Hip and Elbow Dysplasia in Mastiffs

Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD) is an orthopedic problem which can result in remodeling of the femur, wearing away of the acetabulum, and cause arthritic changes in the hip joints. Although Canine Hip Dysplasia is primarily an inherited defect, the severity of the disease can be influenced by environmental factors, i.e.; growth rate, diet, and exercise. Based on MCOA Health Surveys, Canine Hip Dysplasia is one of the primary health problems in Mastiffs.

Hip Dysplasia can be a very painful condition and the animal can become weak and lame in the hind quarters due to pain associated with the degeneration of the hips. Canine Elbow Dysplasia is a generic name given to describe arthritis or degenerative joint disease (DJD) in the elbows of dogs. There are three main types of Canine Elbow Dysplasia and affected dogs can have one or two or all three depending on the severity of the Elbow Dysplasia and the number of genes and environmental influences. The three descriptions are: FCP, OCD, and UAP which all can cause lameness and pain.

  • Fragmented Coronoid Process (FCP): This form of elbow dysplasia is generally the most difficult to treat if the fragments are actually loose in the joint.
  • Osteochrondritis Dissecans (OCD): A defect in the joint cartilage overlaying or attaching to the bone. OCD most commonly occurs in the elbows, shoulders, hocks and stifles.
  • Ununited Anconeal Process (UAP): In giant breeds such as Mastiffs the Anconeal Process can close later than in smaller breeds, often as late as one year of age or older.

There are several excellent articles explaining Canine Hip & Elbow Dysplasia in detail listed below under the “Resources” section. Early preventive steps can be a key in reducing the severity of expression of Canine Hip and Elbow Dysplasia such as:

  • Maintaining a slow growth rate and good muscle tone
  • Watching the nutrients in the dog’s diet and not over supplementing
  • Never allowing the Mastiff to become over weight
  • Trying to discourage the Mastiff from rough house playing and avoiding excessive jumping

Hip & Elbow Registries

Today there are several screening techniques and certifying agencies available to help breeders eliminate affected dogs from their breeding programs including the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA – Hips and Elbows) and of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program (PennHIP – Hips Only) here in the USA. While there are differing opinions as to which one uses the best or most accurate techniques, each provides breeders with a method for assessing the actual structure of their dog’s hip joints. For more information on current screening techniques you can reference the various websites listed below.

Until there are DNA tests available to determine which dogs are genetically affected or carries, Hip and Elbow Dysplasia will continue to plague our Breed and the only way for now to keep it in check is to at least know who the affected dogs are and avoid breeding the affected dogs. It is also very important that breeders, stud dog owners and puppy buyers fully understand each agency’s evaluation ratings and which results are recommended for breeding and which results are not and to follow the recommendations of the testing agency that we use.

The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) Hip Statistics

Coming Soon!

The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) Elbow Statistics

Coming Soon!

The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals Hip & Elbow Breeding Recommendations

The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals recommends only breeding dogs that have OFA Certified Normal Hips and Elbows that are free of arthritis or dysplasia and subluxation or instability (loose, dislocated or misaligned joint sockets).

OFA will only certify OFA Hips and Elbows on permanent evaluations done at 24 months of age or older. This is especially important with Giant Breed dogs such as Mastiffs.

OFA evaluations before the age of 2 years are considered preliminary evaluations only and OFA recommends that the dog be re-evaluated at or after 2 years of age for permanent certification before breeding the animal.


OFA’s Recommended Breeding Guidelines

  • Breed normal to normal
  • Breed normals with normal ancestry
  • Breed normals from litters (brothers/sisters) with a low incidence of HD
  • Select a sire that produces a low incidence of HD
  • Replace dogs with dogs that are better than the breed average

Orthopedic Foundation for Animals Test Results Verification

You can look up Mastiffs on the OFA Website to verify if they have passed their hip and elbow tests along with other health registries. You can also look up the testing results of the dog’s parents, offspring, full siblings, and half siblings… The OFA database search engine is an excellent tool to not only verify that certain tests were done, but to verify the results of each test and to verify that the tests were done at the appropriate age for each registry.

This information is invaluable when you are trying to decide on a puppy from a potential breeder or when deciding on a sire or dam for a future litter. You can also search for dogs using a popular Kennel Name to see the testing history behind popular lines…

University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program (PennHIP) Statistics

  • From 1988-2008 there were 622 Mastiffs in the PennHIP database with a Distraction Index (DI) ranging from 0.17 to 1.00
  • 25th percentile: 0.58 DI
  • 50th percentile: 0.48 DI
  • 60th percentile: 0.46 DI
  • 75th percentile: 0.41 DI
From January 1st through December 31st, 2008 there were 61 Mastiffs added to the PennHIP database with DIs ranging from 0.21 to .83.

University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program Breeding Recommendations

PennHIP’s breeding recommendations for Mastiffs and all other breeds is to only use those with a DI in the 60th percentile or higher, meaning for the Mastiffs at the moment with a DI of 0.46 or lower (lower DI = tighter- meaning all dogs with DIs from 0.0 to 0.46). If a dog has evidence of degenerative joint disease (DJD), also known as osteoarthritis on the hip x-rays it is considered “confirmed hip dysplasia” and should therefore not be bred.

PennHIP recommends only breeding Mastiffs with a Hip Distraction Index (DI) from 0.0 to 0.46 with NO evidence of Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD)

Not all dogs with Canine Hip Dysplasia are doomed to live a crippled existence!

Some dogs whose radiographs show obvious signs of Canine Hip Dysplasia live active happy lives without surgical intervention and sometimes without any treatment at all. If, unfortunately, yours does not fall into that category there are many treatment options to consider. Please do some research and look at a few of the non-surgical treatments that are available such as Acupuncture, Chiropractic Adjustment and Nutraceutical Supplement Therapy. These alternative therapies have helped a great many dogs with Canine Hip Dysplasia lead a relatively pain free life.

It is important that you consult with your Veterinarians before giving your Mastiffs any type of supplements to make sure they are safe for your dogs.

Some surgical options can only be performed at a young age and your dog’s size, activity level, pain tolerance, and the fact that Mastiffs are a Giant Breed dog with a very rapid growth rate should be considered when you discuss options with your Veterinarian. The OFA: Hip Dysplasia Treatment Options website has an excellent general overview of various treatment options and procedures they may help a Mastiff with hip problems. A well educated Veterinarian that is experienced in giant breed dogs is your best source for options for your dog. Please keep in mind that Board Certified Surgeons are just that, “surgeons”. Please do your homework and get second opinions before doing surgery for CHD. For those times when a little ‘help’ may be necessary please refer to the web sites listed at the bottom of this page under “Mobility Assistance Items” for harnesses, slings, traction boots, support carts, etc.

Treatment and Care Of Hips & Elbow Problems

Mobility Assistance Items

Helpful Resources

Updated: 2/21/2023