DanBar Ranch
in loving memory of Dan and Barbara Jessup
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​A hip disease characterized by excessive laxity in the joint (the ball moves too much within its socket) or excessive shallowness of the hip socket joint which in time leads to painful arthritis. Dog can become crippled as early as 6 months of age in severe cases but may not affect the dog noticeably until middle age. 
There is NO WAY to know if a dog has hip dysplasia without x-ray examination. "Breeders" who tell you otherwise, or try to convince you that they "know" their dogs are HD free without x-ray examination are simply scamming you.
Health Testing: HIP DYSPLASIA
Hip dysplasia (HD) is a complex condition where the hip joints of a growing puppy develop abnormally. The primary reason for this abnormal development is hip joint laxity ie the joint is too loose; leading to the two articulating parts of the joint of the pelvis – the femoral head and the acetabulum (which form the ball-and-socket of the joint) - moving abnormally relative to one another; the femoral head subluxating (partly dislocating) from the acetabulum. This leads to abnormal stresses and strains on the joint and leads to inflammation and degeneration of the joint tissues. Ultimately, permanent osteoarthritis develops in the joints. These changes produce pain and disability for the dog which may show up in a number of ways, such as lameness, abnormal gait (movement), stiffness, reluctance to get up and move and difficulty in running and playing.

Both genetic and environmental factors play a part in the development of hip dysplasia.
Hip dysplasia (HD) has a major welfare impact for many dogs with the condition. Though it may initially cause intermittent disease, hip dysplasia develops into a persistent condition causing chronic joint pain and progressive disability due to joint deformation. Chronic joint pain can be severe and debilitating and may need long-term medication to control. Control of the secondary osteoarthritis can be difficult and euthanasia is common.
​Above: hip sockets showing severe HD. Below, Huni's hips, showing good structure.

There are two main tests which can determine the presence and severity of HD in dogs.  The first is the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) x-ray screening, the second is the PennHip procedure.

Here at DanBar Ranch I use the tried and true OFA screening process.  Dogs are sedated, x-rayed and films sent to the OFA.  Three expert orthopedic veterinarians read all films and then decide on a rating of  "Excellent", "Good" and "Fair". If a dog does not "pass OFA" its hips will be rated as "Borderline", "Mild", "Moderate" and "Severe". 

The OFA will give out a final "official" rating only after the dog is 24 months of age. However, it will read films of younger dogs and these are called "prelims".  The OFA states on its website that the correlation between the rating of a prelim being the same as the final reading is better than 95%.

CAIRNS: in the breed it is not common, but I test to keep it that way.  Bostons: severe problem in the breed, though they are not as debilitated by the disease as are larger, heavier breeds. I am one of VERY few Boston breeders testing for HD and breeding away from it.  DOBERMANS: HD is common, and presents a real issue for these large working breeds. Every effort needs to be made to breed away from it. 
But it's not that simple...

Just be aware that HD has baffled breeders and veterinarians for decades. It appears to have a strong genetic bases, but there is also some element of the environment at play as well.  And, other factors as yet unknown.  Example: I know of a litter of Dobermans which had both parents and all four grandparents with hips which passed OFA...  and yet all the female pups in the litter (7 of them!) developed HD.  All a breeder can do is try their best to breed dogs with the best hip conformation they have available.

Is it every "alright" to breed a dog which doesn't pass OFA for HD?  That is decision each and every breeder will have to make on their own.  NO DOG IS PERFECT.  Part of being a reputable and responsible breeder is making tough decisions which balance temperament, type (appearance that makes the dog recognizable as the breed it is) trainability, and then all the various health considerations. For instance I would rather see someone breed a dog with mild dysplasia from a family with overall good hips and a GREAT temperament, then a dog with a terrible temperament and fantastic hips. However, at NO TIME should a breeder "poo poo" a health issue as "not that important"; when we have a chance to remove any disease from our dog's genetics, we should work to do this.

When a breeder is starting out, they can only begin with the dogs they have... it is often incredibly difficult to get really good quality dogs, so most breeders "grade up" by trying to improve their line with each generation.  For this reason, I feel strongly that it is absolutely important that a breeder HEALTH TEST so that they KNOW exactly where their dogs are.  I don't criticize someone who uses a dog who may have failed one health test - because they health test and KNOW what chances they are taking.