Carpe Shar-Pei (Seize the Wrinkled Dog)

Canine Hip Dysplasia

Canine Hip Dysplacia is abnormal hip joint formation. The abnormality causes looseness in the joint that should be snug. The hip joint consists of a ball at the head of the femur and a socket (acetabulum) that should fit snugly without any looseness. The following x-rays show a range of dysplasia.

Normal Hip

Moderate Hip Dysplasia

Severe Hip Dysplasia

Severe Hip Dysplasia
Joint Almost Dislocated

Hip Dysplasia ranges from very slight looseness to complete dislocation and all points in between. Consequently, each dog may suffer from dysplasia to varying degrees.

Canine Hip Displasia has been proven to have a genetic component anywhere from 25% to 85% determined by genes. This is a significant genetic contribution. If the parents have genetic information (genotype) for hip dysplasia this information will be passed on to the offspring. The greater the genetic contribution, the greater the chance for hip dysplasia in the offspring.

Genetics only plays part of the role in Canine Hip Dysplasia. The environment plays a varying role in the observable signs of dyslasia. Some of the environmental contributing factors are:

  1. Nutrition - There are studies that indicate a restricted caloric intake could lessen the potential for a dog to develop dysplasia. The problem here is that restricted diets increase carbohydrates while reducing protein and fat. This can result in poor puppy health and should be avoided. A high quality meat based diet is essential for growing pups. You can, however, make sure the puppy does not become overweight.
  2. Physical Activity - For puppies that are going to suffer from Canine Hip Dysplasia, extreme exercise will exacerbate their problems. Stairs, jumping into and out of vans, and other extreme forms of joint movements all tend to cause stress and trauma and increase future discomfort for the dog. This normal exercise would not cause issues with a do without being prone to CHD.
  3. Bedding - It has been observered, though there have not been scientific studies, that slippery surfaces such as newspaper can have detrimental effects on young puppies. Not that they cause a problem, but that they tend to make a bad condition worse. Better surfaces are blankets and such which does not cause feet to slip. Again, this would not cause issues unless there were CHD tendencies to begin with.

Signs of CHD in Younger Dogs

Keep in mind that absence of symptoms in younger dogs does not preclude problems with CHD. But some symptoms might indicate a possible problem. These signs may appear in five to eight month old dysplasic pups.

  • A pup runs with both legs nearly together like a rabbit
  • Inability to extend leg backwards very far (poor range of motion)
  • Reluctant to rise after exercise
  • Difficulty climbing stairs or inclines
  • Slightly underdeveloped hindquarters
  • Rear legs not parallel, instead feet too close together
  • Appear to be tip-toeing due to rocking forwards to support more weight on front legs
  • Reluctance to stand up on hind legs, like begging
  • Reluctance to jump

Many puppies rest and sleep and sometimes play in a frog-like position. This is a good sign indicating wide range of motion and should not be a concern. Many pups use this technique on stone or tile floors to cool off quickly as it places nearly bare belly to the floor.

Frog-like leg orientation

Signs of CHD in Older Dogs

Dogs with dysplasia may escape pain or accept it as a fact of life and not complain until degenerative joint disease sets in. CHD dogs will sit rather than stand, will have trouble arising, will run with the rear legs together and will not be able to keep up when walked. Ocassionally an X-ray of a dog who only recently began to show hip trouble will reveal extensive degenerative changes in the hips due to long term dysplasia. A dog can appear normal but have hip dysplasia.

The X-ray

If a dog is to be in a breeding program, an extensive training program, or a work program, the minimum data required is a pelvic x-ray taken under anesthesia. You must have the x-ray to know if the dog is normal. Anesthesia is required because the dog must be perfectly relaxed to have an x-ray that yields the information you're trying to discover. The position required to take a diagnostic x-ray is a somewhat unnatural one, even very cooperative dogs cannot relax enough to be x-rayed properly.

An additional effect of anesthesia is that it permits the veterinarian to palpate and manipulate the hips to feel the degree of looseness. The Pectineus Muscle can have the tension checked while under anesthesia. Grating and grinding from calcium deposits can also be evaluated without the pain that might be suffered if the dog was awake.

Poor Positioning Prevents Good Reading


The importance of the X-ray cannot be overstated. Generally, by the time the dog is full grown the x-rays will properly reveal the status of the hips. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals ( will not classify hips in dogs until they are two years of age. You should reserve breeding until conclusive results by radiography can be determined.

PennHIP (University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program)

Visit the PennHIP website.

PennHIP is a multifaceted radiographic screening method for hip evaluation. The technique assesses the quality of the canine hip and quantitatively measures canine hip joint laxity. The PennHIP method of evaluation is more accurate than the current standard in its ability to predict the onset of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, is the hallmark of hip dysplasia.

PennHIP is more than just a radiographic technique. It is also a network of veterinarians trained to perform the PennHIP methodology properly and, perhaps most importantly, it is a large scientific database that houses the PennHIP data. Radiographs are made by certified PennHIP members worldwide and are sent to the PennHIP Analysis Center for evaluation. The resulting data is stored in the database, which is continually monitored as it expands. As more information becomes available, the PennHIP laboratory is able to obtain more precise answers to questions about the etiology, prediction and genetic basis of hip dysplasia.

PennHIP has studied the efficacy of this method from the eight weeks up to three years of age. The PennHIP method can be reliably performed on a dog as young as 16 weeks old. Passive hip laxity at 16 weeks correlates highly with later hip laxity. In other words, a dog's hip laxity at 16 weeks will be much the same at one year, two years or even three years.

If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you; that is the principal difference between a dog and a man.

Mark Twain

Paper and canvas prints of "Growing Up Chinese Shar-Pei" by Barbara Keith are available online.

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