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Generations of no identity requirement for hip, heart, eye and other canine health certifications is the worst FRAUD in the gene pool and could affect your dog's health today.






Barbara J. Andrews, AKC Master Breeder, Science Editor, SAAB

2018 update, also see Health Certification part 1


OFA, CERF, CHIC, and other health tests are wonderful tools as long as we are aware that there are inherently fatal flaws in most genetic health certifications.


50 years later, most health certification companies have faced up to the fact that for generations, there was NO IDENTIFICATION REQUIRED.  Therefore all older databases are questionable.


stand-in dogs x-rayed so many times they glow in the darkConstant hammering by finally achieved a small degree of success.  By 2010 some certifications were issued based on the type of identification presented to the veterinarian. Note: It is a veterinarian who does the actual testing so the matter of accuracy, identity fraud, or any legal liability does not impact the company that actually issues the certificate.  Conversely, the Vet can't be liable for the way the company that issue the certification is read. Let that sink in.


Some breeds have "glow in the dark" dogs.  Those irradiated dogs are substituted for dogs with known problems, enabling defective dogs to obtain health certifications.  Little has changed in 2018 except the emergence of new canine health problems for which there are new tests, many of which deliberately disregard environmental factors. While we have some reservations about migrating microchips, lip tattoos, as done with racing greyhounds, is a viable, unmistakable form of canine identification.


We've heard all the excuses for failed X-rays but in fact, a fat, out-of-condition, slow growing large breed dog, a bitch in heat or a post-whelping bitch will not present the tight hip sockets of a dog in good physical condition.


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) a gene which, if present, kills the dog within 2 weeks of birth. In other words, it was a rare, self-limiting genetic defect. Testing was expensive for breeders but it was immensely profitable for those who promoted the test.


Fulcrum Hip X-rays and Hip Joint Palpation Certification

Fulcrum X-ray meant "gently" forcing the fulcrum out of the hip socket to determine maximum joint laxity during radiographs. 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. Many breeders allege the procedures actually caused joint damage.


Inarguably, both procedures resulted in the death of thousands of dogs that may have been sound. The reality of so many young dogs destroyed before vets gave up on the value of palpation is heartbreaking.  Palpation was so inaccurate[1] that many vets insisted on repeated hip socket manipulations... Palpation finally earned condemnation in 1999[2] but it took over 20 years!


Palpation and the OFA x-ray procedure was characterized by Professor Jerry Schnelle, DVM (who first identified and studied canine hip dysplasia) as “pinning the tail on the donkey.”


If Preliminary Hip Certification Looked Uncertain...

Breeders were encouraged to have a pectinectomy performed. The surgical procedure involved cutting the tendons of the pectineus (groin) muscle. The mutilation was promoted as relieving tension on the hip joint and even represented as a “cure” for hip dysplasia. Thankfully ethical veterinarians acknowledged that it failed to help dogs attain hip certification, did not relieve pain nor prevent further degeneration, and so the painful, expensive procedure had a relatively short life.


OFA Certified?

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 by those who greatly profited from the procedure. The "Swedish Study" was cited by OFA... When PennHip was launched by the Un. of PA, OFA staggered in a death dance until the American Kennel Club saved it by listing the OFA number on the dog’s AKC registration certificate.


Subsequently, 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 current board members. Go figure! After decades of debacle, Dr. Corley retired and I am proud to claim some degree of credit for that overdue event. I 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 newspaper and Rick Beauchamp's Kennel Review magazine, I repeatedly asked why hip sockets were so important but elbow, patella, and stifle joints were not?  It took over 20 years of badgering before OFA caved in to public charges of hypocrisy and fraud and finally began to certify knees and elbows. 


Dr. Corley was replaced by the “Beagle Man” Eddie Dziuk who is a true dog man with the dog’s best interest at heart.  By the turn of the century, OFA also began to issue certificates for heart, skin, thyroid, deafness, and a smorgasbord of genetic and DNA tests and certifications.


Canine I.D. - Will The Real Dog Please Bark Up?

The potential for fraud in health testing is screamingly obvious. With all the new ground-breaking discoveries and genetic markers, why do health registries still not require permanent identification? The Thoroughbred and racing Greyhound registries have always required lip or ear tattoo. Today they also use microchip. So I ask again:

  • When will health registries require permanent identification?

  • When will re-certification be required for degenerative conditions?

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 marketing basis.  If a medical doctor tested a patient and certified he/she would never develop diabetes or heart problems, the doctor would lose his medical license!  So there's lots of wiggle-room in the health testing racket...


The basis of human health testing / screenings is reliable results. Your physician is depending on it. But veterinary medicine can be obscure on how definitive a test really is.   No objective third-party “certifies” that eye, heart, kidney, hearing exams, or x-rays are accurate. We must also realize that any test is only good for that period in time.


Many dogs become clinically affected after certification.  Was it a faulty exam, a records mix-up, 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 (OFA) claimed all sorts of in-house statistics that were 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 encouraged but duly noted and weighed as just one factor relating to overall health, temperament, and quality when breeding decisions are made.


Meet the Editor and Author Barbara J. "BJ" AndrewsPlease, breeders, forget bragging rights and be realistic. 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


Excerpts from "On The Line" ShowSight Magazine Oct 2001 -- Click if you missed Canine Health Certification, Part 1

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HEALTH CERTIFICATION, PART 1: The SICK truth behind decades of failure to require permanent I.D. on dogs tested for any health certification is the worst genetic fraud affecting dogs today!

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