"I really want to buy a Golden Retriever puppy, but I’ve heard they have lots of joint problems. How can I find one that doesn’t have any issues"? - Jack
I’m also a big fan of Goldies, Jack, but you’re right, they can have their joint issues. What you’re talking about is hip and elbow dysplasia. They are developmental disorders whereby the joints haven’t formed properly. If they go untreated, they can lead to early onset arthritis, and an uncomfortable life for your dog.
The hip is made up of a ball and socket joint, where the top of the femur meets the pelvis. The top of the femur should be perfectly round and sit in the socket like a puzzle piece, however when a dog has hip dysplasia, the shapes do not match up. It is usually the ball, rather than the socket which is affected. This can cause the hip to become luxated out of the socket if severe, and causes a swing like gait, and hind limb lameness.
There are several surgical options for hip dysplasia, such as replacing the hip with an implant, or fusing it if very severe and finances are a problem, however conservative management is more commonly carried out, which entails anti-inflammatories when needed, controlled exercise including hydrotherapy, and joint supplements.
Elbow dysplasia is also a common cause of lameness in the front limbs in young Golden Retrievers. It is where parts of the elbow, such as the medial coronoid process or anconeal process, haven’t developed appropriately, and have become detached.
Elbow dysplasia can be improved via joint surgery to remove any fragments. Conservative management is also an option which is the same as for hip dysplasia.
So, how do you make sure that you purchase a puppy that doesn’t have elbow or joint dysplasia? In short, it’s difficult to be completely sure that your puppy won’t have it, however your best chance is to purchase from a breeder who has used a mother and father which have excellent hip and elbow scores. These scores are set out by the Kennel Club and BVA to assess radiographically how good the joints are. The radiographs are graded by BVA appointed Scrutineers to ensure that they are completely reliable. Elbows are graded between 0 and 3, and hips are scored between 0 and 106. Ideally you want to purchase a puppy who comes from parents with score 0 for elbows, and as low as possible for hips.