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Hip Dysplasia and OFA Ratings

April 11, 2009

More Myth Busting

I am often surprised, while at Aussie events or such, at conversations involving hip dysplasia and OFA ratings. Clearly there is some misinformation and/or misunderstanding going on. Hip dysplasia is a disease – a chronic and progressive disease. It is not some kind of continuum, although there are continuums – or grades – within the categories of hip ratings. In other words, either a dog has it – or it does not. Much like its hard to “kind of,  sort of” have cancer. The Orthopedic Fountaion of America (OFA) has become our premiere service organization in diagnosing and categorizing canine hip dysplasia for all dogs or breeds. X-rays can be taken by your local vet or canine orthopedist and sent in to OFA for what is called hip grade ratings. OFA has three categories of ratings: 1) Normal, which means a dog does not have hip dysplasia and all categories therein are within normal limits; 2) Borderline, where it is too hard to clearly see on an X-ray whether hip dysplasia is present or not (they suggest to re-X-ray six months later; and 3) Dysplasic. Within the Normal and Dysplastic categories there are successive grade ratings depending on the absence of or degree of hip socket subluxion. Within the Normal rages of non-dysplastic are three grades or ratings: Excellent, Good and Fair. Borderline is just what it suggests – borderline. Then, in the Dysplastic range, there are three grades or ratings of dysplasia: Mild,  Moderate and Severe. Yet, I often hear dog enthusiasts say things like “Oh, my God! You should NEVER breed a dog with a Fair hip rating!!!!” as if that dog was ABOUT to catch the disease – or that somehow “Fair” means ALMOST dysplasic. Again, I reiterate, a dog either has hip dysplasia or it does not. The ratings are not a progressive continuum! Yet, some mistakenly think that Fair is “Fair-botten!” Nothing could be farther from the truth. While not breeding dogs with Fair hip ratings is certainly a personal choice, a Fair hip rating shouldn’t been seen as the kiss of death either. How do I know this? Because I did have a female who’s hip X-rays came back with a “Fair” rating and I called OFA – twice – speaking with two canine orthopedists – and got educated. Another word of caution is to not do what I did and X-ray a dog while in the midst of her heat cycle. I was told by both OFA specialists that the increased hormones during heat cycles very much effect X-ray results. Best to X-ray again in three months for truer results. So, before more misinformation is passed around, I invite all canine enthusiasts to get educated at Or, if there is something that you still do not understand, give them a call. Very nice people. Better to be educated than misinformed when that certain someone next to you adamantly declares  “Oh, my God! You should NEVER breed a dog with a Fair hip rating!!!! You will then be armed to myth-bust the conversation.

Also, be aware that hip dysplasia can be a poly-genetic inherited disease – although this is not always true. It can also come from a congenital deformation of the hip socket – such as a pup didn’t have enough amino acids to produce properly formed bone mass of the hip sockets – or even injury. Again, best get educated. Locate a premier canine orthopedic or neurologist (get references)  – or call OFA – if you have any concerns. And, please, always get a clear OFA rating before you breed. Although it can never guarantee against producing dysplasia, it oftentimes can help reduce your chances.

Please support humane canine genetic research to help elimanate this debilitating disease!!!


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