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Why some of your dogs may be failing OFA/PennHip hip evaluations and what you can do about it.

Updated: Feb 29, 2020

Common sense disclaimer: As with everything else on this blog, it’s critical to seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian, preferably one that is board certified in theriogenology (reproductive science) for reproductive matters. This website, its blog, and its courses are NOT designed nor intended to replace the need for a qualified veterinarian, but instead to help educate people to to work optimally with their veterinarians. All recommendations should be reviewed with qualified professionals, such as a board certified reproductive veterinarian, prior to implementation in a breeding program. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian. Readers assume all risks associated with use of material on this site. More here.


I want to go over why we often seem to emphasize weight and body condition score in our puppies and dogs and why it is so important.

In one of the better studies on the topic, they took some Labrador retrievers and fed them the “normal” amount recommended on bags of food.

The second group was fed about 25% less, to keep them at a body condition score (BCS) of 4-5.

The dogs in the study were all litter mates, so genetic variation was not an issue.

The group that was kept at a 4-5 BCS not only suffered less pain, they also lived longer.

Please look at the chart to see the difference (charts from Institute of Canine Biology analysis of the published data).

This has massive and serious implications for evaluating breeding dogs. It also complicates things. So if we have a dog with a fair rating but who has been overweight, is that dog now a more suitable breeding candidate than one with a good rating who has always been at an ideal weight? At this point, there's no way to know. And An overweight dog who fails radiographic screening is still not an acceptable breeding candidate because we just don't know if she or he would have had a better score given a better diet. Weight does NOT replace radiographic screening (PennHip, OFA, eVet), but we should include weight as a factor IN ADDITION TO these screenings.

It's easier to evaluate body condition on a short-haired dog, because you can do that visually. If your dog has a longer coat, be sure you can feel your dogs ribs and that there is at most only a VERY thin layer of fat over them. If you need help evaluating your dog’s body condition, please ask us or consult your vet.

This graph shows the heavier dogs (blue bars) had a MUCH higher incidence if hip dysplasia than those kept at a body condition score of 4-5 (red bars). This is a very drastic difference! Roughly 2-3 times the number dogs (depending on age) that were over a 4-5BCS had evidence of hip dysplasia compared to those that were kept at a healthier weight.

This chart shows that dogs kept at a body condition score of 4-5 (red bars) lived longer than those allowed to get a little heavier (blue bars). 75% of the dogs with the 4-5 BCS lived to 12 years of age, but only 30% of the dogs that ate more lived to 12.

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