Preventing Hip Dysplasia in Rottweilers and Similar Large Dog Breeds
Recommendation 1: Avoid flights of stairs and jumps above shoulder level before the age of 1. Waiting until the age of 2 is even better.
Whatever your puppy's height is - avoid having him or her jump anything higher than their shoulder. This includes the couch, the back of the car, but also agility jumps. Consider a ramp for getting into the car. Those joints need time to develop and fuse. Give them time and keep those 4 paws on the ground!
No flights of stairs repeatedly, either. Think about how rough a flight of stairs can be on your knees or your hips. For some of us, it isn't a big deal (yet). But for many of us - we know - it causes some soreness. Especially when we have to go up and down over and over. So, if your dog just needs to climb a few steps to get to the front door or a set of doggy steps to get into the back of your truck than you're probably okay. But a full flight of stairs to a second story of your home every day, a few times a day - that's a big time no-no.
Invest in some good, sturdy, dog gates and try to keep them on one or the other story if you have a 2 story home. This is the gate we use around our place and we find it has held up well. I know this is a challenge. We made sure to buy a single story house because we knew ahead of time. But, maybe you got the house before you got the puppy! To help give your puppy's joints time to grow and fuse properly you;re safest bet is to confine him or her away from a those steps.
Recommendation 2: Keep it low-pro. Low protein.
Check the bag of your kibble of choice. Some "Large Breed Puppy" brands are very high in protein. Avoid those. High protein encourages fast growth. Fast growth leads to brittle bones that expanded too quickly. A puppy food with as much as 35-40% protein is probably too high. These puppy foods tend to be low in fat, as well.
Consider an all stages, grain free, high quality kibble with somewhere closer to 22-28% protein and about half that in fat, or 12-16%. Puppies need protein to grow! And they should have it. But excess protein is difficult on their bodies and can lead to kidney stones and UTIs. You can also feed a raw diet where your protein sources are whole. If we're unsure of the protein % on a meat, we Google it. We found a good list of protein content here.
Your Rottweiler puppy will grow to his or her maximum size whether you get him or her very big in the first year or not. His or her genetics determine their final size. So, there is no reason to rush their growth. Feed them enough that you can't see but you can feel his or her ribs at all times.
Recommendation 3: Select a puppy from parents who are free of hip dysplasia.
If possible, look at the grandparents and their parents of your future puppy. There should be clear HD (hip dysplasia) screens for each generation.
HD often results in the combination of a number of influences including environment, activity level, nutrition, and genetics. You're trying to control as many factors as possible. Remember, even if both parents of your puppies - and all of their grandparents and great grandparents - are clear of HD there is still a chance that your puppy may develop the condition. The complex genetics that result in HD are impossible for your breeder to screen for (so far...perhaps someday this will be possible). But parents with HD are significantly more likely to produce offspring with hip dysplasia than are parents who have proven to be clear of HD.
OFA ratings Excellent, Good and Fair are all considered hip dysplasia free ratings. Poor and dysplastic ratings are ones to avoid in your future puppy's parents.
Recommendation 4: Get your puppy OFA screened for HD.
Okay, this doesn't prevent hip dysplasia in your puppy. But it gives the OFA more information and statistics. The more dogs free of HD in certain genetics tells us those genetics are even less likely to produce HD. This information can help prevent HD in future dogs related to your puppy and in fact, this is one of the goals of your breeder when he or she did these screenings on the parents of your puppy.
Think of it like adding color to water. If you add 1 drop of color, the water will be very pale. If you add 10 drops of color, the water will be much brighter. If you add 30 drops -- boy, that's going to be vibrant water!
If we screen 1 dog in a line of dogs we don't have much information. If we screen 10, we have more information. If we screen 30 -- we really have a lot of data to work with.
OFA hip dysplasia screening consists of using a vet experienced in proper positioning of hips for OFA screening and then having that vet submit the x-ray to OFA for you. Not all vets are acceptable for this process. You receive the results from OFA in a couple of weeks through the mail. Expect to spend $150-$200 including the X-ray and the OFA fees.
Please check back soon. I'm finishing up this article on preventing hip dysplasia including exercise and diet recommendations, as well as selecting the right parents on your future pup. In the meantime, this is a really great article on the subject that I highly recommend you read.
If you've already received a hip dysplsia diagnosis on your dog, I'll be following this article shortly with one on treatment and therapy options.
Finally, I'll add an extensive but friendly account of what hip dysplasia is, how it effects your dog, how it occurs, and of course what OFA screenings are, what they mean, and what they accomplish towards avoiding hip dysplasia.
Thank you for your patience as I compile recommendations, treatments, resources, and educational material for this series of articles!