I’ve talked to a few people over time and on more than one occasion a person has told me they decided against getting a German Shepherd because of the potential for hip dysplasia. I’ve had other people tell me they will only own a mixed bred dog so they can avoid this genetic disease. There is no evidence to indicate a mixed breed dog has a lower incidence of hip dysplasia than a purebred dog (see the AKC website for more data). It is a fallacy. If a parent carried the gene a mixed breed dog is as likely to have problems as a purebred dog. Additionally, ethical breeders are very careful to monitor their programs and remove breeding stock found to produce puppies with genetic problems, something that is very unlikely in a mixed breed dog.
If you go to the OFA, Orthopedic Foundation for Animalshttp://www.offa.org/index.html you will find the following table (we copied the top 100 breeds, we suggest you go to the site for the full, most up to date list). You are going to have to scroll down to number 40 on the list to find German Shepherds. That’s right, 39 other breeds are more prone to hip dysplasia than German Shepherds. The column headings are “breed of dog”, “rank”, “number of evaluations”,”percent excellent”, and “percent dysplastic”. Take a close look almost 98,000 German Shepherds were tested to get the statistics in the table.
|DOGUE DE BORDEAUX||3||341||0.6||56.0|
|BLACK RUSSIAN TERRIER||8||323||3.4||43.0|
|PERRO DE PRESA CANARIO||15||160||4.4||33.8|
|GLEN OF IMAAL TERRIER||18||120||0.8||30.0|
|AMERICAN STAFFORDSHIRE TERRIER||21||2708||2.3||25.7|
|MAINE COON CAT||24||1024||4.2||24.1|
|AMERICAN PIT BULL TERRIER||26||663||5.6||23.5|
|LOUISIANA CATAHOULA LEOPARD||27||469||9.6||23.0|
|CHESAPEAKE BAY RETRIEVER||28||11786||12.0||20.8|
|GREATER SWISS MOUNTAIN DOG||38||2229||11.8||19.1|
|CARDIGAN WELSH CORGI||39||1538||3.4||19.1|
|GERMAN SHEPHERD DOG||40||97930||3.8||19.1|
|OLD ENGLISH SHEEPDOG||42||10271||11.4||18.7|
|PEMBROKE WELSH CORGI||44||9890||3.2||18.3|
|STAFFORDSHIRE BULL TERRIER||48||493||1.8||17.6|
|POLISH LOWLAND SHEEPDOG||51||423||7.3||16.1|
|BERNESE MOUNTAIN DOG||52||14801||12.8||16.0|
|AUSTRALIAN CATTLE DOG||55||3032||4.4||15.3|
|BOUVIER DES FLANDRES||57||7612||5.8||15.1|
|BLACK AND TAN COONHOUND||59||649||9.9||14.9|
|ENGLISH SPRINGER SPANIEL||69||13407||8.4||13.3|
|PORTUGUESE WATER DOG||72||6699||13.1||13.0|
|SMOOTH FOX TERRIER||75||279||7.9||12.2|
|WELSH SPRINGER SPANIEL||77||1719||14.8||12.2|
|CAVALIER KING CHARLES SPANIEL||78||5131||4.2||12.1|
|IRISH WATER SPANIEL||80||1186||17.4||12.0|
|PETIT BASSET GRIFFONS VENDEEN||85||617||3.4||11.3|
|WEST HIGHLAND WHITE TERRIER||91||171||1.2||10.5|
|GERMAN WIREHAIRED POINTER||98||3729||16.4||9.1|
|AMERICAN ESKIMO DOG||99||922||7.7||9.1|
|COTON DE TULEAR||100||547||9.5||9.0|
Ethical breeders have worked very hard to improve this statistic and save our beautiful breed from this disease. It still does occur. You need to have extensive discussions with your breeder before you buy a puppy.
You also need to know nutrition, exercise and activity levels can cause hip dysplasia in a genetically health dog so it is important to review how you work with your puppy and get guidance from experienced trainers and vets.
If the worst occurs and your dog is diagnosed with dysplasia you can take action to address the situation. In the most severe cases there is hip replacement. Frequently you can keep you pet happy and comfortable with appropriate exercise and weight control, limiting jumping and limiting exercises requiring your dog to support itself on its back feet alone. Always talk to a vet and if possible consult with an orthopedic veterinarian.
We recently interviewed an orthopedic vet. The quote to replace a hip in a health 5 year old dog in good physical condition was $6,800. The surgeon indicated that newer materials exist than had been used in the past and they were seeing the hips last 13 years or more. If you are considering the surgery and have pet health insurance, do not assume the surgery will be covered. Some policies exclude genetic issues and hip dysplasia is considered genetic by most pet insurance companies.
We hope this “thumbnail sketch” helps you in making decisions regarding the purchase of a German Shepherd. There are no guarantees and even very ethical breeders may have a puppy with hip problems in a litter. Do your homework and make an educated decision on a breeder. Watch your puppy’s nutrition, weight, and exercise program carefully and you will minimize the chances of your pet having hip dysplasia. If diagnosed with the problem, consult your vet and a specialist and control the weight, exercise and activity of your dog.
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