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Health & Public Education



All breeds of dogs have some type of health related issues.  This page was designed to show what each test is for and descriptions for each condition.  Do a little research and be educated before you purchase a puppy. 


The Dysplastic Joint

Hip Dysplasia is a terrible genetic disease because of the various degrees of arthritis (also called degenerative joint disease, arthrosis, osteoarthrosis) it can eventually produce, leading to pain and debilitation.

The very first step in the development of arthritis is articular cartilage (the type of cartilage lining the joint) damage due to the inherited bad biomechanics of an abnormally developed hip joint. Traumatic articular fracture through the joint surface is another way cartilage is damaged. With cartilage damage, lots of degradative enzymes are released into the joint. These enzymes degrade and decrease the synthesis of important constituent molecules that form hyaline cartilage called proteoglycans. This causes the cartilage to lose its thickness and elasticity, which are important in absorbing mechanical loads placed across the joint during movement. Eventually, more debris and enzymes spill into the joint fluid and destroy molecules called glycosaminoglycan and hyaluronate which are important precursors that form the cartilage proteoglycans. The joint's lubrication and ability to block inflammatory cells are lost and the debris-tainted joint fluid loses its ability to properly nourish the cartilage through impairment of nutrient-waste exchange across the joint cartilage cells. The damage then spreads to the synovial membrane lining the joint capsule and more degradative enzymes and inflammatory cells stream into the joint. Full thickness loss of cartilage allows the synovial fluid to contact nerve endings in the subchondral bone, resulting in pain. In an attempt to stabilize the joint to decrease the pain, the animal's body produces new bone at the edges of the joint surface, joint capsule, ligament and muscle attachments (bone spurs). The joint capsule also eventually thickens and the joint's range of motion decreases.
No one can predict when or even if a dysplastic dog will start showing clinical signs of lameness due to pain. There are multiple environmental factors such as caloric intake, level of exercise, and weather that can affect the severity of clinical signs and phenotypic expression (radiographic changes). There is no rhyme or reason to the severity of radiographic changes correlated with the clinical findings. There are a number of dysplastic dogs with severe arthritis that run, jump, and play as if nothing is wrong and some dogs with barely any arthritic radiographic changes that are severely lame.


Normal Hip Conformation          


Dysplastic Hip Conformation


Breeders and the OFA
Progress in hip joint phenotype of dogs in the United States between the 1970's and early 1990's has been shown through results of a retrospective study using the OFA data base. This improvement was evident as an increase in the percentage of dogs classified as having excellent hip joint phenotype and a decrease in the percentage of dogs classified as having hip dysplasia (HD). The increase in percentage of dogs classified as having excellent hip joint phenotype was greater for German Shepherd dogs, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and Rottweilers than for all dog breeds combined. In addition, the submission screening rate for these four breeds was higher than the screening rate for all dogs. Within these four breeds, the improvement was greatest for Rottweilers, which also had the highest screening rate.

Overall, low screening rates for breeds found in this study offer some insight into the problems involved with reducing the incidence of HD. The typical dog breeder is involved in breeding dogs for about five years. Thus, informed, experienced breeders are continually replaced with uninformed, inexperienced breeders who may not be as aware of the problems associated with HD or of the importance of participating in a screening program. In addition, many breeders choose which dogs they breed on the basis of the hip phenotype of individual dogs without knowledge of the phenotype of related dogs or previous offspring. It can be very difficult to get hip information on siblings and previous offspring due to the overall low number of dogs radiographed in a given litter (most dogs in a litter end up in pet homes). This is the slowest method of reducing the incidence of an undesirable trait or increasing the incidence of a desirable trait. The use of preliminary radiographs as early as 4 months of age can be used by breeders to add valuable information on the hip status of dogs they choose to use in a breeding program.

What can breeders do?
Hip dysplasia appears to be perpetuated by breeder imposed breeding practices, but when breeders and their breed clubs recognize HD as a problem and establish reduction of HD as a priority, improvement of the hip status can be accomplished without jeopardizing other desirable traits. Prospective buyers should check pedigrees and/or verify health issues with the breeder. If suitable documentation is not available, assume the worst until proven otherwise.

Do not ignore the dog with a fair hip evaluation. The dog is still within normal limits. For example; a dog with fair hips but with a strong hip background and over 75% of its brothers and sisters being normal is a good breeding prospect. A dog with excellent hips, but with a weak family background and less than 75% of its brothers and sisters being normal is a poor breeding prospect.

OFA's Recommended Breeding Principals

Breed normals to normals
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

*Above information from the OFA web site








Dedicated to the elimination of heritable eye disease
in purebred dogs through registration and research.


The Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) is an organization that was founded by a group of concerned, purebred owner/breeders who recognized that the quality of their dog's lives were being affected by heritable eye disease. CERF was then established in conjunction with cooperating, board certified, veterinary ophthalmologists, as a means to accomplish the goal of elimination of heritable eye disease in all purebred dogs by forming a centralized, national registry.

