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Information on our Health Clearances and Genetic Testing

This may seem like a lot to read or look at, but it goes over all our testing practices and reasons behind them.

Hip Testing

Canine hip dysplasia (CHD) affects many preferred breeds, including Golden Retrievers. There are two hip tests available to breeders, OFA (Orthopaedic Foundation for Animals) and PennHIP. These two models represent rival technologies for assessing dogs hips and will always be debated regarding which test is preferred. As a breeder, we have done both OFA and PennHIP tests on our dogs. We feel the PennHIP method is superior, here’s why we switched to PennHIP.

OFA does not declare to accurately predict future disease. It also cannot be initiated until an animal is two years old and well into its breeding years. This allows many dogs to be bred before its hips are evaluated broadening the chance that poor hips will enter the genetic pool. PennHIP can be performed as early as 16 weeks for an accurate prediction of future changes to the hips. This alone makes PennHIP superior.

Reproductive specialist Milan Hess, DVM, DACT, of Colorado Veterinary Specialists said her clinic performs OFA tests more often than PennHIP.

"Breeders know what Excellent, Good or Fair means when discussing hip scores," Hess said. "Breeders are typically not educated in distraction indices or in knowing how their dogs hips compared to the rest of the population can help them make objective breeding choices. OFA evaluation does not require heavy sedation or general anesthesia and requires only one view. For these reasons, OFA evaluation is significantly less expensive than PennHIP evaluation. OFA does not require films to be submitted so breeders can elect not to submit films with obviously poor joint conformation. Finally, OFA evaluations tend to be easier to ‘pass’ than PennHIP evaluations and many breeders are unfortunately more interested in passing the test than having an objective evaluation in which the result may not be as good."

The following Chart somewhat reflects what the comparison results may look like. However, they are vastly different in their testing methods, so this is just as I perceive the results in relation to risk of hip issues. 

*We are happy to say that Beau, Kinz and Bunny have all been cleared for breeding with PennHIP. The vet that performed the PennHIP x-rays went over the results with us and gave a thumbs up to keep them in our breeding program. Aurora was our last dog to go through OFA screening prior to us changing over to PennHIP and she did receive an Excellent on her hip score.


The following is taken from an article written by Dr. Patty Khuly. She goes over the pros and cons of PennHIP versus OFA in a very easy to understand way and is her opinion.

“I consider the PennHIP model superior.

I believe that any rational person who would compare the two technologies would be hard-pressed to side with the OFA method. Here’s why:

1. Objectivity

PennHIP patients’ X-rays are assessed via objective measurements while the OFA X-rays are graded by a small panel of radiologists based on subjective impressions of the dogs’ individual hip conformation.

2. Evidence-based

PennHIP requires any veterinarian who undertakes this method to have his or her X-rays included in a database of cases, regardless of hip quality. This improves not only the value of the database but its value to dogs at large for its more accurate representation of the real incidence of hip disease. Result accuracy for individual dogs are continually refined as more enter the database.

The OFA’s approach effectively allows veterinarians to select the best images or decline to submit poor quality hips for evaluation, thus skewing their database towards better hips. This selection bias renders this database somewhat useless.

3. Early prediction of future disease

The OFA method does not purport to accurately predict future disease. Moreover, it cannot be undertaken until an animal is two years old and well into its breeding years. This means that many dogs will enter the show ring before its hips are evaluated, thus increasing the chance that poor hips will enter the genetic pool through award-based incentives.

PennHIP can be employed as early as 16 weeks for an accurate prediction of future changes to the hips. Therein lies its most valuable asset: its ability to eliminate hip dysplasia entirely from the genetic pool if everyone used this method on their pre-pubescent dogs.

But PennHIP does have some downsides and detractions. Here’s a run-down of these:

1. Access

OFA can be used by any veterinarian with an X-ray machine while PennHIP vets must be certified after completing a one to two day course. In my area (Miami) only one vet is certified. I counted about 25 PennHIP veterinarians in the whole state of Florida.

2. Expense

OFA requires a simple fee for evaluation and certification on one X-ray. If the hips are judged obviously poor by the general practitioner veterinarian taking the X-ray, many elect not to send in the film and incur an additional expense. Many vets don’t sedate or anesthetize for this X-ray (though I do).

