This condition affects the hip joint and many breeds may be affected to some degree.

               Puppy with suspected HD showing weak back end and poor stance with cow-hocks

The first signs of a structural or mobility problem attributed to Hip Dysplasia are most commonly noticed by the owner when the puppy is between four and eight months old.  Abnormal appearance of the hind limbs and stance may be the first indication that there may be a problem.  The puppy may show signs of difficulty in rising from a sit or down position, or perhaps show a peculiar swaying gait with the hind legs tucked under the body in an effort to transfer the bodyweight forward to reduce discomfort.

The vast majority of affected dogs go on to lead a normal or near normal life as maturity will bring muscle development and strength and careful management coupled with an appropriate exercise regime can greatly improve balance and coordination which will compensate for joint laxity or deformity. Many dogs who have been diagnosed with Hip Dysplasia appeared perfectly sound and healthy and only upon routine x-ray examination was poor hip formation discovered. 


HD is thought to have a genetic component, but growth rate, exercise, feeding and general management
factors are believed to have a substantial influence in the escalation or minimisation of symptoms of affected dogs. Breeders of breeds known to be affected with HD are recommended to x-ray all potential breeding stock and submit the x-rays to the scoring scheme before using those dogs for breeding, and then to select only dogs who have normal hip formation to breed from.

The official pdf document explaining the British Veterinary Association/Kennel Club (BVA/KC) Hip Dysplasia Scheme can be viewed here;

Dogs must be a minimum of one year old at time of x-ray for the resulting radiographs to be given an official score. The dog will be taken to the vet where the dog where a general anaesthetic or a sedative will be administered and an x ray of the hips will be taken. The official Kennel Club Registration Certificate of that dog
will also need to be presented to the vet plus proof of the dog’s identity (microchip or tattoo identification for dogs is mandatory for the Canine Health Schemes commencing 1st January 2010) and the radiograph will then be despatched to the British Veterinary Association whereby the BVA/KC HD Scheme
scrutineers will evaluate the radiograph and award a score.

The official pdf document explaining the BVA/KC Hip Scheme procedure can be viewed here;

A score ranging from 0 to 53 can be allotted to each hip giving a total maximum score of 106.

The score reflects the level of normality and deformity of the hip joint(s).  The lower the score the better.

A score of 0 would be attributed to ‘perfect’ or near-perfect hip formation with no (or minimal) sign of

A score of 53 (the maximum/worst possible score for each hip) would reflect the maximum level of

An owner may state that their dog has a hip score of 10 + 12 which translates as the score for
each hip (10 out of a maximum  of 53 plus 12 out of a maximum of 53)
or the owner may state that the dog has a score of 22 – the total of both hip scores combined (out of a maximum of 53 + 53 = 106)

It is impossible for any breeder to guarantee soundness in any Bernese puppy, even those bred from
parents with normal hips but breeding from sound dogs with normal growth patterns and conformation is to be encouraged. A Bernese which suffered hip lameness or inhibited mobility should not be bred from. 

PLEASE NOTE: There is NO consistent, visible correlation between hip score and actual physical soundness – some dogs with low (good) scores may have have an awkward or unsound gait whilst some dogs with high (poor) scores appear to be very sound with uninhibited mobility.

The most recent published hip score data for Bernese (2010) is a ‘mean’ score of 15 (a combined score for both hips) – and that figure may vary by a fraction from year to year. Many people believe the ACTUAL average or mean hip score is likely to be at least double that figure – due to selective submission of mostly potentially low scoring x-ray plates for scoring.

The official pdf document containing the BVA/KC mean scores for various breeds can be viewed here;

             More information about Canine Hip Dysplasia can be found 
                on the Bernese Mountain Dog Health Links page at




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