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Hi Amy,

Welcome to the list and thanks for a thoughtful statement of your ideas on the
subject of hip evaluation. It is a touchy subject of course, so I hope all of us
will be able to keep our respectful stance toward one another even as we talk
about our differences of opinion on this topic that is so close to many people's
hearts.

> My concern with OFA certification is that by using this as a bench
> mark of sound dogs and culling those dogs that do not measure up
> that we are losing genetic diversity and opening up the door to many
> more problems and diseases within the different breeds.

There is no doubt that this can be the case, if it is not deliberately avoided
with great care. There are many many traits to consider in breeding dogs and any
one trait put way way ahead of others in selection surely could be detrimental
to the gene pool no matter how very very important that one trait may be.

I would say that for any breeder to use OFA or PennHIP or GDC hip
evaluation/certification as a BENCHMARK or sole criterion of soundness is a big
mistake. Soundness is much more complex than radiographs can show.

However, at this time radiographs are about the only way to see whether
arthritic changes have already begun and before the onset of overt signs
(clinical signs) of lameness or such. So radiographs, while not by any means the
whole story on soundness, can give very important information that is relevent
to deciding whether an apparently sound dog is actually has begun to process of
arthritic degeneration.

Of course, as you have mentioned the evaluation process is not without risks.
Sandra N. made the case very eloquently a while back that vets are perhaps
generally not concerned enough about the potential effect of xrays on the eggs
and sperm. I know my own vets are not "breeder vets" and are therefore look at
my dogs with a somewhat different set of priorities than I do. Most of their
patients have been altered so consideration of the effects of
treatment/evaluation procedures on reproduction doesn not come up that often;
sometimes I have to remind them of special concerns. Given that most of their
xrays are done on an injured animal that NEEDS radiographs NOW, it may be
perfectly understandable that no procedure for protecting the reproductive
organs has been already established in their practice. But breeders can request
such protection for their dogs undergoing xrays, and surely vets should respect
the request and have some method for doing so (as with humans, lead shields?).

The anesthesia risk is also not to be poo-pooed. I know that our vets who put
animals under anesthesia every day may not always understand this concern. I am
fortunate that at least one of the vets I work with is very concerned about
anesthesia risks. I was personally opposed to the use of anesthesia for hip
xrays for a long time but I now see that for some animals it might be
psychologically rather traumatic to be physically restrained for xrays and some
may simply not hold still enough, and for some the positioning could cause
physical pain. I am looking into going to Michigan State where they do thousands
of hip and elbow xrays with sedation and not anesthesia. A remaining question is
whether the sedation is just as risky as full anesthesia... but no doubt it is
far less expensive. My own vets are currently pretty set about using anesthesia
for hip and elbow radiographs. The only reason I am able to take that risk with
my own dogs, is that it I would feel worse not knowing about their hip status.

Naturally, given the apparent polygenic nature of the disorder, I know that my
dogs may still produce pups with hip dysplasia even if they are not affected. I
will feel very badly if any of my puppies do turn out to have hip dysplasia, but
I would feel much worse if I didn't know the evaluations of their parents. Xrays
give me the possibility of avoiding the situation of  finding out after the fact
that I'd bred together two parents who already had arthritis in their hips but
without clinical signs at the time of breeding.

Even in a breed where there might be a small and closely related population, and
if it is considered by most conscientious breeders as necessary to breed from
dogs with hip dysplasia because otherwise the breed would go extinct (such as I
think may be the case with St. Bernards and Neopolitan Mastiffs), it makes sense
to take the precaution of not breeding two dogs together who both have
arthritis.

Amy, I'm sure you've thought about all of this as you've given a considered
statement of your position. As a caring person, I'm sure you have deeply thought
about all this and clearly believe you are doing the best for your dogs. I would
hardly expect my own brief statement of my position to be sufficiently in depth
to affect your thought process on this subject. However since my opinion does
differ from yours, I felt the need to register that with some small explanation
of my own.

Very best wishes for your puppies: hoping they each get truly great homes and
have a long and wonderful life!

Gina
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