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Will my Labrador’s hips cause her problems in the field?

A reader is worried he is putting his gundog at risk

Pedigree dog health

Labrador hips cause concern

Q: I have a four-year-old Labrador bitch that I had intended breeding from, but her hip scores have turned out to be higher than we expected — not too bad but not good enough that we feel we should breed from her. However, I am now concerned that as my shooting dog and the fact that she has to pick-up over some testing ground, I may be putting her at risk because of her hips. She is and always has been active, agile and healthy. What do you think we should do?

A: You are doing the right thing by not breeding from her. Continuing with her as a shooting dog should be fine, given that you say she remains agile and keen to do the job and clearly the vet would have given you some precise advice if it were thought her lifestyle must change.

We have all known shooting dogs that have been hip tested and have continued gundog work well into their latter years, despite X-rays that advised they should not be bred from. The hip issue is a constant among breeders who strive for low hip scores in their dogs. Because you are now aware of her hip situation, you can implement certain approaches to her life that will hopefully enable her to continue working and enjoying her days out 
with you.

You say you have testing ground on your shooting days. It would therefore be advisable not to put her into situations where she may be more at risk from strain or injury, to which she may become more prone as she gets older. There’s no need to wrap her in cotton wool but simply be mindful of her vulnerability. If there are birds to 
be picked that you know will ask a lot 
of any dog, not only her, try to avoid them if possible.

On the practical side, give her a joint supplement — there are many on the market — or speak to your vet. Make sure she is well dried off at lunchtime on a shoot day if there is a break and conditions have been wet. You don’t want her to be chilled — you could consider a fleece jacket for her when 
she has finished her working day for 
the journey home.

And depending on what you do with her outside the shooting season, it would definitely be worth taking her to a dog hydrotherapy pool from time to time — and certainly in the build up to the season — as an aid to getting her fit and supple. Remember that the information you have about her hips can be used positively if you have the right approach to her management. JH