Wednesday, July 8, 2009 2:26 PM

Prevention and Treatment of CHD, Part 1

Since there is no cure for canine hip dysplasia, the focus is on prevention and treatment. By "prevention", I mean not preventing the disease itself, but taking steps as a responsible dog owner to markedly reduce your chances of acquiring an animal with this problem.

When I was working for veterinarians 30 years ago CHD was a major health concern. It still is today. Why? Shouldn't careful breeding techniques have at least downgraded its occurrence to a greater degree? A great number of reputable breeders have worked diligently to eradicate this disease from their bloodlines. Why does it still persist? One reason is the fickleness of genetic expression. A recessive gene may "hide" in a population for generations, never exhibiting symptoms of the abnormality it carries until a chance mating allows its expression. Another problem is the infamous "puppy mill" industry which cares for nothing except profit. To avoid becoming part of this problem, I implore you to adopt your new pet from a shelter or find a reputable breeder.

If you adopt from a shelter, your chances of encountering this problem are quite low. Since the gene pool is so much larger in the "57 varieties" dog than the pure bred, chances are good that you'll have yourself a CHD-free pet. I always encourage adoption from animal shelters, since there are so many wonderful animals in need of good homes. Support your local shelter!

If you opt for the pure bred, do your research. Find a breeder with a good reputation and ask specifically about hip dysplasia. If the parents of the pup you want are certified CHD-free, you will dramatically reduce your chances of encountering this problem. You would do well to go back three or four generations, however, due to the nature of genetic expression. For information regarding dog breeders, visit the American Kennel Club's site.

Once you have your new pup, I think it would be wise to err on the side of caution and care for the animal as if it may have dysplasia. Again, prevention is worth a pound of cure, as they say.
One thing to remember is that there can be no extremes as far as the raising and maintenance of this dog is concerned. Overnutrition is a key factor in hip dysplasia, as people want their pups to grow as big as possible, and unwittingly set the stage for joint problems later. Overfeeding, particularly "growth" types of commercial foods, causes weight gain and other stresses on the skeleton, as does excess calcium supplementation. Feed a high-quality diet and monitor the dog's intake, and this problem can be avoided.

Moderate exercise is a must. Too much inactivity will cause stiffness and movements that involve fast running, jumping and turning of the hips are definitely a no-no. Moderate activity over the course of the day will help preserve the integrity of your dog's hip joints.

Tomorrow, we'll cover treatment of hip dysplasia once it's diagnosed.

By The Way, I meant to mention in the "cat litter" series my experiences with scoop-spoons. I found long ago that the ones that are sold just for that purpose don't work very well. They are big and clumsy, plus they tend to break up the urine clump that you've worked so hard to create! I buy slotted kitchen utensils, instead. The larger ones with the bigger slits are great for solid waste and smaller spoons with tinier holes work really well for clumped urine. These can be purchased so cheaply at Dollar Tree Stores that I keep a set of two spoons by each of the boxes for convenience.
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Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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