First, some facts:
The “standard” view
(positioning of dog for X-ray pictures of hips) is not the best… it
is not the most accurate way to determine the real quality of hips.
The SV and other registries have the dog stretched out on its back with
legs straight out on the table, for the X-ray picture. While this is
good for showing joint deterioration at the time, it is not
accurate in showing true looseness, and it is not good for
predicting what the hips will look like in a few years, when perhaps
the dog has already produced puppies that inherit its hip quality.
Accuracy in diagnosis and
prediction, using that old ventro-dorsal position (lying flat on its
back) increases with age of the dog being “X-rayed” (radiographed).
At one year of age, which is when the SV starts “certifying” dogs,
accuracy in predicting mature hip quality is rather poor—only the
worst are identified when young, so progress in reducing incidence
of dysplasia is still relatively poor.
The SV has recently required a
second hip radiograph after a dog has produced a certain number of
litters, but popular dogs will still have put far too many dogs on
the ground by then. That means many buyers will be stuck with pups
that have less than ideal hips or chances of being valuable to the
bred in that regard.
The greater the number of
truly “normal” ancestors in the near pedigree, the greater the odds
that your dog will have good hips, meaning that it will have a
better chance of avoiding both orthopedic problems itself, and of
passing problems along to descendants.
The only technique that gives
an accurate, early, and relatively unchanging look at hip quality is
the PennHIP technique and evaluation service. It is an abbreviation
for “(U. of) Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program” developed at that
university, and is available in a great number of countries. The
German hierarchy (at least in the GSD world ruled by the SV) has
typically, stubbornly resisted the better science of PennHIP and has
thus condemned its members and followers to a world of limited
I have written longer explanations of the dysplasia problems and
these can be found on Internet sites, as well as a comprehensive
look in my large book on canine orthopedic problems (you can do an
Internet search for my name and address if you want to order one).
The purpose of this current paper is to give a shorter introduction
and to encourage you readers, buyers, and breeders to use the better
tools available. This will give you much better chances of avoiding
hip dysplasia in the pups you buy or sell.
The PennHIP method of determining present and future hip quality has
many advantages: Repeatability is one, which means that the results
when radiographed at any later age will be extremely close to those
obtained at a young age such as 5 months, before much expense is put
into a dog in advertising, selling, and training. It is
heartbreaking to put so much time into training only to learn at a
year or older that the dog is not of breeding quality in its hips.
So economy is advantage number two. Perhaps the third advantage is
the population-genetics one, meaning that by enough breeders using
this technique, the average quality of all dogs will be improved.
The following drawing shows the positions of the dog and the
patented PennHIP distraction tool. The only vets authorized to take
these pictures and submit them to Penn for certification,
evaluation, and entry into the data bank are those who have gone
through the one-day training program and have successfully submitted
enough approved radiographs from their own practice (so their
technique can be evaluated before they are added to the list of
The primary predictive indication of DJD (degenerative joint
disease, which is another term for HD) and the main definition, at
least in young dogs, is joint laxity. This is best revealed
by the PennHIP method for two reasons: better accuracy, and
detection at younger ages. While we cannot see genes, we can get a
vastly better idea of their relative “quality” or power to produce
certain hip qualities, by using the PennHIP method. Certified vets
(those who’ve successfully gone through the seminar and testing
procedure) can be found by visiting the PennHIP website and looking
in your country, state, or zip code for those near you.
We cannot state too often that PH accuracy, efficacy, and
dependability in early identification of the prime aspect of HD
(joint laxity) is your best assurance. Even evaluated at 4 months of
age, PH is more than 90% as accurate as the old-standard AVMA/OFA/SV
diagnosis at 24 months, and those 5 or 6 months old have
repeatability statistics approaching 100%. Indeed, one day the
PennHIP method will be the “standard.”
The biggest problem with the old-fashioned ventro-dorsal position
still used by SV, OFA, and others, is that at the ages most dogs are
sold to new homes, about half of the hip radiograph evaluations will
be erroneous… we call these “false negatives” and as such, they
represent great economic risks to the buyer. The DI (distraction
index) numbers reported by PennHIP evaluations help you avoid the
loss of time and money in the purchase and upbringing of your pups,
and any dissatisfaction by your customers. OFA’s published
reliability figures have been erroneously high; the percentages of
false negatives as well as false positives were not valid, and one
can extrapolate those inaccurate results to apply to SV, FCI, and
any other old-style v-d-position registries. Then, too, most of
their radiographs of bad hips are never sent in, which avoidance
technique is not allowed by PennHIP.
If breed clubs and registries would adopt the PH
compression-distraction method as a far better revealer of probable
hip genotype in the individual and its progeny, it will represent a
quantum leap in genetic hip-disease control. The very best and
fastest improvement would be had by using this stress radiography
for early and accurate diagnosis, plus Zuchtwert or Breed Value
assessment with its use of progeny information and an open database
on relatives. Simply put, PennHIP and its DI rating represent a more
rigorous, demanding, safety-satisfying look at laxity and risk. It
allows a clearer picture of the genotype by offering, at younger
ages, identification of the most likely carriers of bad or good
genes, a more quantitative evaluation (numerical index), and faster
progress in reducing the incidence of HD.
Fred Lanting is an internationally respected show judge, approved by
many registries as an all-breed judge, has judged numerous
countries’ Sieger Shows and Landesgruppen events, and has many years
experience as one of only two SV breed judges in the US.
He consults and presents seminars worldwide on such topics as
Gait-&-Structure, HD & Other Orthopedic Disorders, and The GSD.
Contact: All Things Canine, Phone 256-498-3319 or
Mr.GSD @ netscape.com for inquiries regarding judging or lecturing.
Canine HD and Other
This highly-acclaimed book covers all joints plus many bone
disorders and includes genetics, diagnostic methods, treatment
options, environment, and more. It is a comprehensive (nearly 600
pages!), amply illustrated, annotated, monumental work suitable both
as a coffee-table book, reference work vets, students, breeders,
trainers, and owners of any breed.
The Total German Shepherd
(Almost all chapters are suitable for any breed.)
This is the expanded and enlarged second edition, a “must” for every
true GSD lover. It is also suitable for the novice, yet detailed to
be indispensable for the reputable GSD breeder.
Conflict – a “War and Peace”-size novel of love,
war, joy, suffering, and the meaning of life. Ask about it.
– a lifetime of work in the realm of poetry; a large book with many
styles and topics.
Click here to purchase books by Fred Lanting
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