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OFA & PennHips:

PennHips can be performed as early as 6 months of age. OFA won’t certify hips until 2 years of age. FACT: NEITHER is a guarantee the dog won’t be dysplastic at some point during his or her life and does NOT guarantee offspring will not be dysplastic as well. These tests are NOT DNA tests. They are simply a reading (opinion) based on a snapshot in time, otherwise known as an x-ray, and can change from year to year.

There are too many gray area’s regarding both PennHips and OFA to incorporate this practice into my program because both tests can be manipulated to get different readings at different times and/or ages. FACT: according to the OFA website link at then choose the Australian Shepherd breed ..... OFA CLEARLY states for evaluations dating back to 1974 through 2014 for the Australian Shepherd breed testing Hips for 34,033 Australian Shepherds only 5.8% were found to be abnormal. Only 4.1% were abnormal for elbows. BUT .... for Degenerative Myelopathy the abnormal percent is listed as 21.3% …. more than 3 times higher than the abnormal rate of hips and more than 5 times higher than the abnormal rate of elbows! PLUS the percent of carriers of DM is listed as 24.6% so add in the risk factors of tested carriers being bred to other UNtested potential affected (abnormal as listed here) or carriers and the risk increases even more for potential offspring. Both Optigen & cite that as of 2011 16% of Australian Shepherds out of 1196 tested have one or two copies of the CEA gene … that’s 2.7 times higher than the reported rate of hip dysplasia and 3.9 times greater the risk than elbow dysplasia. cites that in North American alone 47% of 1421 Australian Shepherds tested carry one or two copies of MDR1 & 69% of Australian Shepherds tested in ONE study worldwide carry one or two copies of the MDR1 gene. Multidrug Resistency means no Ivermectin or products listed on the drug sensitivity list for herding breeds should be administered. This information is important for breeders to share with their puppy buyer’s vets for the treatment of worms and also for anesthesia at time of spay/neuter. Breeders who fail to test and pass along important DNA genetic results for this test can be fatal when using the wrong products for deworming, flea & tick control, or if a vet prescribes a drug listed on the drug sensitivity list to treat a simple health issue.

These statistics posted on OFA’s website tell me there are far more GENETIC issue's that plague a MUCH GREATER percentage of the Australian Shepherd breed than hips and elbows that we need to be DNA GENETICALLY testing for and breed away from because we already know how to do so by breeding affected and carrier dogs to tested clear mates. There is no gray area with this method and DNA CANNOT CHANGE so any dog testing clear IS clear for their life …. unlike the OFA & PennHips tests. Since there is NO DNA GENETIC test available for hips and elbows it's still pure luck that breeding OFA tested dogs evaluated as excellent, good, or fair to a mate of the same or better will produce non dysplastic pups. I have not seen any proof that the chance of producing dysplastic pups is reduced with OFA. AND according to pawprintgenetics study 50% of Australian Shepherds are carriers or affected for Degenerative Myelopathy. 29% of Australian Shepherds tested were found to have one copy of Dilated Cardiomyopathy. 29.3% were found to have one or two copies of HSF4 cataracts. That means an Australian Shepherd is 5 times more likely to be a carrier or affected by HSF4 than hip dysplasia AND it only takes ONE copy of HSF4 for the genetic issue to express itself. Based on these numbers .... I would rather take my program in the direction of cleaning up KNOWN genetic defects by way of DNA testing so I have a yes or no, black or white answer with NO gray area for my buyers. I also have to wonder, since 50% of the breed is a carrier or affected with Degenerative Myelopathy if dog owners and vets may be confusing Degenerative Myelopathy with hip dysplasia on untested dogs since the symptoms seem to be so similar affected movement of the hind limbs and spinal column.

Also click on this link: to see hip dysplasia by breed. As clearly posted, these are based on results dating back to 1974. Out of 173 breeds listed with confirmation of hip dysplasia in order of rank based on OFFA’s evaluations, Australian Shepherds rank #136. That’s NOT anywhere close to the top 10 or even in the top 100 breeds of dogs known for hip dysplasia PER OFFA STATISTICS. In fact, AS CLEARLY POSTED ON OFFA’s WEBSITE, out of 34,033 Australian Shepherd’s tested only 5.8% were found to be dysplastic. And look even closer at those statistics …. For younger dogs tested the percentage drops to 4.7%. THAT MEANS even a dog with an OFA rating of Excellent, Good, or Fair as a young dog can still be dysplastic when they are older and have already contributed to the gene pool.

