Orthopedic Foundation of America (OFA)
Chances are if you have pets, you have heard of the OFA, the Orthopedic Foundation of America. I know ever since I had my first Lab back in 1980’s, I knew of the OFA and their certification process and I made sure that Maxine had her xrays and was cleared for hip dysplasia before we bred her. But I never fully understood what was behind the organization or the work they did.
The OFA was originally formed in 1966. It’s formation is credited to a John Olin whose own Labradors were being impacted by hip dysplasia. He joined together with several Breed Clubs (Golden Retriever and German Shepherd), veterinarians and concerned breeders to form the foundation. OFA’s initial stated mission was simple: “To provide radiographic evaluation, data management, and genetic counseling for canine hip dysplasia”.
Over the years the mission has expanded and now includes many other inherited diseases and other pets. The current mission of the OFA is: “To improve the health and well being of companion animals through a reduction in the incidence of genetic disease”.
The OFA maintains an expansive database of the dogs they have screened along with their test results. Utilizing this databases is a fundamental practice for all reputable breeders to ensure that the lineage of their dogs are certified to be disease free, not just for hip dysplasia, but for the variety of other genetic diseases that OFA screens for. These tests include, but is not limited to:
- Cardiac disease
- Congenital deafness
- Elbow dysplasia
- Hip dysplasia
- Patellar Luxation
- Shoulder OCD
- Tracheal Hypoplasia
Their database allows you to review, by breed, the variety of recommended and available tests.
OFA also offers several specific DNA tests.
A sister registry is the Canine Health Information Center, also known as CHIC, is a centralized canine health database jointly sponsored by the AKC/Canine Health Foundation (AKC/CHF) and the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). The goal of CHIC is to provide a resource for breeders and owners of purebred dogs to research and maintain information on the health issues prevalent in specific breeds. It provides a listing of the various tests specific to your breed that must be passed in order to receive a CHIC certification. As an example, here is the listing for Labradors.
Why are these registries important? You may remember last month we wrote several posts about breed standards and the diversion from the original standard many breeds are undergoing. You can read those posts here, here and here. Our concern remains that the focus in the show ring sometimes appears to be on beauty rather than health. SOME, not all breeders are just not as conscientious about the health of the animals as they should be and its only through the dedicated, perhaps mandatory requirement of these certifications that the health, well-being and longevity of the dogs can be maintained.
For those of us with mixed breed dogs, these registries can also be helpful in screening for potential problems in your dog’s dominant breed. For instance, German Shepherds (and other breeds) have the potential to develop Autoimmune Thyroiditis or hyperthroidism. If you have a mixed breed dog with German Shepherd in it’s genes, you may want to be sure and test for thyroid disease if they manifest any of the related symptoms. This is not to be an alarmist or say you should have your dog tested for every possible disease, but rather it’s a recommendation to be aware of the resources out there to help you identify and manage possible genetic illness.
The OFA has been instrumental in helping control many of these genetic disorders and reputable breeders follow their guidelines religiously. If you are thinking of a pure bred dog or puppy, be sure and educate yourself about the genetic issues prevalent in your favored breed and what test you should ask the breeder about before you buy.
We’re joining the A to Z Challenge and keeping our own Blog Hop of all our A to Z posts. Feel free to join the Hop with your A to Z Challenge post!
Click here if you want to see the Blog Hop from A to L.