Why Don’t We OFA Certify Our Dogs?
As people who absolutely adore their dogs, and take great pride in the relatively small amount of puppies we produce from our breeding program, we take our research in their long term health very seriously. One of the most serious topics for discussion is canine hip dysplasia or “HD”. Many people have become convinced that getting a puppy from OFA certified parents makes that puppy immune to developing HD later in life. This could not be farther from the truth. Genetics do play a role, but there are many other factors involved, which often go totally ignored. It’s a shame, because people end up putting all their faith into a piece of paper, which essentially means very little.
We have several reasons why we personally choose not to do OFA certifications. Whether a breeder decides to OFA certify their dogs or not, is an opinion-based decision at best. It certainly is not something that only “good” breeders do for their dogs, despite what some websites, associations, or other breeders claim. OFA certification in itself is extremely difficult on a dog. They are often sedated and placed in a very unnatural position which can actually result in injury and even mask results. The test itself is meant to identify laxity in the joint, which is then assigned a rating based on the severity by a panel of veterinarians. However, these “ratings” have been proven to not be accurate according to AVMA studies. Dogs are often diagnosed as being “clear” when they are not, and even produce false positive results, damaging a dogs reputation unnecessarily and without just cause. Please read the following 2 articles, and then come back for some further reading…
Some folks will try to say that breeders who do not have OFA certifications are “bad” breeders and that people should avoid them like the plague. Although some breeders may choose not to do these certifications primarily to try and save money, there are many who don’t do it because they realize that it essentially guarantees nothing, subjects their dogs to a potentially dangerous test, and offers nothing but a false sense of security to those looking to invest in their puppies.
These tests generate a LOT of money, and where there is money, there is usually a very significant amount of disinformation and propaganda. We do not condemn anyone who prefers to purchase their puppy from OFA certified parents, or breeders who OFA certify their dogs. We do not personally condemn anyone who feels better about getting these certifications done, however, we do have a problem when we see individuals stating that these certifications are necessary, or provides a guarantee that their puppies won’t develop HD. It’s an unfounded and scientifically unsupported claim.
Unfortunately, there are many factors that can contribute to HD, but just as fortunate, there are many things that breeders and owners can do to help greatly diminish the risks – proving far more proactive and effective than an OFA certification alone. Before we get into the things you can do to help prevent this disease, please know, we have spent many hours, days, weeks, months and years researching HD. We have spoken with veterinarians, reputable breeders, and are not basing our “opinion” on just personal merit or biases. There is never a guarantee that a puppy won’t develop HD, that is just the cold hard truth – however, being proactive and not just blissfully dependent on a piece of paper, appears to be the more logical and real solution.
Studies are now showing that early spay and neutering or “gonadectomy” can greatly impact the onset of HD. Sex hormones play a crucial role in orthopedic development of dogs. We do not include spay or neutering time frames in our contract, we only strictly prohibit breeding unless breeding rights are granted and paid for specifically. This is specifically so that owners can make an unpressured decision as to when to spay and neuter their puppy. We suggest waiting at least 17 months of age so that the dog can go through puberty completely before disrupting those precious hormones and the fantastic job they do in protecting against disease later in life. Please read the following 2 articles, and then come back for further reading…
So what do “we” do to be proactive breeders? Obviously, it’s not in the best interest of any breeder, whether hobbyist or large-scale, to damage their reputation by producing dogs that are prone to HD. It makes no sense, however, there are unfortunately many breeders who simply don’t care. All they care about, is making that one time “sale”, and never seeing or hearing from their puppies or the people they have sold them to ever again. We are not “those” kind of people. This is not a business for us, it’s a part of our life, and the puppies our pack produces are family – forever. Getting updates from our extended families is something we look forward to and cherish. We do not fill people up with a bunch of gimmicky guarantees or flash papers in front of people to gain their trust. We are open and honest about ALL THINGS, including the fact that there is NEVER any “guarantee” that a puppy can’t end up with some sort of health issue at some point in their lives. There are many other factors involved, outside of our control, once a puppy leaves our care. It would be negligent and irresponsible to not “keep it real” with people, even though our dogs are extremely healthy, and genetic disease not prevalent in our lines.
From a breeding perspective, we will not intentionally breed any dog that is known to genetically produce puppies who develop HD by 2 years of age. The lines we have are relatively free from this genetic condition, however, we still include this as being covered in our contract if it is grade 4 or worse with documented OFA testing proving it is genetic. Please keep in mind, this would be the same “guarantee” made either with or without an OFA certification.
Surprisingly, owners have an even GREATER influence on whether their dogs might develop HD. Keeping your dog healthy, well exercised, and “leaner” in the first couple years of life is extremely impactful. Do not over feed, and only feed high quality protein rich food. Stay away from high fat diets, and keep them ACTIVE! Spay and neuter only AFTER fully matured and be responsible during that time to avoid accidental breeding or hormonal confrontations with other dogs.
Please take the time and effort to read the articles above, they are from trusted and reputable sources, and will provide the in-depth details you will need in order to understand our position on OFA certifications and canine hip dysplasia.
If you are interested in doing some further research, in a more “holistic” direction, we also believe that feeding codex food grade diatomaceous earth also helps to strengthen joints and provides an excellent source of other beneficial minerals. There is a lot of controversy suggesting there are no documented benefits of using food grade DE, however, there are actually many field reports and test results, not to mention individual reports from all over the world, including zoos and animal sanctuaries, who swear by it’s effectiveness. Our dogs and puppies get codex food grade diatomaceous earth on a regular basis for everything from parasite prevention/control, as well as nutritional supplementation for skin, coat, bones, joints, and teeth.
We hope that this article helps anyone who is interested to truly understand and appreciate our perspective, and decision, as to why we do not OFA certify our dogs. We feel that due to the documented lack of accuracy and inability these certifications have in terms of “guaranteeing” anything, it simply is not something we feel is necessary. Our contract covers HD in the rare case that such a genetic disorder is diagnosed in our puppies, up to age 2, and it would be the same with or without OFA certification. It is more important to us to be proactive in preventing HD from occurring with ethical and responsible breeding practices, as well as properly educating prospective new puppy owners as to the other influencing factors which contributes to this disease.