Hip Dysplasia (HD) is the term used to describe the secondary arthritic changes to the hip joint – the ball and socket junction of the femur and the pelvis. All puppies are born with ‘normal’ hips but laxity of the joint results in these changes. Polygenetic, nutritional and environmental factors are considered to influence the development of the condition. This is why it is important to not allow puppies to become overweight or to exercise inappropriately, and to screen breeding dogs.
Ventr-dorsal Pelvis
Hip x-ray
Assessment is made using radiographs – ‘x-rays’ – which are scrutinised by a panel under the BVA/KC Scheme. Dogs must be a minimum of 1 year old to be assessed. The examination requires heavy sedation or general anaesthesia as the dog is positioned on its back and its hind legs extended and secured (the fact that the dog is on its back explains why the L or R marker appears to be on the ‘wrong’ side).
The degree of abnormality on several anatomical features of each hip joint is given a score. These scores are combined to give a total (maximum 106). The lower the number, the better the hips are. Results are published in the KC Breed Record Supplement where BVA scores for Lagotto Romagnolo published between December 2003 and November 2020 ranged from 0 (0/0) to 89 (40/49).
No Lagotto requiring hip replacement surgery have been reported to the Club. Surprisingly, the individual dog’s score may not be correspond to its degree or pain nor its movement. This is the difference between radiographic and clinical HD and is why radiographic examination is so important.
The Club does not currently exclude dogs from a breeding programme based on hip score alone (because of the multi factorial influences on the condition) but does require that both sire and dam have been scored.
For those contemplating importing Lagotto, or researching their own dogs’ ancestry, it may be useful to be aware of methods of assessing hips internationally:
Penn Hip:
This method radiographically assesses the laxity of the hip joint and predicts the likelihood of the dog developing HD. Puppies as young as 16 weeks can be assessed which makes it a useful system for selecting breeding stock.
Orthopaedic Foundation for Animals (OFA)
Now known as Canine Health Information Center:
Assessment as per BVA, dogs must be a minimum of 24 months for examination. 7 levels of Dysplasia are defined.
FCI (Fédération Cynologique Internationale):
Assessment as BVA, scores A-1 to E.