Dog owners rarely realize the risks of routine hip X-rays or to confirm pregnancy even though a dentist shields your reproductive organs...
Why risk repeated radiation exposure by x-raying for elbow, hip dysplasia, or other joint deformities? Why x-ray a pregnant bitch to see how many puppies she's carrying?
The irradiated fetuses survive that exposure but are then bombarded by elective radiographs of knees, elbows, and hip x-rays throughout their life.
When the dentist x-rays a tooth, your entire torso is shielded, including your pelvic area, which is a long way from your teeth! Yet when the vet does hip x-rays, the reproductive organs and genitals receive the full radiation blast.
Radiographs are a great diagnostic tool but X-rays were never meant to be used as a predictive tool. As we learn more about the effects of radiation, concepts that we've held to be truth are falling like tattered leaves. You are here because you have concerns about the effectiveness and/or necessity of elective x-rays.
X-RAY AND HIP DYSPLASIA
Most (honest) long-time breeders would agree that relying on hip X-ray as a means of preventing hip dysplasia is totally ineffectual unless combined with meticulous selection and rearing. Even so, many breeders would rather risk a quick x-ray and hope to get the certificate than spend the time and effort necessary to eradicate hip dysplasia. Likewise, to assess the environment and one's husbandry methods and then apply studied results is too much trouble in today's hurry-up world.
No one was listening when courageous veterinarians were speaking out against outdated theories which led valuable breeding stock down the primrose path to the x-ray machine. The "Swedish Study" cited by Dr. Gerry Schnelle offered irrefutable evidence that selection of breeding partners based on radiographs failed to reduce the incidence of hip dysplasia. Schnelle was the veterinary researcher who first discovered canine hip dysplasia and subsequently sat on the newly-formed OFA board until he publically resigned in professional frustration.
The health and medical facts were conveniently swept under the table in favor of the more profitable approach based on xray-xray-xray and re-x-ray.
For over ten years, I fought with Dr. Corley (head of OFA) over failure to recommend and read elbow and knee joint x-rays. Since he "didn't want to hear it" we can safely assume he really didn't want to read about in the publications which carried my columns. Just before AKC saved OFA, Corley finally bowed to pressure and orthopedic science. OFA has since had a long over-due change in management and I guarantee Eddie Dziuk of Beagle fame, understands what breeders face since we first stepped down off a horse and looked at our dog's conformation with a new understanding.
THE HYPOCRISY OF X-RAY
Even with Dzuik at the helm, the cheating and hypocrisy associated with x-ray is as detrimental to purebred health as are repeated radiographs.
Breeders who wouldn't think of breeding a bitch without an OFA number will use a male under two years of age. If a preliminary x-ray, usually done by their personal vet, is good enough for the yearling male, why isn't it sufficient for a bitch under two? And way worse, some breeders use dogs who have OFA numbers but not much else - like AKC titles.
Equally controversial, in breeds known to have an orthopedic x-ray failure rate of over fifty percent, breeders are morally conflicted. The breeder can't keep puppies for two years but the low odds are discouraging to the buyer. Some forward-thinking breeders in high-risk breeds have addressed the problem by charging less at time of sale, the balance to be paid when the dog is x-rayed clear or has passed whatever genetic tests are prevalent in the breed. Hopefully they have a contract requiring the buyer to follow breeder-provided rearing recommendations as regards orthopedic and immune system health.
"Proper collimation and protection of attendants is the responsibility
of the veterinarian. Gonadal shielding is recommended for male
dogs. Radiography of pregnant or estrous bitches should be
Please make an informed decision before saying yes to routine diagnostic x-rays, or x-raying to see how many puppies she is carrying.
Bottom line: To over-emphasize a certificate that is only as good as the vet who took the x-ray and the one who read it and the owner who hopefully submitted the right dog could lead a good breeder astray.