Barbara J. Andrews
for OFA, CERF, CHIC, and other health certifications have inherently fatal flaws in moral and genetic logic.
40 years later, nothing has changed except canine health which steadily
declines. First, let's look at the history of health
certifications and then the enthusiasm with which certificates are collected
today. Every breeder wants to be sure a dog is free of
hereditary joint, eye, and heart problems before breeding the dog. There
are no such health certifications even remotely comparable (yet) for the human race.
For example, breeders rushed to get their dogs certified clear of
Congenital Hypothyroidism With Goiter (CHG) which, if present, kills the dog
within 2 weeks of birth. Testing was expensive for breeders and profitable
for those who promoted the test. I interviewed the veterinary professor
who "discovered" the gene.
find Dr. Fyfe research interesting.
Fulcrum Hip Xrays and Palpation Certification
Fulcrum X-ray meant "gently" forcing the fulcrum out of the hip socket to
determine maximum joint laxity during xray.
palpation caused the needless death of thousands of 8 and 10 week old puppies
before breeders lost enthusiasm for the gruesome results and vets gave up on its
value as an early warning of hip problems.
fulcrum x-ray and palpation were a big deal back in the 70s. Promoted by Dr. Bardens,
both were finally exposed as ineffective and dangerous methods of diagnosing/predicting canine hip
dysplasia. (1) Many breeders allege the procedures actually caused joint laxity and
malformed growth. Inarguably, both procedures resulted in the death of dogs
that may have been sound.
Palpation was so inaccurate it was suggested that repeated examinations might be
necessary! That defies logic but it was the protocol of the time.
Palpation finally earned tactful condemnation in 1999 (2) but it took over 20
years! Palpation and the OFA x-ray
procedure was characterized by Dr. Jerry Schnelle (who first identified and
studied canine hip dysplasia) as “pinning the tail on the donkey.”
If Preliminary Certification Looked Uncertain...
Breeders were encouraged to
have a pectinectomy performed. The surgical procedure involved cutting the tendons of the
(groin) pectineus muscle, and since it failed to help dogs attain
hip certification and did not relieve pain nor prevent further
degeneration, the painful, expensive procedure had a relatively short life. It was
promoted as relieving tension on the hip joint and even represented
as a “cure” for hip dysplasia. Thankfully, the popularity of the
procedure waned although some vets still perform the useless but
Orthopedic Foundation For Animals was formed to certify dogs as
being free of hip dysplasia and to identify dogs with
early hip problems. Like fulcrum xray and palpation, it was
validated only by those who greatly profited from the procedure.
The "Swedish Study" was cited but then that was by OFA... When PennHip
was launched by the U of PA, OFA began to stagger like a crippled
dog until AKC saved it by listing the OFA number on the dog’s registration
certification. OFA contributed significantly to the AKC Canine
Health Foundation (AKC/CHF) and they now work together on many
canine health projects.
website makes no mention of founding or even current board members.
Go figure! After
decades of debacle, Dr. Corley finally retired and I am proud to
claim some credit for his overdue retirement. He was
replaced by the “Beagle Man” Eddie Dziuk who is a true dog man with
the dog’s best interest at heart.
writer had been nose-to-nose with Dr. Corley many times but the
result was progress so I count it a worthwhile 28 year battle. It
only took over 20 years of badgering before OFA finally responded to my
increasingly public charges of hypocrisy and fraud. Writing for the
Canine Chronicle and other top dog magazines such as Kennel Review, I repeatedly asked why hip sockets were so important but
elbow, patella, and stifle joints were not? OFA finally began to
certify knees and elbows, and now records results and issues
certification for heart, skin,
thyroid, deafness, and a smorgasbord of genetic and DNA tests and
Real Dog Please Bark Up?
problem is screamingly obvious. With all
the new ground-breaking discoveries and genetic markers, why do
health registries still require no form of permanent
identification? AKC backed microchip early on and then as I recall,
they got outfoxed business-wise.
When will health registries require positive, permanent
will re-certification be required for known degenerative
Thirty years ago would not have been
too soon to close the loophole and correct the system. Before
microchip identification became viable, I hammered lip or ear
tattoos as used by the Thoroughbred and racing Greyhound industries.
Simple. Relatively inexpensive yet profitable for
veterinarians who one would expect to push for permanent I.D.
So far as I know, there is no health certification registry today,
more than 40 years later, that requires permanent identification as
a requirement before testing.
as deceitful, the
veterinary community has become party to the fraud that leads the
public to believe parental or puppy certification means the dog
won't develop that health problem. Oh they don't say
that but it is the entire marketing basis! If a medical
doctor tested a
patient and certified he/she would never develop
diabetes or heart problems, he or she would lose their medical
can’t trust the basis of health testing, how do we know how
definitive a test really is? No objective third-party
“certifies” that eye, heart, kidney, hearing exams, or x-rays are
accurate. Many dogs become clinically affected after certification.
Was it a faulty exam, a records mix-up, or testing based on a faulty
premise? Most health
certifications depend on the interpretive skills of the veterinarian
conducting the exam or the vet who evaluates the results. Even in human
medicine, mistakes and misdiagnosis occur.
paying customers have a right to ask for proof that testing
and certification has appreciably reduced the overall incidence of a particular
disease? Dr. Corley (and others) claimed all sorts of
in-house statistics unsupported by independent research.
have solid statistical data to back up rhetoric, and until we can be
assured that a test is definitive and not interpretive, we can only
regard health certifications as a professional but personal
opinion, not a scientific fact.
Health certifications should be duly noted and
weighed as just one factor relating to overall health, temperament,
and quality when breeding decisions are made.
Please, breeders, forget
bragging rights and be realistic. Canine health has reached a
crisis point. A healthy heart in an
obsessive-compulsive spinner is of little comfort. Excellent hips
on a dog with chronic debilitating gastritis is of no genetic
value. A DNA-cleared dog can produce hundreds of puppies affected
with Rage Syndrome.
The best breeders want
valid answers even if they are
disappointing. We are honest with ourselves and the health certification
organizations must be honest with us!
has shown diagnostic use in human neonates, but is controversial and
may have little diagnostic or prognostic utility in the dog. A
caution: In human infants, it has been suggested that repetitive
Barlow tests, and presumably Ortolani and Bardens as well, are
capable of making infant hips unstable, thus giving a false-positive
Vet Clinics No Am Sm Anim Prac, Vol 2, No. 3, pp., 554-557, 1992.
of hip joint palpation were at best moderately correlated with
radiographic measures of hip joint laxity.”
Am Vet Med Assoc.
1999 Feb 15;214(4):497-501
Updated from "On The Line" ShowSight Magazine
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