What Is a Good Labrador Hip Score? (All You Must Know)

By Benjamin Tash

Wondering what a good hip score for Labradors means and its significance? Seeking insights on promoting the health and longevity of your beloved Labrador through proper hip care?

You’re in the right place.

Here’s a Brief Overview Of What A Good Labrador Hip Score Is:

A Labrador’s hip score assesses the likelihood of hip dysplasia which a common skeletal condition for this breed. The scoring system evaluates both hips individually, with scores ranging from 0 (best) to 53 (worst). For Labradors, an excellent score is 0-5 for each hip (0-10 combined), indicating the least risk of hip issues.

A score of 6-19 for each hip (12-38 combined) denotes a moderate predisposition. Scores above 20 for one hip (or over 40 combined) highlight a significant risk. In essence, the lower the score, the better the hip health.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll demystify how to interpret a Labrador’s hip score and what those numbers truly signify.

But that’s just the beginning. We’ll also arm you with 7 actionable strategies to boost your Labrador’s hip health, especially if their scores fall within the 6-19/6-19 range.

And for those on the hunt for a new pup, get ready for 6 essential tips to ensure you choose a Labrador with a strong genetic lineage for the best possible hip score.

Whats a good Labrador hip score
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How To Intrepret A Labrador’s Hip Score And What Do The Numbers Mean? (Comparing Labrador Hip Scores)

A Labrador’s hip score is a measure taken from X-rays and evaluated by expert veterinarians to assess the condition of the dog’s hip joints. This score is crucial because Labradors can be predisposed to hip dysplasia, a condition where the hip joint doesn’t develop correctly.

Now, when we talk about the score itself, it typically ranges from 0 to 106, broken down for each hip. So, a perfect score of 0/0 indicates that both hips are in excellent condition.

On the other hand, a score between 1-5 for each hip signifies minor irregularities, which, although not alarming, are worth keeping an eye on.

It’s a subtle hint that while the Labrador’s hips are primarily in good shape, there might be the tiniest irregularities. Think of it as a gentle nudge from your vet, suggesting that while things are generally alright, it wouldn’t hurt to keep an occasional eye on your pet’s movement.

Maybe during play, see if they favor one side or display any discomfort when they rise from a resting position.

When you encounter scores in the 6-19 range for each hip, that’s indicative of some potential issues, perhaps early markers of hip dysplasia. This doesn’t immediately spell disaster but think of it as a more insistent tap on the shoulder.

It’s the kind of score that encourages preventive measures. Perhaps consider supplements known to support joint health or discuss with your vet about tailored exercises that can strengthen the surrounding muscles without putting extra stress on the hips.

However, if a score of 20 or more for each hip appears, it’s essential to consult with a vet.

A score within this range suggests substantial irregularities in the hip joints, possibly pointing to advanced hip dysplasia or other significant joint issues.

This could manifest in the Labrador as limping, difficulty in getting up or lying down, reluctance to jump or play, groaning or even signs of pain when the hip area is touched.

For context, if your Labrador has a score of 3/7, it suggests that one hip is healthier than the other. The first hip has a score of 3, which is quite good, indicating minimal signs of hip issues. The second hip, with a score of 7, shows slightly more signs of potential hip dysplasia or joint irregularities.

This differentiation matters because if a Labrador displays signs of discomfort, limping, or reluctance to play, it could be primarily due to the hip with the higher score.

Recognizing which hip is more affected aids veterinarians in diagnosing issues, planning treatments or suggesting specific exercises to strengthen the hip joint.

For Labradors, a score around 11-12 is the average. A score better than this average, say 5/5, shows that your Lab’s hips are healthier than many others in the breed. But if you’re looking at a score like 15/18, it’s crucial to be proactive, as this suggests your Lab’s hips may have more pronounced issues than most.

Having owned a Labrador, I can attest to the initial confusion that surrounds hip scores. On one occasion, after a particularly rigorous play session, I observed a subtle change in my Labrador’s gait. It led me to get his hips examined. The resulting hip score was 10/12, a number that left me puzzled.

Was this cause for concern? Did it imply potential future issues? Seeking answers, I consulted a leading veterinarian specialized in canine orthopedics. This expert clarified that a hip score of 10/12, particularly for Labradors indicates a minor deviation from the ideal.

