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
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
OFA and Penn Hip concur on the advantages of anesthesia. It provides
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)
variations. They also recommend that radiographs be taken one month
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
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?