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Hip Dysplasia, Castro-Castalia Bullmastiffs
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Hip Dysplasia, Castro-Castalia Bullmastiffs

Malcom X de Castro-Castalia

Canine Hip Dysplasia (HD) is an orthopaedic disease caused by an abnormal formation of the hip that leads to looseness in the joint, thus causing damage in the surrounding cartilage. As a consequence of the damage caused to the cartilage, arthritis (from mild to severe) can result and when this happens depending on the severity of the symptoms it can be crippling. Yet it must be outlined that HD is not the same thing as arthritis of the hip, although it is the most usual cause for arthritis to happen in the hip.

In order to better understand the condition, it should be said that when a dog has HD, it shows an abnormal development of the ball-in-socket (known as thighbone or femur’s head) joint. In an abnormal hip, the thighbone will not fit well into the socket (the acetabulum), causing painful and sometimes damaging friction in the joint when the dog moves, causing strain in the joint capsule. With the onset of this straining, the cartilage is damaged, leading to the release of inflammatory proteins within the joint, leading to a cycle of cartilage destruction, inflammation and pain, all of these symptoms being associated with arthritis.

Hip Dysplasia, Castro-Castalia BullmastiffsHip Dysplasia, Castro-Castalia Bullmastiffs

It ought to be said that not all dysplastic dogs will show the same symptoms and in fact the condition shows many different clinical signs. Some dogs will get it early in life, others wont until very late and many will never suffer it while others, although having all the symptoms will never show any signs of pain or discomfort.

There are usually two types of HD; an acute or early stage, which affects young dogs, that will show intense pain an the hips with mild to severe lameness and a chronic or late stage, in which there is pain, decreased rage of motion in the hips and the onset of progressive arthritis; chronic HD usually develops in dogs of a year of age or more and sometimes as late as five or six years.

It is known today that HD can be passed on genetically although there are many other factors that interfere in its happening. It is more common amongst large and giant breed dogs, although it can also be seen in smaller breeds quite often, including mixed breed dogs as well.

Like I’ve just said, HD should be considered as a hereditary disease, passed through genes and the chances are that an affected dog mated with another affected dog will produce dysplastic progeny. Nevertheless and this needs to be emphasized, it is now known and confirmed that there are many other environmental factors that play a role in the onset of Hip Dysplasia and in fact many experts are now admitting that the percentage of “inherited” cases may not represent more than a 20 to 25% of all the cases, while external factors may be blamed for the rest.

Obesity is accepted now as one of the highest risk factors in addition to over-supplemented commercial dog food (with a surplus in proteins, vitamins and minerals) that it meant to make puppies grow too fast and too big, at a too early stage of their lives.

With all this in mind, it is very important that responsible breeders and owners take this condition seriously enough and keep in mind the importance of selective and careful breeding using only HD-free studs and broods or a proper combination of dogs only mildly affected by the condition, as stated before, just as much as bearing in mind the importance of a carefully planned diet that will not force rapid growth in the puppy.

Bullmastiffs like most of all large breed dogs, can be affected by this disease and it is important that all studs and broodbitches are checked prior to being used for breeding; otherwise this painful and sometimes crippling disease will go on in the gene pool for ever.

I would like to emphasize, after many years of careful selection and breeding, that all the CASTRO-CASTALIA puppies are fed with a strict low protein diet from weaning time and, although they grow a lot more slowly than their counterparts, at the end, when females are approximately 15 to 20 months old and males anything from 3 to 4,5 years, they reach the same adult size than any other typical Bullmastiff.

The owners of all CASTRO-CATALIA puppies are specifically told to use a specific diet (the one of my choice) that I know will ensure proper slow growth (Nutro Choice). The good news are that they will have a considerably reduced likelihood of developing arthritis and HD.

In fact, I can proudly state that the vast majority of the CASTRO-CASTALIA Bullmastiffs are rated as carrying Grade A, A2 and occasionally B hips*.

The FCI has set up a description of the different grades of Hip Dysplasia:


According to the F.C.I., Fédèration Cynologique Internationale

Grade A. No signs of Hip Dysplasia (A / A2)
The femural head and the acetabulum are congruent and the acetabular angle according to Norberg is 105º or more. The craneolateral rim appears sharp and slightly rounded. The joint space is narrow and even. In excellent hip joints the craniolateral rim encircles the femoral head somewhat more in laterocaudal direction. The articular space is uniform and narrow.

Grade B. Transitional or borderline hip joints
The femoral head and the acetabulum are slightly incongruent and the acetabular angle according to Norbert is 105º or more, or the acetabular angle according to Norberg is less than 105º but the femoral head and the acetabulum are congruent.

Grade C. Mild hip dysplasia
The femoral head and the acetabulum are incongruent, the acetabular angle according to Norbert is more than 100º and/or there is a slightly flattened craniolateral rim. Slight irregularities of the margo acetabularis cranialis, caudalis or dorsalis or on the femoral head and neck.

Grade D. Moderate hip dysplasia
Obvious incongruence between the femoral head and the acetabulum with subluxation. Acetabular angle according to Norberg more than 90º (only as reference). Flattening of the craniolateral rim.

Grade E. Severe hip dysplasia
Marked dysplastic changes of the hip joints, such as luxation or distinct subluxation, acetabular angle according to Norberg less than 90º, obvious flattening of the margo acetabularis cranialis, deformation of the femoral head (mushroom shaped, flattening).

It is understood that dogs with A, B and C grading can be used indistinctively with others that are also identified as A, B or C. Grade D dogs should only be mated exceptionally and when doing so, only with A or B dogs. Grade E dogs should not be used for breeding.

(*) In the past decade, only two puppies have been diagnosed with B+C hips in one case and C+E hips in the other although in both cases parents, grand parents and great grand parents were HD-free; it ought to be mentioned that in both cases the dogs were obese, both lived with young kinds and their respective owners admitted that they had been largely  over exercised, when they showed mild limping associated with an HD condition that was diagnosed by x-rays under sedation. In both cases, HD signs dramatically improved when the dogs were treated with chondroprotectors, their weight down to normal standards according to their ages and the exercise limited and they both lead a normal life with no pain or crippling symptoms.

(Original text written by Christina of Lima-Netto and Federico Baudin specifically for this web page and protected with Copyright. Not even whole can be reproduced not partially by any way, without Castro-Castalia's express assent in writing)


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