In addition, for the x-ray to be taken for either OFFA or PennHips the dog must be anesthetized. Any time a dog, or person, is anesthetized there is a risk they will not wake up. With such a low incidence of hip dysplasia reported in the Australian Shepherd breed, again based on OFFA’s posted statistics, I have determined the risk of anesthetizing my Sires & Dames to outweigh the need for a useless x-ray in a breed that ranks #136 out of 173 breeds known to have issue for hip dysplasia and makes no guarantee regarding hip dysplasia for the dog being tested or offspring he/she may produce during their lifetime. I would rather make my investment in DNA genetic testing with a yes or no answer, black & white, with ZERO gray area to breed away from genetic issue’s proven to have a much great risk in the Australian Shepherd breed.

PennHips: Here is how PennHips work as quoted FROM PennHip on a Hip Evaluation Report for my female Jinger:

“The chart above indicates the ranking of your animal’s passive hip laxity (DI) in relation to all CANINE animals of the AUSTRALIAN SHEPHERD breed in our database. This result means that 1) your animal’s hips are tighter than approximately 30% of this group of animals” {OF THE AUSTRALIAN SHEPHERDS TESTED} “(alternatively, 70% of the group has tighter hips than your animal), and 2) your animal’s hip laxity is in the looser half of the laxity profile” {OF THE AUSTRALIAN SHEPHERDS TESTED}. “Breed-specific evaluations are analyzed semi-annually. Consequently, the average laxity and range of the laxity for any given group WILL CHANGE OVER TIME.”

Jinger’s report also says “no radiographic evidence of Degenerative Joint Disease” for both hips. Jinger’s rating does not mean she has loose hips or displaysia. It means she has looser hips than 70% of the AUSTRALIAN SHEPHERD DOGS IN PENNHIPS DATABASE AT THE TIME SHE WAS TESTED.

Here is how DNA genetic testing works: When one parent is a carrier, having ONE mutation of a gene (normal/mutant), or is affected, having TWO mutations of a gene (mutant/mutant), the dog should only be bred to a DNA tested clear mate (normal/normal). This means the probability is 50% of offspring will test clear, normal/normal, & 50% will test as carriers when one parent is a carrier (normal/mutant) and one parent is clear (normal/normal). When one parent is affected (mutant/mutant) and the other parent is clear (normal/normal) ALL puppies will test normal/mutant getting one normal gene from the normal/normal parent and one mutant gene from the mutant/mutant parent. As a responsible breeder, these tests are performed to find genetic issue’s so we can breed away from them. However, cutting every dog from the program that tests with a genetic issue could be detrimental to the breed. The more genetic tests that become available, the more likely we are to find genetic issues. I would rather test and know an issue is there so I can breed away from the issue and prevent the offspring from being affected than not test and have my buyers uninformed or remove dogs from the program that have a lot of qualities to sustain the continuation of the breed. If we cut every intact dog from the gene pool that tests with a genetic mutation, there won't be anything left to breed. It takes only 1 generation to breed out carrier genes and 2 generations to breed out 2 mutant genes. Over time, these tests will prove beneficial in cleaning up genetic issues that plague the breed but it does takes time.

CERF is Canine Eye Registry Foundation. For many years this test has been the only test available for the eyes. Only a certified canine ophthalmologist can perform this test and there is typically only 1 or 2 canine ophthalmologist’s per state so many breeders have to travel several hours for an appointment. This exam is, however, in my opinion quite disappointing. The test consists of the canine ophthalmologist simply looking in each eye for 5 seconds & noting any discrepancies in the vision on a form. The problem with this test is a dog can still have one gene normal/mutant, making them a carrier to contribute to defective eyes in their offspring when bred to a carrier or affected mate, or they can have 2 genes making them affected mutant/mutant. Having one gene, normal/mutant, means each puppy the parent produces has a 50/50 chance of having the positive gene passed to them. Having 2 genes, mutant/mutant, means each puppy the parent produces WILL have an affected gene because the parent has no "normal" or "negative" gene to offer their offspring and a puppy CANNOT get a gene that a parent doesn't have to offer. The ophthalmologist CANNOT tell by simply looking into the eye if the dog has one or two genes or is cleared by parentage. They can only tell if the dog HAS a genetic disorder AFTER the condition has already developed. If the dog has already contributed to the gene pool by producing litters of puppies they will have carrier offspring that will contaminate the gene pool when bred to carrier or affected mates. The DNA tests are readily available & now at a relatively affordable cost so breeders who are not utilizing these DNA tests are simply not interested, or concerned, with the betterment of the breed OR with placing quality healthy puppies with their buyers. AGAIN, only having the CERF on the eyes does not mean you are getting a quality healthy dog with no issues. It means that the dog has simply not "developed" a condition that the ophthalmologist can "see" at time of testing.