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What you need to know

Further to DNA testing, always ensure your breeder hip and elbow scores. Dysplasia in dogs is a disease that is characterised by instability of the joint, pain and eventually degenerative joint disease. Recent studies state that hip dysplasia (although It is considered to be inherited and influenced by many genes) is predominantly caused by many nongenetic factors.  These non genetic factors include diet, rate of growth, body weight and exercise. Reputable breeders will score their animals prior to breeding.  It can never be guaranteed that puppies will not develop hip or elbow dysplasia but by doing so contributing genetic factors should be reduced. 

You should always ask for a copy of both parents official ANKC hip and elbow score reports and ideally only scores of 0/0 are considered ideal for any elbow score and no higher than a 1 on any side ( 0 is preferable).


 Understanding the numbers on hip scoring for these reports can be confusing to a non-breeder home, so below is some information provided by


While it is impossible to correlate a hip score exactly with grades of hip dysplasia given under other schemes, an approximate interpretation for total hip scores is as follows (assuming that the two hips are similar): 

  • 0 to 4 total score: perfect or near-perfect hips

  •  5 to 10 total score: borderline changes that are unlikely to worsen with age 

  • 11 to 20 total score: mild changes that may worsen with age, sometimes developing into osteoarthritis 

  • 21 to 50 total score: moderate to marked hip dysplasia in which osteoarthritis is already a prominent feature, or severe hip dysplasia before arthritic change 

  • Above 50: severe to very severe osteoarthritis secondary to hip dysplasia.

If the scores of the two hips are markedly different, the worse of the two hips should be considered to be more representative of the dog’s hip status, and doubling that single hip score will give a more realistic overall score for the purposes of selection for breeding. For example, a dog with a score of 12:3 should be considered to have a hip status similar to other dogs with a total score in the mid-20s. 


Use of the hip score 

When selecting a dog for breeding, the traditional advice has been that only dogs with hip scores well below the BMS should be chosen in order to apply meaningful selection pressure. Ideally, only dogs with total scores of 10 or less should be used for breeding.

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