PennHIP arrives in the UK

Happy LabToday Ella attended the first ever British training day for veterinarians on the PennHIP method of testing animals for hip dysplasia.

Hip dysplasia is a disease that results in osteoarthritis in the hips of a large percentage of medium and large breed dogs around the world, although it can also affect small dogs and cats. It is caused by a loose hip joint which leads to trauma to the joint. The arthritis can develop at any age, in some dogs at less than a year of age, right through to older dogs. These poor dogs are often in pain, become lame, find it difficult to get up and get around.

Currently the British Veterinary Association and the Kennel Club run a voluntary hip scoring scheme in which vets submit x-rays of the hips of dogs for measurements which may indicate that dog’s potential to develop hip dysplasia. Breeders are encouraged to hip score their dogs and only breed from dogs who score better than the breed average. This scheme is far from perfect and progress has been slow. For many years now, an alternative scheme called PennHIP has been available in the United States. This method has been illegal in the UK as it required vets and veterinary nurses to hold the legs of the dog whilst the x-ray was being taken. Now a British vet has developed a hands free method of taking these x-rays which will allow us to use this scoring system in future.

PennHIP, which was developed by the University of Pennsylvania, has several advantages over the traditional tests for hip dysplasia:

1) Puppies can be tested as early as 16 weeks old, as opposed to 1 year of age for the BVA/KC scheme. With pets, this means that we can try to stop hip dysplasia from developing rather than just treat the symptoms once it develops. Breeders can chose the best dogs to breed from at a much earlier age.

2) The heritability is very high, meaning that a dog with hips that score well is much more likely to have puppies that score well and also don’t get hip dysplasia. This means that we can help breed healthier dogs much more easily.

3) A good score almost guarantees good hips, and a bad score also reliably predicts the likelihood of hip dysplasia in future. We can manage these dogs to reduce the incidence of the disease, usually by a combination of diet and hydrotherapy. There is also now surgery available for puppies which can make bad hips more stable for the future. This will lead to healthier pets.

Only PennHIP certified vets are allowed to take these x-rays, to ensure that the x-rays are taken properly. We will be proud to be one of only a handful of private practices in the UK that are offering this service. Dogs that may benefit include breeding dogs, any dogs showing signs of lameness due to pain in the hips, and puppies of 4-5 months old so that we can catch this disease early and stop it in its tracks. If you are interested in PennHIP, please ask us for further information.

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