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So, what is OFA testing and why is it needed?

First, NTX Goldens takes all testing seriously. Our testing results are listed for each of our Golden Retrievers on the Adults tab above. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) is a nonprofit organization that aims to research and prevent orthopedic and hereditary diseases in companion animals. There are four main tests under the OFA control program. They are Hip Dysplasia, Elbow Dysplasia, Eye Certification (must be completed yearly), and Cardiac Disease (must be completed by a cardioligist). All four of these are all described below. Official OFA testing is completed after the dog has turned two years of age and before they whelp or sire a litter. Any OFA test completed before the age of two is just a preliminary test and should not be a substitute for official OFA results.


All breeders should be able to provide you copies of their OFA Certificates on both the Dam and Sire of your puppy. Without these tests, the quality of the puppy you may purchase is at risk. Again, as a responsible breeder our goal should be to better the breed, not pump out puppies from untested parents for a quick dollar.

NOTE: OFA Hip Dysplasia testing should never be a substitute for PennHIP Testing. Check out our PennHIP Tab to see the importance of early detection of Hip Dysplasia utilizing PennHIP. Here at NTX Goldens, we complete PennHIP and OFA testing on all our Golden Retrievers.

The OFA’s mission is to promote the health and welfare of companion animals through a reduction in the incidence of genetic disease. Their databases are central to the organization’s objective of establishing control programs. They serve all breeds of dogs and provide breeders a means to respond to the challenge of improving the genetic health of their breed through better breeding practices.





Hip Dysplasia

Canine Hip Dysplasia typically develops because of an abnormally developed hip joint but can also be caused by cartilage damage from a traumatic fracture. With cartilage damage or a hip joint that isn’t formed properly, over time the existing cartilage will lose its thickness and elasticity. This breakdown of the cartilage will eventually result in pain with any joint movement. No one can predict when or even if a dysplastic dog will start showing clinical signs of lameness due to pain. Severity of the disease can be affected by environmental factors, such as caloric intake or level of exercise.

Screenings for Hip Dysplasia are performed by a veterinarian with x-rays sent to OFA for grading and certification. The OFA classifies hips into seven different categories: Excellent, Good, Fair (all within Normal limits), Borderline, and then Mild, Moderate, or Severe (the last three considered Dysplastic). The OFA will not certify a normal elbow until the dog is 24 months of age.


>Excellent: Superior conformation; there is a deep-seated ball (femoral head) which fits tightly into a well-formed socket (acetabulum) with minimal joint space.

>Good: Slightly less than superior but a well-formed congruent hip joint is visualized. The ball fits well into the socket and good coverage is present.

>Fair: Minor irregularities; the hip joint is wider than a good hip. The ball slips slightly out of the socket. The socket may also appear slightly shallow.

>Borderline: Not clear. Usually more incongruency present than what occurs in a fair but there are no arthritic changes present that definitively diagnose the hip joint being dysplastic.

>Mild: Significant subluxation present where the ball is partially out of the socket causing an increased joint space. The socket is usually shallow only partially covering the ball.

>Moderate: The ball is barely seated into a shallow socket. There are secondary arthritic bone changes usually along the femoral neck and head (remodeling), acetabular rim changes (osteophytes or bone spurs) and various degrees of trabecular bone pattern changes (sclerosis).

>Severe: Marked evidence that hip dysplasia exists. Ball is partly or completely out of a shallow socket. Significant arthritic bone changes along the femoral neck and head and acetabular rim changes.

The hip grades of excellent, good and fair are within normal limits and are given OFA numbers. This information is accepted by AKC on dogs. Radiographs of borderline, mild, moderate and severely dysplastic hip grades are reviewed by a team of consultant radiologists and a radiographic report is generated documenting the abnormal radiographic findings.

​Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is a general term used to identify an inherited polygenic disease in the elbow. Three specific etiologies make up this disease and they can occur independently or in conjunction with one another. These etiologies include:

>Pathology involving the medial coronoid of the ulna (FCP)

>Osteochondritis of the medial humeral condyle in the elbow joint (OCD)

>Ununited anconeal process (UAP)

Studies have shown the inherited polygenic traits causing these etiologies are independent of one another. Clinical signs involve lameness which may remain subtle for long periods of time. No one can predict at what age lameness will occur in a dog due to many genetic and environmental factors such as degree of severity of changes, rate of weight gain, amount of exercise, etc. Subtle changes in your dog’s step/pace may be characterized by excessive inward deviation of the paw which raises the outside of the paw so that it receives less weight and distributes more mechanical weight on the outside (lateral) aspect of the elbow joint away from the lesions located on the inside of the joint. Range of motion in the elbow is also decreased.