It’s not particularly alarming but he does warrant careful observation. And he suggested modifying the dog’s exercise patterns to ensure minimal strain on those joints.

Through this experience, I realized the hip score isn’t merely a number but a guideline for providing the best care to our Labs.

On a different note regarding their overall health, you might also want to check out Why Do Labradors Die Young? (7 Reasons You Should Know + Tips For Longevity)

7 Tips On What To Do When Your Labrador Hip Score Is In The 6-19/6-19 Range? (Tips on how to improve their hip health and their overall score)

1) Dietary Supplements

When your Labrador’s hip score falls within the 6-19/6-19 range, a dedicated focus on dietary supplements can offer support. Why? Because certain nutrients can actively promote joint health, possibly slowing down degeneration and providing relief.

Here 5 dietary supplements that can help:

I. Glucosamine and Chondroitin

Often mentioned together, these compounds are fundamental for cartilage health. Glucosamine aids in the formation and repair of cartilage, while Chondroitin helps retain moisture to ensure elasticity.

Seek out joint care treats or tablets that combine both for an easy addition to their daily routine. Administer as per recommended dosages, and monitor for any changes in mobility.

II. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Predominantly sourced from fish oils, Omega-3s aren’t just beneficial for humans. They have powerful anti-inflammatory properties, ideal for Labs with joint concerns.

Incorporate fish like salmon into their diet once a week or use fish oil capsules. Ensure the oil is fresh, as rancid oil can be counterproductive.

Speaking of dietary supplements, also check out Should Labradors Eat Grain-Free? (Important Facts You Must Know)

III. Green-Lipped Mussel

This unique supplement, native to New Zealand, is loaded with Omega-3s and other joint-friendly nutrients. Available in powdered form, it can be sprinkled over their meals.

Start with a smaller dosage, gradually increasing to the recommended amount.

IV. MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane)

This sulfur compound is known for reducing pain and inflammation in joints. While selecting joint supplements, opt for those that have MSM in their ingredient list.

They’re often available in chewable tablet form that can make administration straightforward.

IV. Hyaluronic Acid

More than just a skincare hero, Hyaluronic Acid is vital for maintaining the viscosity of joint fluids.

Seek out joint supplements that list this as an ingredient. It’s especially useful for older Labs, helping improve joint lubrication and reducing friction.

2) Weight Management

When it comes to Labradors with hip scores hovering in the middle range, weight management becomes crucial. Extra weight isn’t just a matter of aesthetics; it puts undue stress on your Lab’s joints which exacerbates potential hip issues.

By maintaining an optimal weight, you reduce the pressure on those vulnerable hip joints, promoting longevity and enhancing mobility.

Think of the joints as the hinges on a frequently-used door. If that door suddenly gets heavier, the hinges wear out faster.

Similarly, every extra pound your Labrador carries translates to increased stress on their hips.

Now, managing weight doesn’t mean cutting out treats entirely or resorting to a drastic diet. It’s about making intelligent choices. For instance, replacing high-calorie treats with low-calorie, nutritious alternatives such as carrots or frozen green beans can make a considerable difference over time.

Regular exercise tailored to your Labrador’s capability is another essential. Swimming, for instance, offers a full-body workout without putting pressure on the hips. It’s like a gym session and hydrotherapy rolled into one.

Another example would be interactive toys that stimulate their minds and encourage movement, like treat-dispensing puzzle toys. These toys require them to think and move which burns calories in the process.

Consistency is the key. Regularly monitor your Labrador’s weight, adjusting food intake and exercise routines as necessary. While the number on the scale is important, it’s equally vital to observe their body shape.

Ideally, when looking down on your Lab, there should be a noticeable waist and when you run your hands along their side, you should feel the ribs without pressing hard.

3) Low-Impact Exercise

Engaging your Labrador in low-impact exercises is an excellent way to improve their hip health, especially if they’re showing scores in the mid-range. Exercise, as we all know, strengthens muscles and promotes flexibility.

However, with hip concerns, the type of exercise becomes paramount. Low-impact activities ensure the hips are not overly strained while still offering the necessary physical stimulation.

