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We are now recommending radiographs and palpation of all susceptible breeds of puppies at three and a half to four months of age. The reason to check puppies so young is so we can do a surgery called juvenile pelvic symphysiodesis (JPS) if the puppy is affected. JPS can easily improve hip conformation in affected puppies, to prevent lifelong arthritis and pain.

The puppies need heavy sedation or anaesthesia for the radiographs and palpation. If desexing is required this can be done at the same time to decrease the cost and the need for another anaesthetic.

Hip Dyplasia is a laxity in the hips causing the ball to be loose in the socket during weight bearing. The excess movement causes rapid wear and tear leading to pain and early onset of arthritis.

Radiographs, even at a young age can now predict accurately which puppies will go on to have problems. Figures tell us this is about 30% of German Shepherds, 20% of Golden Retrievers and Rottweillers and 15% of Labradors. If the diagnosis is made at a young age the pup can have a small surgery (JPS) that can significantly improve the shape of the hip. Radiographs must be done under sedation or anaesthesia and entail a distraction view, where the hips are gently pulled away from the sockets to demonstrate the degree of laxity. A “Distraction Index” can be calculated which gives a reliable prediction of future hip problems.

In animals to be considered for breeding the hip radiographs must be done by a certified “Penn Hip” radiologist such as our specialist Dr Graeme Allan.


JPS relies on potential growth to work – hence is not applicable to dogs over four and a half months of age. The surgery entails applying electrocautery to the pubic symphysis growth area which stops the area growing. As the rest of the pelvis grows this leads to a change in the angle of orientation of the acetabulums (sockets) giving better stability in the hips.


Several studies have now proved the effectiveness of JPS – the main problem in applying the surgery is diagnosing the puppies at the young enough. If hip dysplasia is not diagnosed when young the dogs will begin so show symptoms from about 6 months of age. By this time it is too late to treat with JPS and a much more complicated although still useful surgery called a Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (TPO) can be performed. In adult dogs with hip dysplasia we can often manage the arthritis and pain medically and if this is inadequate a Total Hip Replacement (THR) can be done. If you would like to have your puppy evaluated please make an appointment to see one of the surgeons Dr John Culvenor or Dr Craig Bailey.