Hip Dysplasia is a widespread condition that primarily affects large and giant breeds.


There is a strong genetic link between parents that have HD and the incidence of this in their offspring. We therefore need to take great care when deciding on whether or not to breed from our Leonbergers.


The scores of as many generations as possible for both parents should be examined to see what scores have been achieved. Using breeding stock with consistently low scores will help reduce the incidence of HD and maintain the lowest scores possible.


Other factors such as environment, feeding and exercise can influence the severity of HD but when it comes to preventing the formation of the disease there is only one thing that researchers agree on: “selective breeding is crucial”. It is therefore very important to breed from dogs with low hip scores.


A one off x-ray after a minimum of 12 months of age can be sent for scoring by the BVA / KC.Hip Dysplasia is made up of joint looseness (when the cup and ball do not fit properly together) which causes joint erosion which can be followed by new bone formation all of which can lead to inflammation and pain.


Depending on the individual dog this may or may not be noticeable to the owner. The pain threshold of the dog and the severity of the condition will affect the animal in different ways. Some show no signs of lameness others do, some will have difficulty in standing up others wont. There is no way of telling if the condition is present and if so the severity of the condition without x-ray.


The KC / BVA have a scoring scheme which can then assess the individual giving a score from 0 (perfection) to 106 (has this dog got hips!). At present the Code of Ethics of the Club states that only those with a score of less than 25 (15 max on one side) should be bred with; the breed average score is presently…11. This is taken from the latest available KC/BVA results( for 15 years to 2013) when 1534 dogs had been scored with results ranging from 0 – 89.


The KC say that breeders wishing to control HD should use dogs with scores below the breed mean average. Remember however that this is only one factor to consider when breeding, elbow scores and clear eyes should also be included in the melting pot and it is no use breeding from animals that meet all these criteria if they are not good examples of breed type with excellent characters. It is no use having a 0 scores for elbows and hips if the result does not look like a Leonberger. This is the quandary faced by all who breed.


There are two main causes of HD, one is genetic and the other environmental. These are said to be equally responsible for HD being present in a dog. Although the genetic code passed on by ancestors has a direct influence on the likelihood of offspring having the disease, the way a pup is reared can influence whether or not it develops HD.


Obesity can cause the bones to erode as the carrying of excess weight on fragile new bones can exacerbate the problem. It is thought that feeding a correctly balanced puppy food in the right quantities is the best way to help promote proper bone growth, these have the specific amounts of calcium, phosphorus and protein needed by pups and will help maintain the optimum body weight if not overfed.


Excessive exercise can also increase the incidence of HD in the young (especially big boned, heavy pups) but fit well muscled adults will be less likely to develop problems with age, swimming and free running are said to be particularly beneficial for adult animals.


Treatment can either be radical surgery where total hip replacement takes place, this is especially successful in younger animals. The removal of the femoral head can sometimes be considered, otherwise the use of drugs to relieve pain and increase mobility.


Glucosamine and Chondroitin are especially successful in alleviating symptoms and can be used in conjunction with buffered aspirin. These treatments are the last resort, the best possible outcome is to produce HD free dogs in the first place.There are different scoring schemes around the world.