Swimming stands out as the gold standard in this category. The buoyancy of the water means that the hips and joints don’t bear the full weight of the body which allows for a gentle yet effective workout.

Also, the resistance the water provides helps tone muscles without any harsh impact. It’s like two benefits in one: strengthening muscles around the hips and enhancing cardiovascular health.

Another fantastic option is walking on soft terrains like grass or sand. These surfaces offer some degree of cushioning, reducing the shock that hard terrains might deliver to the hips

A leisurely stroll in a park or a beach can be both mentally stimulating and physically rewarding for your Labrador. Plus, the different textures underfoot – be it the squishiness of the sand or the coolness of grass – add a sensory element to the exercise.

Lastly, consider introducing your Labrador to agility training that focuses on balance and coordination. Tools like balance discs or wobble boards can be excellent for this.

These exercises hone the smaller supporting muscles that aid in better joint stability. Remember, the objective is to keep them active and agile without adding undue stress to the hips.

4) Physical Therapy

Physical therapy offers a ray of hope for Labrador owners concerned about their furry friend’s hip score. Diving right into it, physical therapy is a structured approach that aims to restore and improve mobility, alleviate pain, and enhance overall well-being.

The beauty of this therapeutic intervention lies in its tailored approach. Specific exercises and techniques are chosen to address the individual needs of your Labrador — making it a proactive and efficient strategy.

For instance, one can explore the wonders of hydrotherapy. Hydrotherapy, or water therapy, involves controlled movements in the water.

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The resistance of water amplifies the benefits of every movement that allows your Labrador to strengthen the muscles around the hip joint without the stress of bearing their full body weight. It’s a therapy that champions the balance between exertion and relaxation.

Another prominent physical therapy technique is passive range of motion exercises. In these exercises, a therapist or the owner gently moves the dog’s joints in specific patterns.

This helps maintain joint flexibility and ensure that the hips remain supple and mobile. It’s a bit like yoga for humans; it emphasizes stretching and holding positions, giving the muscles and joints a gentle workout.

Lastly, there’s the introduction of balance exercises using tools like wobble boards or inflatable balance discs.

These tools challenge your Labrador’s stability and prompt them to engage their core and hip muscles to maintain equilibrium. Over time, these exercises can lead to improved muscle tone and joint health.

5) Orthopedic Beds

When it comes to our Labradors with hip scores hovering in the 6-19/6-19 range, ensuring their comfort and skeletal support is paramount. This is where orthopedic beds come into the spotlight.

These aren’t just regular fluffy beds; they are designed with the intent of offering optimal support, especially to dogs with potential hip issues.

One of the most enticing features of orthopedic beds is their memory foam foundation. Think about when we humans hunt for the perfect mattress; we often lean towards those that contour to our body’s shape, providing support where needed and distributing weight evenly.

Memory foam does precisely this for our Labradors. For example, a bed with a thick layer of memory foam can help in distributing the dog’s weight which can prevent pressure points, especially on the hips.

Another noteworthy aspect is the heat-retentive quality of certain orthopedic beds. Some beds come equipped with materials that trap and reflect the dog’s body heat which offers a warm and soothing environment.

Imagine lying on a bed that adjusts to your body’s temperature, giving you a comforting warmth, especially in colder climates or for older dogs that might suffer from arthritis alongside hip issues.

Elevation is another example to consider. Some orthopedic beds are elevated off the ground. This design not only prevents cold drafts from reaching your dog but also aids in getting up.

A Labrador with a hip score in the specified range might find it challenging to rise from a ground-level bed, but an elevated one provides that little extra push that makes the task less strenuous.

In essence, while a good hip score is desired, even those Labradors in the mid-range can live comfortably with the right amenities.

Read also: Do Labradors Need Blankets? (All You Should know)

6) Avoid Intense Activities

For Labradors with a hip score in the 6-19/6-19 range, avoiding intense activities is paramount to ensure their hip health doesn’t deteriorate further. But what does this mean in practical terms?

Firstly, hard surfaces can be a significant culprit. When your Labrador plays fetch or even just runs on concrete or tarmac, the impact is directly absorbed by their joints that can exacerbate any existing issues. Here’s a tip, opt for softer terrains like grass or sand.