The CERF Registry not only registers those dog's certified free of heritable eye disease by members of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (A.C.V.O. ), but also collects data on all dogs examined by A.C.V.O. Diplomates. This data is used to form the CERF data base which is useful in researching trends in eye disease and breed susceptibility. Not only is this data useful to clinicians and students of ophthalmology, but to interested breed clubs and individual breeders and owners of specific breeds.


After the painless examination of the dogs eyes, the A.C.V.O. Diplomate will complete the CERF form and indicate any specific disease(s) found. Breeding advice will be offered based on guidelines established for that particular breed by the genetics Committee of the A.C.V.O. Bear in mind that CERF and the A.C.V.O. are separate, but cooperating entities. The A.C.V.O only provides their professional services and expertise to ensure that uniform standards are upheld for the certification of dog's eyes with the CERF organization.

If the dog is certified to be free of heritable eye disease, you can then send in the completed owner's copy of the CERF form with the appropriate fee ($15.00 for the original CERF Registration, or $10.00 if it is a recertification). CERF has adopted a policy effective Jan. 1st, 2001 (by post mark) that a permanent identification in the form of microchip, tattoo or DNA profile will be needed for any dog to be registered with CERF. The certification is good for 12 months from the date of the exam and afterwards the dog must be reexamined and recertified to maintain its' registration with CERF.

Regardless of the outcome of the dog's exam, the research copy of the CERF form will be sent to the CERF office at V.M.D.B (Veterinary Medical Database) where its information will be entered into the database for that specific breed. This information will be used in generating research reports, but the individual dog's identities will become confidential and will never be released.


What is CHIC?

In short, CHIC is a database of consolidated health screening results from multiple sources. Co-sponsored by the OFA and the AKC Canine Health Foundation, CHIC works with parent clubs to identify health screening protocols appropriate for individual breeds. Dogs tested in accordance with the parent club established requirements, that have their results registered and made available in the public domain are issued CHIC numbers. 

Requirements for GSPs to be subnmitted to the CHIC Database

Congenital Cardiac Database

* OFA evaluation with exam performed by a Cardiologist
* or OFA evaluation with exam performed by a Specialist

Hip Dysplasia
* OFA evaluation
* PennHip evaluation

Eye Clearance

* CERF evaluation each year until 6, thereafter every 2 years

Cone Degeneration

* Cone Generation DNA test

Elbow Dysplasia (Optional)

* OFA evaluation

Autoimmune thyroiditis (Optional)

* OFA evaluation from an approved laboratory
It is recommended that the test be repeated every two years.

*Above information from the CHIC web site

Congenital Heart Disease

Congenital heart diseases in dogs are malformations of the heart or great vessels. The lesions characterizing congenital heart defects are present at birth and may develop more fully during perinatal and growth periods. Many congenital heart defects are thought to be genetically transmitted from parents to offspring; however, the exact modes of inheritance have not been precisely determined for all cardiovascular malformations.
Developmental Inherited Cardiac Diseases (SAS and Cardiomyopathy)
At this time inherited, developmental cardiac diseases like subaortic stenosis and cardiomyopathies are difficult to monitor since there is no clear cut distinction between normal and abnormal. The OFA will modify the congenital cardiac database when a proven diagnostic modality and normal parameters by breed are established. However at this time, the OFA cardiac database should not be considered as a screening tool for these diseases.
Purpose of Cardiac Database
To gather data regarding congenital heart diseases in dogs and to identify dogs which are phenotypically normal prior to use in a breeding program. For the purposes of the database, a phenotypically normal dog is defined as:

1. One without a cardiac murmur -or-

2. One with an innocent heart murmur that is found to be otherwise normal by virtue of an echocardiographic examination which includes Doppler echocardiography

*Above information from the OFA web site


General Thyroid Information

Autoimmune thyroiditis is the most common cause of primary hypothyroidism in dogs. The disease has variable onset, but tends to clinically manifest itself at 2 to 5 years of age. Dogs may be clinically normal for years, only to become hypothyroid at a later date. The marker for autoimmune thyroiditis, thyroglobulin autoantibody formation, usually occurs prior to the occurrence of clinical signs. Therefore, periodic retesting is recommended.

The majority of dogs that develop autoantibodies have them by 3 to 4 years of age. Development of autoantibodies to any time in the dog’s life is an indication that the dog, most likely, has the genetic form of the disease. Using today's technology only a small fraction of false positive tests occur.

As a result of the variable onset of the presence of autoantibodies, periodic testing will be necessary. Dogs that are negative at 1 year of age may become positive at 6 years of age. Dogs should be tested every year or two in order to be certain they have not developed the condition. Since the majority of affected dogs will have autoantibodies by 4 years of age, annual testing for the first 4 years is recommended. After that, testing every other year should suffice. Unfortunately, a negative at any one time will not guarantee that the dog will not develop thyroiditis.

