Hip and elbow dysplasia can be found in a variety of animals, including humans. However, the disorder is commonly found in, and associated with canines. Larger and especially active dogs are particularly at risk due to the excess stress put on their limbs and joints.
Dysplasia is an inherited disorder, and diagnosis can be tricky. While some sever cases are recognizable in a dog’s infancy, many cases go unnoticed until well into the dog’s adult years. Dysplasia is the most common cause for arthritis in canines. The disorder often worsens as the dog ages and can be both painful and debilitating.
Work as a guard dog often involves rigorous exercise. As a result, flaws in the hip joints affecting balance and posture often become apparent far sooner than in less active dogs. Because dysplasia is inherited, dogs from poorly maintained German Shepherd bloodlines are often at high risk. Working line German Shepherd breeders need to pay special attention to the hips and elbows of their dogs in order to ensure that they are not introducing dysplacia into their bloodlines.
While your guard dog may not show symptoms of hip or elbow dysplasia for the majority of its adult life, there is still a chance that minor deformations in the joints will worsen over the years with standard wear-and-tear caused by the exercise your dog needs. Regular x-rays of your dog’s joints can help you and your vet monitor your guard dog for signs of dysplasia in the joints. For working dogs who may be getting on in their years, signs of hip and elbow dysplasia may be an indicator that it’s time to retire your canine to a less active lifestyle.