Barbara J. Andrews, Publisher TheDogPlace.org - May 2011
Testing for OFA, CERF, CHIC, and other health certifications have inherently fatal flaws in moral and genetic logic.
After 40 years, nothing has changed except the emergence of new canine health
problems for which there are new tests. Tests which require no means of
permanent identification which has always been a major factor in the
"inaccuracy" of health tests.
Every breeder wants to be sure a dog is free of hereditary joint, eye, and heart problems before breeding the dog.
Some tests have value, many do not. 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.
You might 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.
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
or 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.
Hip joint palpation caused the needless death of thousands of 8 and
10 week old puppies before breeders lost enthusiasm and vets gave up on its value as an early warning of hip problems.
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 expensive surgery.
The 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 x-ray 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.
The OFA 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
that. He was replaced by the “Beagle Man” Eddie Dziuk who is a true dog man with the dog’s best interest at heart.
went nose-to-nose with Dr. Corley many times but the result was progress so I count it a worthwhile 28 year battle.
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? It took over 20 years of badgering
on that before OFA finally responded to my public charges of
hypocrisy and fraud and finally began to certify knees and elbows.
By the turn of the century, OFA also began to issues certificates for heart, skin, thyroid, deafness, and a smorgasbord of genetic and DNA tests and certifications.
Will The Real Dog Please Bark Up?
So, the 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.
Thirty years ago would not have been too soon to close the loophole and correct the system. Before microchip identification became viable, I hammered
on lip or ear tattoos as used by the Thoroughbred and racing Greyhound industries. Simple. Relatively inexpensive
but 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.
Equally 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 license!
If we 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 misdiagnoses occur.
Dr. Corley (and others) claimed all sorts of in-house statistics unsupported by independent research. Until we 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
to owner or the dog. Excellent hips on a dog with chronic debilitating gastritis
is of no genetic value.
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!
(1) “Palpation 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 result. Vet Clinics No Am Sm Anim Prac, Vol 2, No. 3, pp., 554-557, 1992.
(2) “Results 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
Click if you missed Canine Health Certification, Part 1
is your dog’s cumulative cancer and infertility risk from repeated hip
X-Ray Hype vs. Health
X-raying your breeding stock? Read
about suppressed Reproductive risks!
X-Ray Risks Shielded
a reason dentists shield you, understand the risks of routine hip or pregnancy x-rays in dogs.
Excerpts from "On The Line" ShowSight Magazine Oct 2001