Testing for Hip Dysplasia

We all need to understand what is involved in testing for hip dysplasia as owners of a dog breed potentially predisposed to this condition - the German Shepherd Dog. The first sign of any potential hip problems in any dog may show up when the dog is as young as 1 to 3 years of age.

As a dog ages and becomes more active abnormalities in movement also become more obvious. Veterinarian's can palpate a dog’s hips for signs of looseness and can also recommend a further evaluation test if needed.

Currently there are 2 basic tests used in evaluating any dog as potentially having, or not having, hip dysplasia - the OFA radiographic evaluation and the PennHIP method. Let's take a moment to learn more about each of these methods used in testing for hip dysplasia.

The OFA Radiographic Evaluation

Dogs have to be at least 24 months of age or older to be given this test, however, preliminary exams can be done on puppies as young as 4 months of age if an owner is interested.

This is a very well known alternative and has been available since the mid-1960s. Here's what happens using this procedure. A veterinarian will submit an X-ray of a dog's hip (placed in a specific position so the hip joint is easily viewed) to the OFA. Three OFA veterinary radiologists, randomly selected, will then examine the X-ray.

Each of the individual OFA radiologists on the panel will grade the dogs hip X-rays on a severity scale ranging from excellent all the way down to severe.

All dogs with hips that are within normal limits (such as excellent, good or fair) are given a number that will then become a part of the overall OFA database which is also available to the public.

The PennHIP Evaluation

This is the second method used in testing for hip dysplasia. Developed in the 1980's, this method is different from the OFA evaluation in that it applies basic engineering principles to assess the quality of the dogs hip joint. Joint laxity is determined based on this analysis.

Here too, a network of veterinarians trained to perform this process provides all the X-rays sent to the PennHIP center, where they are further evaluated.

The PennHIP evaluation, which stands for University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program, can be performed as early as 16 weeks of age. Basically, three separate X-rays are taken that shows the depth and fit of the ball in the hip socket, the amount of hip laxity as well as any existing joint degeneration.

What can we do to prevent hip dysplasia? Easily the best way to create the most positive genetic changes would be to require breeders to breed only German Shepherds having certified tight hips which are officially confirmed through diagnostic testing such as the OFA or PennHIP.

Obviously, the main objective of any responsible selective breeding program is to maximize the pairing of good genes by breeding healthy, hip dysplasia free dogs.

Testing for hip dysplasia is a very important part of owning a German Shepherd. This is important information to help you know the current structure of your dogs hips in order to completely understand what you may be able to expect of your dog as it matures - not to mention the whole question of breeding quality and the like.

Knowing the true condition of your dogs hips also allows you to prepare for the the possible risk of arthritis as well as the ability of planning to adjust environmental factors, such as diet and exercise, to stop or lower the risk of arthritis in your own German Shepherd. It's always better to be prepared in the case of your dogs health.

Return from Testing for Hip Dysplasia to Health Problems and the GSD

In order to keep a true perspective of one's importance, everyone should have a dog that will worship him and a cat that will ignore him." - Dereke Bruce

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