Orthopedic Foundation for Animals(OFA) is a US organization that certifies hips.  OFA is a frequently used term in Airedales since they can be prone to hip dysplasia and hip certification is a minimum requirement for breeding.

OFA began over 40 years ago in 1966 as a project initiated by John M. Olin.  The mission of the organization has evolved over the years from a focus on hip dysplasia to a more widespread concern on reduction of several genetic diseases.

OFA maintains databases for hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, patellar luxation, autoimmune thyroiditis, congenital heart disease, legg-calve-perthes disease, sebaceous adenitis, congenital deafness, shoulder OCD, and several DNA Based Databases such as von willebrand’s disease and progressive retinal atrophy. They also make financial contributions to studies on other health issues.

The great part about OFA is that the databases are public and anyone can search for certifications using their website.  We always recommend verifying certifications yourself and OFA makes this process easier.

OFA certifies hips through evaluation of radiographs that are taken and submitted by a vet you choose.  The radiographs are examined independently by 3 out of 20-25 board certified veterinary radiologists on staff.  Each radiologist examines the radiographs and assigns a rating to the hips based on breed, sex, and age.  Certifications are given to dogs over 24 months of age.  Dogs under 24 months of age can have preliminary evaluations, but a certificate is not given.

It is important to make sure the vet taking the radiographs has experience with hips and with OFA as an inexperienced person can position the dog incorrectly which can make the hips appear incorrect when that might not really be the case.  This is similarly important when reading radiographs, an vet experienced with examining Airedale hips is necessary as hips from one breed do not look the same as hips in another breed.

In addition to the public databases, OFA provides a wealth of health information on their website as well as statistics regarding the data they collect.

According to the OFA data through 2007, Airedales ranked 81st for breeds most prone to hip dysplasia.  This number is based on 5190 evaluations of which 7.1% received an Excellent rating and 11.5% received a Dysplastic rating.  In comparison, the #1 ranked breed is Bulldogs where out of 410 evaluations only 0.2% were Excellent while 73.7% were Dysplastic.  German Shepherds, known for hip dysplasia, rank 38th with 92,736 evaluations where 3.5% evaluated as Excellent and 19.1% evaluated as Dysplastic.

PennHIP is another hip certifying organization which we will discuss at another time.