2002 OFA Committee Report

Prior to assuming the OFA Committee vacancy, I underestimated the scope of the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. Established in 1966, to assist breeders in addressing hip dysplasia, OFA has added databases to include elbow and patella deformities, craniomandibular osteopathy, autoimmune thyroiditis, congenital heart disease, copper toxosis in Bedlington Terriers and DNA databases. This report is limited to Canine Hip Dysplasia.

My contact with the OFA has been Dr. Greg Keller , Executive Director. He answered my initial questions and has made himself available for subsequent conversations. In addition to educating me in the ramifications of CHD, he provides periodic data related to the Giant Schnauzer and the Advocate, a semiannual publication informing and educating recipients on the advances in animal health and OFA services.

In addition to the OFA, orthopedic veterinarians and veterinary colleges have been most cooperative in the dissemination pertinent information. These contacts and related publications reveal that unless positive and realistic attitudes and aggressive practices are brought to bear, an excessive number of Giant Schnauzers will be the victims of a cruel but preventable disease.

At last year's National Specialty, one of the first comments made to me was "All you have to do is put together a few OFA statistics." To satisfy this observation, here they are:

>From January 1974 - December 2000, the OFA made 3,186 Giant Schnauzer hip evaluations. Twenty plus percent (20.4%) were diagnosed as dysplastic -- borderline to severe. In the AKC Working Group of (21) breeds, OFA data indicates that only (5) breeds have a greater incidence than the Giant Schnauzer.

Through December 31, 1999, fewer than (75) Giants have been evaluated for elbow dysplasia.

The Giant Schnauzer does not fare well with breeds having reputations for severe CHD problems:
1. Golden Retrievers - 21.0%
2. Giant Schnauzers - 20.4%
3. German Shepherd Dogs - 19.5%
4. Bernese Mountain Dogs - 18.6%

These Statistics are conservative. The OFA evaluates only those radiographs which have been submitted for detection and assessment of hip joint irregularities and secondary arthritic changes. Subsequently, OFA statistics are only as good as their data inputs.

It is my opinion that the OFA, at best, receives minimal data on this genetic/orthopedic disease because there are breeders and owners who will not:
1. Admit to the severity of Giant Schnauzer CHD.
2. Have their Giant Schnauzers x-rayed for hip dysplasia under any condition.
3. Submit x-rays to the OFA if the veterinarian's evaluation Indicates a dysplastic condition.
4. Allow chemical restraints to be used (see 5. below)
5. Submit marginal/failing x-rays to the OFA when a chemical restraint (anesthesia) is
used. Instead they opt for a second x-ray without anesthesia. More often than not,
these results indicate a positive conformation. In spite of their differences, the
OFA and Penn Hip concur on the advantages of anesthesia. It provides a truer
representation of the hip status.
6. X-ray females. The OFA stipulates that radiographing a pregnant or estrus female
should be avoided due to possible increased joint laxity (subluxation) from hormonal
variations. They also recommend that radiographs be taken one month after weaning
pups and one month before or after a heat cycle. Whether it be female or male, the
OFA recommends evaluation only when the dog is in good physical condition.

It is ludicrous to believe or state that a dog may be perfectly healthy with no possibility of hip dysplasia. Its presence cannot be determined by physical examination or observation. Substantial muscle mass surrounds the hip making meaningful palpitation a virtual impossibility. Because pain thresholds vary considerably with individual dogs, assessments based on resistance to manipulation are subjective at best.

The Giant Schnauzer Club Code of Ethics (Condensed) states "I will use for breeding stock only those Giants who have been X-rayed clear of hip dysplasia and certified by the OFA and will strongly encourage those who purchase puppies to do the same."

The Code is commendable. However, there is no effective means to enforce adherence. Subsequently, the fate of the Giant Schnauzer is predicated on breeding practices and buyer discretion.

A Passing Thought
To minimize the occurrence of CHD, a number of breeders are limiting their breeding stock to only those dogs with OFA ratings of EXCELLENT or GOOD. Is this practice beyond the realm of our responsibilities to the Giant Schnauzer?

Respectful submitted,
Larry Stewart
OFA Committee


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