A 10-year Norwegian study has shown that a number of environmental factors can affect the incidence of hip dysplasia (HD) in dogs.
It is particularly during the period from birth to three months that various environmental factors appear to influence the development of this disease. Randi I. Krontveit’s doctoral research studied the incidence of HD in four breeds of dog. Dogs are not born with HD, but genetically disposed puppies can develop it to varying degrees. 500 dogs participated in the study and the 4 breeds investigated were the Newfoundland, the Labrador Retriever, the Leonberger and the Irish Wolfhound. Puppies born in the spring or summer and at breeders who lived on a farm had a lower risk of developing HD. After about 8 weeks, the puppies began life with their new owner and the opportunity to exercise daily in parks up until the age of 3 months reduced the risk of HD, whereas the daily use of steps or stairs during the same period increased the risk. Overall, it would appear that daily exercise outside in gently undulating terrain up until the age of three months gives a good prognosis when it comes to preventing HD.
The dogs in this study were followed up until they reached 10 years of age. Dogs seriously affected by HD were put down earlier than dogs with a milder form of the disease. This was particularly the case for Newfoundlands and Leonbergers. Serious and moderate degrees of HD increased the risk of symptoms such as limping and hip pain and these symptoms occurred earliest in Newfoundlands. The Labrador Retriever was the breed in which symptoms appeared latest in life. Varied exercise had a positive effect and dogs that exercised on a daily basis on a lead and running free in different types of terrain were free of symptoms longer than dogs that were less active.
Of course for urban dwellers this advice could be difficult to follow as depending upon which vaccination regime they suggest, your vet will probably advise that your puppy is kept away from open areas frequented by other dogs until his vaccinations are effective. So discuss your options with your vet who may be able to recommend a suitable spot.