OFA Adds Databases

The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) has been a leader in collecting, researching, and distributing information on orthopedic diseases in dogs and other animals. Since the mid-1960s, OFA has collected and interpreted x-rays for all breeds of dogs (and some breeds of cats) in an effort to help breeders reduce the incidence of hip dysplasia in their lines.

Recently, OFA has expanded their efforts. OFA has set up several other databases for collection of information on a number of diseases, not just hip dysplasia. Some of these databases are breed-specific (copper toxicosis in some terrier breeds, for instance), but there are several registries now available for all dog owners. Besides obtaining an OFA number for hips, Chesapeake Bay Retriever breeders can now x-ray elbows and obtain a clearance against elbow dysplasia. OFA is also collecting information on heart problems in our breed. A thyroid registry has also been set up, where results of a complete thyroid panel can be listed with OFA In addition; Chesapeake breeders may also participate in a registry for patellar luxation.

How to participate. As with hip certification, it all starts with you and your vet. While a dog is being x-rayed for hips, the elbows can be done at the same time. Patellas (kneecaps) can be palpated easily by any vet. These three certifications could all be done at the same time. Many vets are now offering "package deals" where they will do these three tests for one fee, then send the results in for you. Currently, OFA charges $30 for hip certification alone. It is $25 for elbow certification alone. If they are both sent in together, it is only $35. Research into luxating patellas (slipped stifles) is ongoing, as it is not known at this time how much of a problem it is in the various breeds. Some breeds have more affected dogs than others, while some breeds may not have affected dogs at all. In order to get a clearer picture of how many breeds are affected; OFA is charging only $15 for certification of patellas. There is no charge for an affected dog. By not charging a fee for affected dogs, this allows OFA to collect as much information as possible affected animals.

The thyroid test works a little differently from the orthopedic tests. Blood must be drawn from the dog, then submitted to a laboratory approved by OFA. Several laboratories in both the US and Canada have been approved to run this test for OFA. The test currently consists of T4, T3, TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and TAA (thyroglobulin auto-antibody). The owner fills out the OFA form and it is sent to the laboratory along with the blood samples. The laboratory sends the results with the form and fees directly to OFA, with a report sent to your vet. Again, because this is an ongoing research effort, the fee is only $15. Any recertification of that same dog is free. Affected dogs can have their results sent to OFA for free at any age.

The cardiac test is one that any vet can perform, but a cardiologist is preferred. There is a place on the form where the vet indicates whether it was performed by a specialist or not. It involves either auscultation (listening to the heart with a stethoscope) or Doppler echocardiography. Echocardiography is recommended if unusual sounds are heard on auscultation. Again, the results of this examination are sent to OFA along with the fee. The fee for this certification is also $15. Affected dogs are free. Dogs can be recertified for free.

OFA recommends that both the cardiac and thyroid tests be repeated periodically throughout the dog’s life. Thyroid and cardiac conditions can develop over time, so a dog with a clearance one time could still develop a problem later on. That’s why OFA is not charging a fee for resubmitting data on a dog that has already been certified. They hope that this will encourage dog owners to re-check their dogs stock from time to time. Registration of affected dogs is free for these two studies, because data from affected animals is needed for ongoing research. All Chesapeake owners and breeders are encouraged to submit information on any thyroid or cardiac affected animals they may have.

In addition to these new offerings for health certifications, the OFA has also changed to a semi-open registry. Until now, only unaffected dogs had their information released to the public. With this new policy change, OFA now allows the dog’s owner the option to select whether information on affected dogs is released to the public or not. Some Chesapeake owners are already exercising this option, releasing information on normal and affected dogs they own. A person can release information on dogs by checking off a box on the OFA form when they fill the form out. For dogs that were already diagnosed as affected before this option became available, a form can be filled out to release information on these dogs. Thus, an owner can release information on any affected dogs; even ones that were diagnosed 20 or 30 years ago.

In addition to this semi-open registry change, OFA and the AKC Canine Health Foundation are working toward establishment of a registry to be maintained by OFA. This registry would include not only the OFA tests currently available, but also DNA-based tests run by other entities, such as the OptiGen test currently available to Chesapeake breeders. The exact details of this new registry are not yet worked out. It may be a fully-open or semi-open registry, and what kinds of tests will be included has yet to be determined. More information will be made available to Chesapeake breeders as these details are worked out.

More information is available on the OFA’s website http://www.offa.org. (note: that is two "f’s")