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Hip dysplasia is a developmental disease of the hip joints of many breeds of dogs. Large breeds like German shepherd dogs and retrievers are commonly affected. This disease is often crippling and can result in a painfully shortened life span in severely affected dogs. Responsible and caring dog breeders should have their breeding dogs (males and females) screened radiographically for hip dysplasia prior to breeding. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) was founded in the early 1960's to evaluate radiographs taken of dog's hips and to certify those animals with normal hips. The breeder's veterinarian X-rays the dog's hips in a standard position under anesthesia. The resulting radiograph is then sent to the OFA who, in turn, refers the films to a panel of board-certified veterinary radiologists (usually veterinary college professors) who evaluate them. Caring breeders would only breed those dogs whose hips were certified as normal by the OFA. Dogs must be 2 years of age or older before they can be certified.


OFA has lessened the severity and frequency of hip dysplasia to some degree, but the disease persists. In the 1980's a better method of evaluating the canine hip joint was developed at the University of Pennsylvania. This method, known as the Penn Hip evaluation, involves taking additional radiographic views. A Penn Hip study measures how tight the hip joints are. An actual measurement of tightness is made on the radiographs themselves resulting in a numerical value called the distractive index. Dogs with the tightest hips have the lowest distractive index and least likelihood of developing hip dysplasia. The Penn Hip study can be performed and evaluated at four months of age or older. Only veterinarians who have been specifically trained and certified by Penn Hip can submit radiographs for evaluation.

The Penn Hip method will advance the fight against canine hip dysplasia because it replaces the subjective review of a radiologist with an easily repeated measurement. Breeding studies have shown that the distractive index is highly inheritable. Penn Hip maintains and publishes a database for each breed. This database makes available to breeders and veterinarians the range of distractive indices for each breed. Breeders can improve the hips in their dogs by breeding dogs in the tighter half of the distractive index range for the breed. Dr. Robert Weiner is certified by Penn Hip and is happy to provide more information on Penn Hip for individual breeders or breed clubs.

PennHip web site: http://www.pennhip.org/