For elbow dysplasia evaluations for dogs, there are no grades for a radiographically normal elbow. The only grades involved are for abnormal elbows with radiographic changes associated with secondary degenerative joint disease. Like the hip certification, the OFA will not certify a normal elbow until the dog is 24 months of age.

>Grade I Elbow Dysplasia: Minimal bone change along anconeal process of ulna (less than 2mm).
>Grade II Elbow Dysplasia: Additional bone proliferation along anconeal process (2-5 mm) and subchondral bone changes (trochlear notch sclerosis).
>Grade III Elbow Dysplasia: Well developed degenerative joint disease with bone proliferation along anconeal process being greater than 5 mm.

In the end, test results will be Normal (which every breeding dog should have), Grade I, Grade II, or Grade III. If a breeder tells you anything different, they are pulling your leg and you should just walk away.


​​Eye Certification

There are eye diseases in the dog for which there is evidence of a genetic or heritable cause. The American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) has listed ten of these diseases as automatic “fails” (this means the affected dog is ineligible to receive an eye certification) because of the significance of the condition to vision and/or the very strong evidence of heritability. OFA Eye Certification examinations are screening exams performed by board certified veterinary ophthalmologists. The exams can take place either in the veterinary office or at a special clinic held in conjunction with another event (such as a dog show). This is a PASS/FAIL examination. The breeding dog either gets a certificate or they don’t. Certification is valid for only 12 months from the date of the eye exam. Annual re-examination is required. If your breeder’s eye certification is over a year old, throw up the red flag.

The eye exam is performed 30 to 40 minutes after pupil-dilating drops are placed in the eyes. The Eye Certification exam consists of indirect ophthalmoscopy and slit lamp biomicroscopy. If a serious ocular health problem (such as glaucoma) is suspected during the Eye Certification exam, the examiner will recommend a more comprehensive ocular examination. After the painless examination of the dog’s eyes, the board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist will complete the OFA


Companion Animal Eye Registry (CAER) form and indicate any specific disease(s) found. The ACVO provides their professional services and expertise to ensure that uniform standards are upheld for the certification of dog’s eyes with the OFA. The Breeder is responsible for sending their copy of the form, along with appropriate payment, to the OFA for entry into the CAER. Upon owner submission of results to the CAER, dogs with passing results are issued certification numbers.


​​​Cardiac Disease

The purpose of this testing is to gather data regarding heart diseases in dogs, and to identify dogs which are phenotypically normal prior to use in a breeding program. For the purposes of the registry, a phenotypically normal dog is defined as:

>One without a cardiac murmur.

>One with an innocent heart murmur that is found to be otherwise normal by virtue of an echocardiographic examination which includes Doppler studies.

Congenital heart disease in dogs is a malformation of the heart or great vessels. The lesions characterizing congenital heart defects are present at birth and may develop more fully during perinatal and growth periods. Many congenital heart defects are thought to be genetically transmitted from parents to offspring; however, the exact modes of inheritance have not been precisely determined for all cardiovascular malformations. The most common congenital cardiovascular defects can be grouped into several anatomic categories. These anatomic diagnoses include:

>Malformation of the atrioventricular valves

>Malformation of the ventricular outflow leading to obstruction of blood flow

>Defects of the cardiac septa (shunts)

>Abnormal develop of the great vessels or other vascular structures

>Complex, multiple, or other congenital disorders of the heart, pericardium, or blood vessels


Each dog is examined and classified by a veterinarian with expertise in the recognition of canine heart disease. A breed registry number will only be issued for any dog found to be normal for congenital cardiac disease at 12 months of age or older. The exam must include auscultation. You either have a valid certificate or you don’t.  All breeders should be able to provide you a copy of these results for both the Dam and Sire. No certificate means the breeder either did not have testing done or had bad results.

OFA vs PennHIP

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