Hip Dysplasia in Dalmatians

Do you remember when a Dalmatian dog could be seen riding on a fire truck? Or how about the Disney film “101 Dalmatians”? I doubt that as you were watching these magnificent creatures you ever thought that there could be such a thing as hip dysplasia in Dalmatians.

Unfortunately, there is.

Meet the Dalmatians

Dalmatians were bred to chase horse-drawn carriages and were used for this purpose long before they became associated in people’s minds with fire engines and firemen.

They are tough, dependable dogs who are noted for their robust stamina. If you enjoy jogging, a Dalmatian is your perfect companion no matter how far your daily jog takes you, as they are noted for their ability to keep up with the most passionate runner.

Well-trained Dalmatians are gentle and have a quiet bearing. However, they can be energetic and rowdy at times, owing to their incredible energy and stamina, and for this reason they are not necessarily the best pets to own if you have very small children. They do make excellent playmates for older children, and their strong protective instincts make them very effective guard dogs for the entire family.

Dalmatians are people-oriented dogs and should not be left alone in the house for any extended period of time. If they don’t receive enough attention and exercise they become destructive, digging up lawns and gardens, chewing on things you’ve left lying around the house, and worst of all, they’ll bark incessantly if you ignore them for too long.

They are wanderers, and if allowed to roam, they may disappear for days, busy exploring your neighborhood or even half the town. It’s essential that you have a fenced-in yard if you plan on letting them cavort around outside when not on a leash.

Dalmatians mainly shed their coats in the spring and fall, but will keep shedding all year round. Daily brushing of their coats becomes a necessity if you don’t want to spend your days vacuuming the carpets and furniture. Dalmatians are sensitive to cold weather and shouldn’t be left outside in the wintertime.

Dalmatians date back to ancient Egypt where they were used as guard dogs and dogs of war. But Dalmatians really made their name in the 19th century as “coach dogs” due to their natural swiftness and agility. Their kinship with horses made them well suited for following their owner’s horse-drawn carriages and guarding the horses and carriages when the owners went inside.

Dalmatians are medium-sized, well-proportioned dogs with distinctive black spots on a white coat. Most children are familiar with them because they’ve admired their escapades in the Disney movies “Lady and the Tramp” and “101 Dalmatians”.

They have strong muzzles and deep-set eyes. Their strong, arched necks are supported by their deep chests and level backs. Their tails curl up slightly and they have long, well-muscled legs with rounded feet. Their coats are short, dense and sleek.

One interesting fact most people are not aware of –unless they’ve owned a Dalmatian puppy, is that Dalmatians are solid white when they are born and develop their distinctive black spots as they get older.

Dalmatians are very active dogs and must be exercised every day. They make wonderful pets and excellent companions. They are very charming dogs and will follow you everywhere, wanting to be with you all the time.

A healthy Dalmatian can live as long as 12 years. Unfortunately, they are prone to developing hip dysplasia as they grow older.

Hip dysplasia in Dalmatians

Hip dysplasia is a genetic disease that primarily affects large and giant breeds of dogs like the Dalmatian but can also affect medium-sized breeds and occasionally small breeds. It is primarily a disease of purebreds, although it can also occur in mixed breeds.

To understand hip dysplasia in Dalmatians and the resulting arthritis, you need a basic understanding of how the dog’s hip joint is affected.

The hip joint is comprised of a ball and socket that forms the attachment of the hind leg to the body. The ball portion is the head of the femur and the socket is located on the pelvis.

In a normal hip joint the ball rotates freely within the socket. The bones are shaped to perfectly match each other with the socket surrounding the ball. To strengthen the joint, the two bones are held together by a strong ligament. The joint capsule, a strong band of connective tissue, circles the two bones to provide added stability.

This is an example of a normal hip joint:

Hip dysplasia is linked to abnormal joint structure and a laxity of the muscles, connective tissue, and ligaments that would normally support the dog’s hip joints.

As the disease progresses, the articular surfaces of the two bones lose contact with each other. This separation of the two bones within the joint causes a drastic change in the size and shape of the articular surfaces.

Most Dalmatians who eventually develop hip dysplasia are born with normal hips, but due to their genetic make-up the soft tissues surrounding the joint develop abnormally. This leads to the symptoms associated with hip dysplasia. The disease may affect both hips, or only the right or left hip.

This is an example of a hip joint showing the effects of hip dysplasia in Dalmatians:

The symptoms of hip dysplasia cause afflicted dogs to walk or run with an altered gait, similar to a bunny-hop. They begin to resist any movement that requires full extension or flexion of the rear legs. They will experience stiffness and pain in their rear legs after exercising and on first rising in the morning. Climbing stairs becomes difficult if not impossible. Some dogs will limp and are less willing to participate in normal daily activities, including walks they formerly enjoyed.

It appears that the amount of calories a dog consumes, especially during its fast-growth period from three to ten months, has the biggest impact on whether or not a dog genetically prone to hip dysplasia will develop the disease.

Obesity can increase the severity of the disease in dogs that are genetically susceptible and the extra weight will intensify the degeneration of a dog’s joints and hips. Dogs who are genetically prone to hip dysplasia and also are overweight, are at a much higher risk of developing hip dysplasia and eventually osteoarthritis.

Exercise can be another risk factor. Dogs genetically susceptible to hip dysplasia may have an increased incidence of the disease if they are over-exercised at a young age. Moderate exercise like running and swimming is best for exercising young dogs.


Because hip dysplasia is primarily an inherited condition, there are no products that can prevent its development.

Through proper diet, exercise, and a daily regimen of Winston’s Joint System, you can slow, and sometimes halt, the progression of these degenerative joint diseases while providing your dog with relief from its pain. Winston’s provides many of the raw materials essential for the synthesis of the joint-lubricating synovial fluid as well as the repair of articular cartilage and connective tissue.

You might also want to consider providing your dog with an orthopedic bed which distributes the dog’s weight evenly and reduces pressure on its joints.

If owners insisted on only purchasing an animal whose parents and grandparents were certified to have good or excellent hips, and if breeders only bred these first-rate animals, then the majority of the problems caused by hip dysplasia would be eliminated.

If you are looking to purchase a Dalmatian now or in the future, the best way to lessen the possibility of getting a dog that will develop hip dysplasia is to examine the incidence of hip dysplasia in the dog’s lineage. If at all possible, try to examine the parents and grandparents as far back as three or four generations.

There are different assumptions on how to prevent the progression of hip dysplasia in Dalmatians.

Poor nutrition, inadequate or improper exercise, and increased body weight may all contribute to the severity of osteoarthritis after the hip dysplasia has developed. Watching the calories your puppy or young dog consumes and preventing obesity in your dog, allowing only non-stressful types of exercise, and a daily regimen of Winston’s Joint System, are the best things you can do for your dog.

Since 1990, Winston’s Joint System and Winston’s Pain Formula have helped heal over twenty thousand dogs from all over the world. Our staff specializes in hip dysplasia, arthritis and all joint, pain and mobility issues.

There is an excellent chance we can help your dog, so please contact us at: www.dogshealth.com or call our toll free number at 888-901-5557.