These surfaces offer natural cushioning, which significantly reduces the impact on the hips. For instance, a beach outing can be an excellent way for them to exercise without putting undue stress on their joints.

Another point of concern is jumping from elevated places. It might seem harmless when your Labrador hops down from furniture or out of the car, but over time, these repeated actions can strain their hips.

Here’s a suggestion: consider getting pet-friendly ramps or small steps. By using these, you ensure a gentler descent, thereby reducing the risk of further injury.

Lastly, games that involve abrupt movements, like tug-of-war, should be approached with caution. The sudden pulls and jerks can stress the hips.

But don’t fret; there are other games to explore. Engage your Labrador in activities that involve less strain, such as hide-and-seek using their toys or a controlled game of fetch using soft toys.

7) Environment Adaptation

Adapting your Labrador’s environment is a pivotal step when their hip score falls within the 6-19/6-19 range. It’s about setting up a living space that not only aids in mitigating further hip damage but also ensures their everyday experiences are filled with ease and comfort.

One of the simplest yet most effective changes is opting for non-slip flooring. Imagine a situation where your Labrador tries to stand up on a slippery tile floor.

Their legs might splay out, causing unnecessary stress on their hips. A solution? Lay out area rugs or rubber-backed mats, particularly in zones where they frequently move about, like near their bed or food bowls.

This provides them with the needed traction and reduces the risk of slipping.

Another subtle yet significant change pertains to their resting spots. Elevate their feeding bowls. Bending down constantly to reach for food can exert pressure on the hips.

Using elevated bowls can make the act of eating more ergonomic for them – minimizing the strain on their hips.

Lastly, consider their favorite lounging spots. For example, if they love looking out the window, ensure it’s easily accessible without the need to jump or stretch too much.

Perhaps place a low stool or cushioned bench near the window that allows them a comfortable perch to indulge in their favorite pastime.

6 Tips On How To Select a Labrador With Strong Genetic Lineage for the Best Hip Score

1) Research the Breeder

Choosing a Labrador with an outstanding genetic lineage, especially when considering hip health is paramount. A significant first step in this journey is to meticulously research the breeder.

When a breeder is reputable and responsible, they prioritize the health of the dogs they raise by ensuring strong genetic lines and conducting regular health checks, including hip evaluations.

For example, you might come across a breeder who openly shares records of health clearances, not just for the puppy you’re interested in, but for several generations back.

This transparency indicates a commitment to breeding healthy Labradors. Another marker of a trustworthy breeder is their affiliation with national or regional Labrador clubs, as these organizations often uphold strict breeding standards.

Then there’s the way a breeder interacts with potential buyers. Genuine breeders will be more than willing to answer questions, may ask you several in return to ensure their pups are going to good homes and will likely have a waiting list due to their high demand – all because they prioritize quality over quantity.

A solid reputation is built over time. Therefore, asking around in local dog communities, vet clinics or even scanning online forums can provide firsthand accounts of experiences with specific breeders.

2) Ask for Hip Score Certificates

One pivotal step in ensuring you select a Labrador with a strong genetic lineage concerning hip health is to directly ask for hip score certificates.

These certificates are more than just pieces of paper; they’re verifiable proof of a dog’s hip health, derived from evaluations by veterinary experts. Now, what’s crucial here is not just to take a glance but to understand what you’re looking at.

For instance, when handed a hip score certificate, look for the breakdown of the score. A Labrador might have a total score of 10, but how is that divided between the left and right hip?

A balanced score, like 5/5, is usually more favorable than an uneven 8/2. This ensures that one hip isn’t disproportionately affected, which could lead to future complications.

Another aspect to consider is how the Labrador’s score compares to the breed average. If the breed average is 12 and your potential Labrador’s score is 10, that’s a good sign.

However, if the score is considerably higher than the average, you might want to reconsider.

Engaging with the breeder about the certificate can also be enlightening. A breeder who patiently explains the scores, talks about the importance of hip health, and shares the scores of previous litters showcases their dedication to breeding healthy dogs.

This not only helps you make an informed decision but also strengthens the bond of trust between you and the breeder.

