Huntaways’ hip dysplasia focus of study

Dr Alanda Rafferty, of Havelock North, wants to hear from Huntaway owners in the southern region...
Dr Alanda Rafferty, of Havelock North, wants to hear from Huntaway owners in the southern region who could offer their dogs for assessment of hip laxity, as part of a study into the prevalence of hip dysplasia in the breed. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
The hunt is on for huntaways.

Havelock North veterinarian Dr Alanda Rafferty is looking for huntaways from the southern region to take part in the study for her master’s degree in veterinary medicine dissertation.

Nearly 40% of huntaways used in a national hip dysplasia study have or are likely to develop the condition, she said.

She has been researching the condition in dogs from throughout the country, including Ranfurly, and is keen to add more subjects.

The procedure is free and if anyone wished to have dogs take part, they could talk to a VetEnt clinic.

"I wanted something that would be worthwhile, and this fitted the bill.

"I am trying to get a representative population of all huntaways in New Zealand, which is why having more from Otago and Southland will be good," she said.

The study follows on from another carried out by a vet several years ago, which showed huntaways were more prone to the condition than heading dogs.

The dogs for this study need to be between 2 and 10 years old, healthy, and able to have half a day off work.

She uses a "PennHIP" method of assessing hips for laxity on dogs as young as 16 weeks and it estimates the risk of developing osteoarthritis or canine hip dysplasia later in life.

Older dogs undergo radiography.

She has radiographed 180 dogs’ pelvises and hips,
and assessed laxity or looseness.

The preliminary analysis of the first 80 dogs show 38.4% have hip laxity, which can lead to dysplasia later in life or which may be already showing signs.

"My study aims to create this awareness and hopefully reduce the prevalence of the disease in the population. The looser the hips, the more likely the dog is of the disease progressing and leading to arthritis."

Both genetic and environmental factors are involved in the expression of the disease as well as being overfed or overweight or if males are desexed before they are skeletally mature.

"However, in the working huntaway this is not the concern, as working dogs are rarely overweight and are hardly ever desexed."

Dr Rafferty was looking at whether excessive exercise prior to skeletal maturity could be a factor.

"They are active and run long distances and up and down hills every day.

"Laxity in the hip joints causes wear of the joint surfaces and leads to pain and lameness and in the end, decreases the working life of the dog, leading to early retirement or euthanasia."

She hopes to publish the results and also make the farming community aware of how big a problem it is in huntaways, and encourage the dog owners to realise how unwise it is to breed dogs with hip issues, despite showing promise in working or trialling.

"In the long term it will benefit both the breed, the individual dogs and the farmers, who will have dogs that are able to work without pain and provide a longer duration of service to the shepherd."


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