OFA and Genetic Testing

We don’t do OFA testing. Why? I have considered it over and over, but part of the reason why I haven’t pulled the trigger on doing the OFA checks is this: With the OFA x-rays, their legs are put into a position that is not very natural for the dog to be in, then they take an X-Ray picture of it, and send it off to be looked at. The rating (or score), is based on whatever the technician thinks it looks like. They have 3 technicians look at it and then use the score of whatever the majority of the technicians think.

Your score is dependent on who happens to be looking at it that day, and what they happen to think at that moment. I do understand that they are skilled and experienced, but the fact that different technicians have different opinions means a rating is not set in stone and may not be completely representative of what that dog’s joint health actually is. A healthy leg at one point in time does not mean it will be healthy in 5 years. Poor nutrition, exposure to toxins, etc. can deteriorate health regardless of what it looked like at the moment that the X-ray was taken. The OFA score, therefore, guarantees nothing. It does not at all guarantee that the dog won’t have problems later on, all it means is that the dog does not currently have a problem.

Many people in the breeding world seem to think that problems with the hips, knees, etc. are hereditary. And anyone that breeds a dog without doing OFA testing is a horrible breeder!

However, Dr. Wendell Belfield researched, and discovered that hip dysplasia is caused by lack of Vitamin C, which creates lack of healthy collagen (which is necessary for healthy joints). Therefore, hip dysplasia is caused by lack of nutrition, not necessarily by genetics. So even if OFA scores were representative of a specific dog’s lifetime joint health, a bad score just means that the dog has a lack of nutrition, and possibly even generations of dogs that have been lacking in nutrition. Therefore, bad hips/knees/etc. will be fixed by providing our dogs with good nutrition, not by cutting dogs out of the gene pool. (Having said that, we do not breed dogs that we know currently have joint problems!!)

As for checking eyes, it sounds logical, except that you’re supposed to have them tested every two years, and as soon as you find out they have something wrong with their eyes, of course you’re supposed to stop breeding them, right?

So let’s say something shows up when they’re 4 years old, but you’ve had several litters from that dog already. But of course you didn’t know about it before, so now all you can do is stop breeding that dog. And you’ve already produced all those puppies that have the potential for eye problems. To me it seems not very fool-proof. A good looking eye at 2 years old can mean nothing in the long run, if the dog ends up with something when it’s older. I think giving the dog high-quality, nutritious, species-appropriate food goes a lot farther towards preventing eye problems than having their eye checked every 2 years by a vet.

As breeders, we do our best to make sure our customers are satisfied. Of course, we definitely do not want to sell animals that will have problems that we could’ve avoided, but at the same time, things like OFA testing and health guarantees, are not actually guarantees of anything!  We try to be pretty down to earth and when I’ve weighed the pros and cons of the testing, I have had to come to the conclusion that it’s just not beneficial enough to do. It’s not really going to be helpful for me, or my customers either.

I have talked with people who bought a puppy from OFA tested parents and it ended up with severe joint issues. OFA testing just cannot guarantee that a line of dogs is going to be 100% free of genetic issues. If you choose a dog from OFA tested parents, feed that dog perfectly, raise it perfectly, and eliminate as many toxins from it’s diet and environment as you possible can, there is STILL the possibility of it developing some issue! Problems can still arise, despite our best efforts. Why? Because we are dealing with a living creature, and we live in a fallen world! Things happen, and issues can pop up no matter how we have raised our animals.

Therefore, our goal is to raise as happy, healthy, active, high quality dogs as we can, and we avoid breeding dogs with health issues, but in the end, we can’t guarantee anything, and all any of us can do is our best. When you buy a puppy, you do so knowing that your puppy could develop a health problem, regardless of whether the parents are OFA tested and have a good result.

Choose healthy dogs, choose a healthy diet, choose a healthy lifestyle/environment for our dogs, and that’s all we can do! Please take your puppy’s health seriously and avoid vaccines and processed diets, and you at least know that you will have done what you could to help your dog be healthy even into old age. 🙂

As for genetic DNA testing (like through Embark for example), I do think that is a helpful thing to do so that you can avoid breeding two dogs together that you know would result in a genetic disorder in the puppies. The OFA lists genetic DNA issues that are relevant to each dog breed. They do not mention any specific genetic DNA issues for Shibas and we have not DNA tested any of our adult Shibas.

Further Reading:

Preventing Canine Hip Dysplasia Naturally

Luxating Patellas by Dr. Jeannie Thomason

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