3) Dive Deep into the Pedigree

The pedigree, often viewed as a dog’s family tree, offers insights into more than just ancestry. It provides a snapshot of the health, traits and potential genetic issues that have been passed down through generations.

For example, if within a pedigree, you find several Labradors who have won conformation competitions, it’s a good indication of strong physical attributes.

On the other hand, a pedigree that highlights multiple dogs with excellent working or field trial achievements indicates not just physical but also mental strength and agility. Remember, both aspects are critical when considering hip health and overall well-being.

Moreover, it’s essential to note any recurring health issues within the lineage. If a specific ailment appears frequently in the lineage, there’s a chance it might be hereditary.

For instance, if you notice that several ancestors had poor hip scores or other joint issues, it could be an early indication of potential hip problems down the line.

Engage with the breeder about the pedigree’s nuances. A responsible breeder will be transparent and provide comprehensive explanations about each ancestor’s health and achievements.

This level of detailed engagement allows you to make an informed decision about the Labrador’s genetic strength which ensures a happy and healthy companion for years to come.

4) Prioritize Lineages with Working

When considering a Labrador’s genetic lineage for the best hip score, prioritizing lineages with a history of working is a wise move. Labradors initially bred as working dogs were selected for their stamina, agility and physical robustness.

These attributes translate directly into the overall health of the dog, including the hip region.

Consider a lineage where Labradors have a history of aiding fishermen. These dogs would repeatedly jump into cold waters, swim against currents and help drag nets filled with fish. Such repetitive, intense activity necessitates strong, healthy hips.

Another example can be drawn from Labradors used in field trials. These dogs sprint, leap and traverse challenging terrains to retrieve game that demands exceptional joint health.

Labradors assisting in search and rescue operations serve as another testament. Navigating uneven, often unpredictable terrains for prolonged hours showcases their impeccable physical health and endurance.

Engaging with breeders and inquire about the working history of the Labrador’s ancestors. Knowing if they were involved in demanding activities can offer clues about their hip health.

This approach not only enhances the probability of selecting a Labrador with a superior hip score but also ensures that you’re bringing home a dog with the hearty constitution that the breed is celebrated for.

5) Seek Recommendations

Seeking recommendations can be a pivotal step when aiming to select a Labrador with a strong genetic lineage for the best hip score.

Word of mouth, often passed down from experienced dog owners or breeders, can provide insights that might not be readily available online or in books.

These individuals, having firsthand experience, can guide you toward breeders and specific lineage that uphold the gold standard for Labrador hip health.

Let’s delve into the power of recommendations. Imagine a family that’s had Labradors for generations. They’ve witnessed the growth, health and aging process of multiple dogs from different lineages. Their recommendation of a particular lineage, based on consistent hip health over the years holds substantial weight.

Similarly, veterinarians often have a broad view of the health of various breeds presented to them. Their advice on selecting Labradors, based on minimal hip issues observed, becomes invaluable.

Lastly, think of dog trainers who work closely with Labradors. Their hands-on experience in observing the mobility, agility and overall physical health of these dogs can lead to quality recommendations.

6) Post-purchase Genetic Testing

Post-purchase genetic testing is an invaluable tool for anyone who wishes to ensure they’ve chosen a Labrador with the most desirable genetic lineage, especially in relation to hip health. It’s like buying a house and then getting a thorough inspection to ensure everything is as promised.

Firstly, genetic testing offers peace of mind. Once you’ve welcomed your new Labrador into your home, testing can confirm if the genetic markers related to hip health are indeed optimal.

For instance, a dog enthusiast once shared that after purchasing what was believed to be a premium lineage Labrador, genetic testing confirmed the absence of genes that could lead to hip dysplasia which solidifies confidence in the purchase.

Secondly, it provides essential foresight. Knowing the genetic makeup of your Labrador can help you preemptively address potential health issues.

An example? A friend was alerted to the predisposition of minor joint issues through genetic testing. This enabled early interventions like tailored exercises and dietary supplements, making a significant difference in the dog’s mobility as it aged.

Lastly, post-purchase genetic testing can be instrumental for future breeding plans. Say you’re considering breeding your Labrador in the future.

Genetic insights will guide you in selecting a mate with complementary genetic strengths that ensures the puppies have the best possible start in life.


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