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An Overview of OFA's Canine Hip Certification

An Overview of OFA's Canine Hip Certification

Getting your dog's hips certified sounds like going overboard, but it's actually a valuable insight into the future of your dog's mobility and quality of life. Hip dysplasia causes major problems, but catching it early can make a huge difference to your dog.
DogAppy Staff
Did You Know?
According to the OFA hip dysplasia statistics, the Bulldog is ranked No. 1 with 72% for being the most dysplastic, whereas the Italian Greyhound has been ranked No. 168 with 0% hip dysplasia!
If you're looking for a dog or are looking to breed your dog, OFA certification should be a part of your vocabulary. OFA stands for the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, and the group's certification gives you insight into the quality of your dog's hips. They screen for other congenital diseases as well, but hip screening is where they got their start, and is still their most popular service.
Hip Dysplasia
In short, OFA looks for signs of hip dysplasia in the X-rays of dogs. Hip dysplasia is a condition in which the ball of the joint doesn't sit securely in the socket. It creates 'loose' hips, which get progressively worse over the dog's lifetime, causing painful arthritis and eventually leading to loss of mobility. It is a heritable condition, and responsible breeders will not breed a dog with hip dysplasia.
Certain breeds are more prone than others―72% of all English Bulldogs are affected, as well as 67% of Pugs and 47% of Saint Bernards, but no breed is immune. If you're going to spend the money on a purebred dog, inquire to see the OFA certification of the parents. A responsible breeder will be happy to show you, and if they don't want to show you, either there's something wrong with their breeding stock or they don't care enough to check. Either way, you don't want their puppy.
Getting Certified
A dog's hips can be analyzed for certification when they reach 24 months of age. Before then, the hips are not fully formed and in their final state. Preliminary certification can be done earlier, but because problems could arise or resolve themselves until two years of age, final certification will not be given until then.
The hips are analyzed by way of X-rays. As you can imagine, a two-year-old dog isn't especially keen to hold still enough to get a clear image, so moderate anesthesia is recommended. This sedates the dog so that he'll stay still, but it also relaxes his muscles enough that the hips can be manipulated into the best position for analysis. The X-rays take only a minute, but your dog may be required to stay at the clinic for the day to allow the sedative to wear off in a controlled environment.
The Analysis
The X-rays are sent to the OFA facility, where they are reviewed by a series of radiologists. Each radiologist submits her analysis independently, and the final grade given is an average of all the analyses received. They look to make sure the ball is securely within the socket, and that the walls of the socket almost completely ensconce the ball. They look for changes in the surrounding bone structure and density, and any other signs that something is amiss. They also note incidental findings, like spinal stenosis that may show up on the X-ray but are unrelated to the hips.
The Results
Your dog's hips will be given a grade. Healthy hips will be graded as excellent, good, or fair, depending upon how structurally sound they appear and how closely they conform to the breed standard. A borderline grade means that although dysplasia is not definitively present, the hips are not exactly healthy either. Hips that are found to be dysplastic are graded mild, moderate, or severe, according to the severity of the condition.
OFA Fee for Hip Certification
OFA hip certification fee for dogs that are 24 months of age or older is USD 35. The litter rate, which includes any three or more dogs from the same litter is USD 90, and the kennel rate for five or more dogs submitted for certification is USD 15 ea. Dogs with prior hip dysplasia certification, will not be charged for a Legg-Calve-Perthes certification upon the submission of the Hip Dysplasia Number form.
If your dog is found to have hip dysplasia, there is no cure, but there are treatment options. Canine pain relievers can help, and glucosamine can help keep the joint healthy. Watching your dog's weight will keep extra strain off the joint, and physical therapy like hydrotherapy can help keep your dog mobile. Speak with your veterinarian about your options, or see a canine orthopedist if you have one locally.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only and should not be substituted for the advice of a qualified veterinarian.