ray). The fact he was still walking was a miracle. He lived out the rest of his life (13yrs) without surgery and never limped. Of course he didn’t run agility anymore either.
What do you do if you find that your dog has hip dysplasia? Do you operate or do you stop dog agility and find another activity your dog can do? And does a surgery mean that you can go back to doing dog agility? That is a tough choice as some say that if the dog has the surgery early in life it will need to have a second one. Others have had the surgery done and gone back to dog agility and competed at National levels. We poised this question awhile back and this is what some of our viewers shared.
Jeannekins wrote: “I was looking through the member photos section and ran across your question. there’s a guy that trains at our place that has a border collie with hip dysplasia. she had her hip replaced and once she healed, she was right back to agility. I haven’t had class with them recently, but last I knew, she was doing just fine. not even a limp on that side.”
Sharon wrote: “I have a spaniel, and it developed patella problems despite my taking precautions for safely doing agility. I was very discouraged but attended agility events, took my dog to specialists, and wondered just how we were going to get through this. As with most agility participants, we were totally commited to the sport to the point of obsession.
While attending a trial (just as an observer), I happened to run into people running spaniels. I happened to talk to them, and as usual found that agility participants are the very nicest people on the planet. And they’d had experience with their dogs having surgery. They gave me advice (research how many times the vet has done the surgery, ask other owners about success rates, how to handle recovery, and ask about the ability to do agility afterward, etc.). Turns out that one of the dogs they run has competed at the national level after the surgery (one of AKC’s top five). So provided that you do your research, and all goes well, surgery doesn’t have to end your agility fun. And there’s always preferred class as an option to have the fun but maybe not the blinding speed. Good luck!”
While we chose not to have the surgery done, you can see that in some cases it works out. As Sharon stated, you need to do your homework and be upfront with your vet. Then you need to honor his input as he will be the one doing the follow up work and guiding you though the recovery process. And be honest with yourself and do what is best for your dog. To learn more about the diagnosis and nature of hip dysplasia you can go to www.marvistavet.com. If you have a story on this subject either for or against, we would love to hear it. Just scroll down to the comments and share it with us.