The registry data can be used by breeders in determining which dogs are best for their breeding program. Knowing the status of the dog and the status of the dogs lineage, breeders and genetic counselors can decide which matings are most appropriate for reducing the incidence of autoimmune thyroiditis in the offspring.

Dogs should not receive any type of thyroid supplementation for 3 months prior to thyroid testing.

*Above information from the OFA web site



Cone Degeneration (CD) Test

Day Bindness

For: German Shorthaired Pointers

The OptiGen “CD” test is a DNA based test that provides, for the first time, a method to unequivocally identify Cone Degeneration Disease (CD) in the German Shorthaired Pointer. Although the disease is rare in general, within an affected line it is important to control the gene frequency so as to prevent producing puppies affected with the disease.

CD disease causes day blindness due to degeneration of the retinal “cones” – cone-shaped cells in the retina that respond primarily to bright daylight. CD can be diagnosed in the early weeks of the German Shorthaired Pointer’s life. Between 8 and 12 weeks of age, when retinal development is normally completed in dogs, signs of vision problems are noticeable. The pups become day-blind and are photophobic – meaning that exposure to bright light is irritating or even painful. The pup will shun brightly-lit areas. Vision in dim light remains normal. The retina of the affected dog initially appears normal when examined by an ophthalmologist and initially the ERG (electroretinogram) recording is normal. However, the ERG response from the degenerating cones declines with age and is non-recordable in the mature CD-affected dog.

In contrast to PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy), which is the more common type of retinal disease in many dog breeds, CD does not affect night vision. A second type of cell in the retina, the “rods” – rod-shaped cells that respond primarily to dim light and detect movement – are not involved in this disease. The CD-affected dog keeps the ability to see at night or in dimly-lit areas.

Just as PRA is the canine version of human RP (retinitis pigmentosa), CD is the canine version of the human genetic disease achromatopsia – total color blindness and day-blindness. Another name for day blindness is “hemerolopia.” There is no treatment or cure available for either canine or human disease.

Reliable identification of dogs that do not carry disease genes is the key to controlling autosomal recessive diseases. The OptiGen CD test enables 100% accurate identification of these dogs. Called "genetically clear," "noncarriers" or, more formally, "homozygous normals," such dogs can pass only the normal gene on to all their pups - which means that none of their pups can ever be affected with CD. These "clear" dogs can be bred to any mate, even to a CD-affected German Shorthaired Pointer, which may be a desirable breeding prospect for other reasons.

Homozygous means both copies of the gene in your dog are the SAME - both normal or both CD. A carrier has one normal and one CD gene.

Because the OptiGen CD test is a mutation-based gene test, it accurately and specifically identifies normal dogs, carriers (heterozygous dogs) and affecteds. Possible test results are listed in the table below.
Possible results for a German Shorthaired Pointer using the OptiGen CD test

Test Result* Genotype of GSHP Tested Significance For Breeding Risk For Developing CD
N Normal Can be bred to any GSHP Will never develop CD
C Carrier Carrier of CD Will never develop CD
A Affected Homozygous for CD Will develop CD

*This is the result that will be reported when a GSHP is tested using the OptiGen CD test.

The following table highlights the desirable breedings that will NOT produce affected pups. These breedings include at least one parent proven "normal" by the OptiGen CD test. All other breedings are at risk of producing CD-affected pups. However, all dogs can be bred safely. It isn't necessary-or even desirable-to remove any dog from the breeding population. But when choosing pups to retain as potential breeding stock, it is important to select for dogs proven "normal" by the OptiGen CD test, and select, when possible, against dogs proven to be carriers. Pups can be tested to distinguish carriers from normals as soon as they are old enough to have a small blood sample collected.
Expected results for breeding strategies using the OptiGen CD test

Parent 1
Genotype Parent 2 Genotype
Normal Carrier Affected
Normal All = Normal 1/2 = Normal
1/2 = Carriers All = Carriers
Carrier 1/2 = Normal
1/2 = Carriers 1/4 = Normal
1/2 = Carriers
1/4 = Affected 1/2 = Carriers
1/2 = Affected
Affected All = Carriers 1/2 = Carriers
1/2 = Affected All = Affected

How you can participate...
The CD Test for the German Shorthaired Pointer is done on a small sample of blood obtained by your veterinarian. This allows the lowest risk of contamination of the sample and added assurance of a match of the sample with the identified dog. Read and print the instructions on the Ship Sample page. Then fill out the Test Request Form. On-line submission of the Test Request Form lets you be sure accurate information and correct spellings are put in the database. And, when you've completed one Form, a second Test Request Form for another dog or for a litter is easy and saves you time. Read more at on the web site below.






*Above information from the Optigen web site










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