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. Sadly, even some veterinarians subscribe to this rhetoric. This could not be farther from the truth. Genetics do play a role, but there are also 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 (not always, but often) and placed in a very unnatural position which can actually result in injury and even mask results, and if the technician performing the radiography is inexperienced or otherwise lacks “skill”, it will provide inaccurate 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. Here is another veterinarian medical hospital in Montana who clearly show the genuine Pros and Cons of OFA certification, click here to see what they have to say about OFA certification: Best Friends Animal Hospital
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. You cannot OFA test a dog until they are at least 2 years of age, and by then, in most cases, if there is genetic HD present it will have manifested physical symptoms. Even then, an OFA certification cannot, will not, and does not, provide any guarantee that the dog in question will not develop HD later in life, or produce offspring with or without it. This is why any breeder, with OFA certified dogs or not, should always have something in their health agreement covering genetic HD.
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 agreement, 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. Unfortunately, there are also risks to that as well, especially with females, as they can develop what is called pyometra, a uterine infection. Keeping females clean during their season or “heats”, if left intact, is critical, and even then can still pose some risks. So if you do intend to keep your female intact until later in life, be sure to always have them checked regularly for any signs of infection. Hormones can also play a major role in temperament, so again, we urge you to do your own research and make the decision you feel is best for you and your fur baby. 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 breeding dogs that have HD, or produce genetic HD in their offspring. 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 just a business for us, it’s a part of our life, and the puppies our pack produces are family – forever. We do not want to see our precious babies going through that, nor the families who have opened their hearts and homes to them. Getting updates from our extended families is something we look forward to and cherish, and we want those updates to be positive and full of joy and happiness. 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 factors involved, many that are 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 either known to have, or produced a puppy, who developed genetic HD. The lines we have are relatively free from this genetic condition, however, we still include this as being covered in our written agreement if it is grade 4 or worse with documented OFA testing proving it is genetic, because it unfortunately will always be a risk factor. Please keep in mind, this would be the same “guarantee” made either with or without an OFA certification, and there is no breeder in the world who should ever guarantee against HD – OFA “certified” or not.
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 greatly influential. Do not hike or over-work your young pup until their joints are more developed. Do not over or under feed, and only feed high quality nutritionally balanced foods. Look into Nuvet Plus! and Nujoint supplements to help “bridge the gap” between nutrition provided by commercial dog foods and true nutritional support. Stay away from high fat diets, and keep them ACTIVE! Spay and neuter only AFTER fully matured if possible, 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 from time to time for everything from parasite prevention/control, as well as nutritional supplementation for skin, coat, bones, joints, and teeth. The important thing to remember with any natural supplement is to use it appropriately and under direction of a qualified vet.
We hope that this article and the resources we have shared 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 agreement 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.