The OFA, an organization which evaluates the hip joints of dogs, was started in the 1960’s with good intentions and served a good purpose. This because at that time Hip Dysplasia ( HD ) was prevalent in many Euro German Shepherd Dogs that were being imported into the U.S., then being reproduced by American Breeders, as well as many other breeds. This was also a time when most of the Euro GSD’s that were being imported were simply not wanted in Europe and had dysplastic hips. However in the modern World this organization has became little more than a money seeking business, and their so called hip certifications hold little credibility now.
A dogs skeleton is fully developed by 12 months of age. The soft tissue ( primarily muscle ) will develop until a female is approximately 20 months of age, and until the Male is 30 months, but again the skeleton is mature at 12 months. This is why a dogs hips are Certified at 12 months of age in Europe, and for people wanting to certify their dogs hips, they need to know by 12 months. However because of greed, the OFA will not certify until 24 months of age. This organization is well aware that people want to have a rating well before that age, so they will have dog owners to send in an x-ray prior to 24 months of age, such as 12 months or younger and the owner will receive a preliminary evaluation, of course for a fee. Then the owner must repeat the process at a later time for a certificate and again for a fee. This form of greed of the OFA is unhealthy for dogs, especially European German Shepherds who are sensitive to Anesthesia, which has also been shown to cause a thinning of the Aorta wall ( the main artery in the body ). This as dogs must be placed under Anesthesia prior to a hip x-ray, and this greed causes it to happen twice. These unnecessary actions are occurring because the OFA is a part of the American Veterinary System. As discussed in detail on this website, the Am. Vet. System is consumed with greed, and at the expense of the health of dogs.
Fortunately HD rarely exist in the modern European ( Authentic ) GSD due to very select breeding in Europe for the past 120 years. Regarding x-ray evaluation, Dysplastic hips vs healthy hips on a radio-graph are in actuality very easy to differentiate. I think I could show a normal functioning 8 year old child 5 images of dysplastic hips, then 5 images of healthy hips, and that child could interpret and evaluate any hip x-ray image thereafter.
So why are OFA certificates of little value and credibility? Two reasons- First, the OFA does NOT require a tattoo or DNA to accompany an x-ray. So lets say a Breeder has much money invested into a dog and they realize that the dog has dysplastic hips. They want to either sell the dog or breed the dog before it becomes lame. We will call this dog ”A”. The Breeder then gets another dog who he or she knows has good hips- Dog ” B ”. So the breeder takes dog B to have an xray, thus putting dog ” A’s ” name on the paperwork attached to the xray. This all goes to the OFA and thus dog A receives a good hip certification when the poor animal will be dragging its back-end around in a matter of time, and will probably be bred before that happens. It is estimated that as many 25% of dogs who have OFA certified healthy hips, in fact have dysplastic hips. Also there are documented cases in which an x-ray has been evaluated good by the OFA, with the same x-ray being evaluated bad at a latter time. This because evaluations are done by human eyes and such is often a matter of interpretation.The evaluations are done by American Veterinarians, who are trained to identify, and create if need be, problems with a dogs hips, whether they exist or not! So believe it or not, it is very difficult for an American Veterinarian to rate a dogs hips as healthy- because there is no money in that for them!! Maybe the OFA needs that 8 year old!
In the modern World, while many GSD breeders in the United States use the OFA, most high level breeders do not and for the above reasons. So how do such breeders including Vom Zeder Haus Germn Shepherds evaluate hips? Keep in mind that HD is very rare in the modern European ( Authentic ) German Shepherd dog. All 12+ month old imports are certified in their European Country of Origin. Regarding younger imports, or puppies that we keep for our-self, these young dogs are not crate, kennel, or 23 hour a day house dogs, these young dogs are in a demanding working dog environment , thus receiving a very high level of exercise ( running, jumping, twisting and turning ) for hours each day- every day. If we see anything that raises concern, we will have an x-ray performed at 12 months of age. If we have concern or question with the x-ray, we will then send the image to Europe, to be evaluated by an Orthopedic Veterinarian there.
So as a person seeking to purchase a young dog or puppy and you want to know about the hip health of the breeding dogs at the kennel you are visiting- Only seek an Authentic European German Shepherd Dog. Only seek these dogs from Breeders who are QUALIFIED to reproduce these dogs. Breeding age dogs- 30 + months of age who have an unhealthy hip or hips, do not like to run, jump, twist and turn, and cannot do so fluidly and comfortably. So when you visit a Kennel, dis-regard what you are told or the so called certificates that you are shown, as many U.S. breeders will have OFA Certificates to impress you. Tell the Breeder that you want the dogs out of the kennel and off leash. State that you want to see the dogs work, run, jump etc. If any dog appears to be stiff in the rear legs, limps, takes short rear leg strides, or running just seems to require allot of effort, then you should be concerned. ALWAYS acquire a hip warranty in WRITING before acquiring any dog. This is the approach that Law Enforcement and the Military uses when acquiring dogs, as so called OFA certificates are meaningless to such organizations, because of what you have read here. Also keep in mind that while a dog MUST have healthy hips to be a breeding dog, healthy hips have nothing to do with the overall health of a dog. Healthy hips also have nothing to do with intelligence, instincts, overall conformation, discretion , and working ability.
Regarding Hip Dysplasia, you can read specifically about that disease on this website. Because we know that this article will draw criticism and such from other breeders who are pro OFA, we will end this article with some statistics. The Worldwide average of HD in German Shepherds is 19.5%, of course this is roughly 1 in 5 that are Dysplastic. As of the writing of this article in November 2017, VZH has produced 1038 puppies, and 3 have had actual true diagnoses of HD, and this is less than 1%. Specifically this is 0.28%. Is this something I’m boasting about ? ABSOLUTELY NOT !! I have lost sleep over those three.