Hip Scoring is an important test to run on any possible breeding stock. The result tells you how good, or bad, the hip joints of the dog are. It has long since been realised that dogs, like people, can suffer from hip problems and that these problems tend to run in families, suggesting a degree of genetic hereditability. Hip scoring was first started in 1965 with the aim of promoting the breeding of dogs with good hips, thus eradicating bad hips.
The hip joint is what is termed a ball-and-socket joint, with the ball (Femoral head) being the top end of the thigh bone (Femur) and the socket being the pelvis. The degree of abnormal shaping of either the ball or the socket, or putting it another way, the degree of Hip Dysplasia, is what is recorded in a hip score.
The process of hip scoring involves the dog having an X-ray taken of both hips which the vet then submits to a panel of experts at the British Veterinary Association (BVA) for evaluation. There are 9 points on the hip joint that are assessed with marks being awarded for any deviation from perfect. Therefore a perfect hip joint has a score of 0 and the worst possible score for a single joint is 53. A score is given for each hip and is written as right hip/left hip (e.g. 0/0 for a perfect score; 53/53 for the worst possible). This score is often given as a single figure, being the sum of the right and left scores, resulting in hip scores ranging from 0 to 106. Bear in mind, however, that this doesn’t always show the bigger picture as a dog scored as 12 (for example) could be a 6/6 dog, but it could also be a 10/2 dog.
The BVA has been recording the results of these hip scores for many years and produce information to show the current hip score average for all breeds (BVA Breed Specific Standards Document). At the time of writing the breed averages (5yr mean) for the Border Collie, Cocker Spaniel and Labrador Retriever were 12, 11 and 12 respectively. If you want further information on the BVA Hip Scheme please see their webpage – http://www.bva.co.uk/Hip_Scheme.aspx.
Finally, please remember to bear in mind that although genetics plays an important role in hips, there are always other, environmental factors that cause an affect too. If possible, it is good to be able to see hip scores for the parents and grand-parents of a dog to give you a trend over time.