PennHIP requires the dog’s owner to commit to the entire service: anesthesia, three X-rays and the evaluation fee. Tack on any additional fees to reimburse the veterinarian for his or her certification status and you’ve got a pricier procedure, sometimes two to three times what OFA costs.

3. Anesthesia

I’ve already mentioned this one but it deserves a special mention for those who choose to limit their dogs’ anesthetic experiences. While I would not undertake OFA X-rays without anesthesia or sedation, many vets do. Dog owners unwilling to have their dogs anesthetized can usually find veterinarians to perform drug-free OFA X-rays. Not so for PennHIP.”

Genetic Testing

Genetic testing shows if a dog has the genetic marker for a particular ailment. DNA results are lifetime and will never change after a test has been done. I have included a chart to show how the results are to be interpreted.

We have completed all the testing necessary to ensure that our puppies will not be affected by any of these diseases. The following DNA tests are what is recommended for golden retrievers.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy prcd-PRA Test

The genetic disorder, prcd-PRA , causes cells in the retina at the back of the eye to degenerate and die, even though the cells seem to develop normally early in life. The “rod” cells operate in low light levels and are the first to lose normal function. Night blindness results. Then the “cone” cells gradually lose their normal function in full light situations. Most affected dogs will eventually be blind.

Prcd-PRA is inherited as a recessive trait. This means a disease gene must be inherited from each parent in order to cause disease in an offspring.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy GR_PRA1 Test

A research team at the Animal Health Trust in the UK and the Swedish University in Uppsala have recently identified a mutation, GR_PRA1, that causes Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) in the golden retriever. OptiGen had previously identified another form of PRA caused by the prcd mutation in this breed.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy GR_PRA2 Test

Following their success in identifying the GR_PRA1 mutation in 2011, the research team at the Animal Health Trust (AHT) in the UK and the Swedish University in Uppsala subsequently identified a mutation, GR_PRA2, that also causes Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) in the golden retriever.

Ichthyosis ICT-A Test

Ichthyosis, whose name is derived from the Greek word for "fish" due to the fish-like scales that are observed on dogs with the disease, is a common inherited dermatosis observed in the Golden Retrievers of Europe and the United States. Dogs with Ichthyosis develop white scales on the skin soon after birth. The scales persist through the animal's life and progressively blacken, becoming dry and rough with age but typically do not cause itching. Secondary infectious complications (bacterial, fungal or parasitic) are occasionally associated with the condition.

Canine Degenerative Myelopathy DM Test

Canine Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) has been recognized for more than 35 years as a spontaneously occurring spinal cord disorder in older dogs, with age of onset ranging between 8 and 14 years.

Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa

Dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (DEB) is a hereditary skin disease affecting dogs. Clinical signs of DEB are present at birth. Affected dogs have fragile skin that is easily damaged from rubbing or trauma resulting in blisters, ulcers and scarring of the skin. Areas that are most prone to blisters are the face, foot pads, genital areas and ears. In addition, affected dogs will develop blisters and ulcers inside the mouth and in the esophagus. Ulcerations of the skin and mucous membranes are painful and can become infected. Blistering of the skin tends to cease at around 8 months of age however, ulcers of the mouth and esophagus persist into adulthood. Dogs with DEB are often smaller than littermates, likely due to difficulties eating.

Muscular Dystrophy (Golden Retriever Type)

Golden Retriever muscular dystrophy is an inherited disease affecting Golden Retrievers. Affected dogs are unable to produce adequate amounts of a protein important for muscle contraction and relaxation. By 10 weeks of age affected puppies are noticeably smaller than littermates shortly after birth due to decreased growth associated with the inability to nurse. Affected dogs often need to be hand or bottle fed to prevent starvation. Beginning around 6 weeks of age, dogs begin to develop a progressively abnormal gait, muscle weakness, excessive drooling, muscle.

Osteogenesis Imperfecta (Golden Retriever Type)

Osteogenesis imperfecta (OI) is an inherited collagen disorder affecting dogs. Affected dogs typically present between 3 to 4 weeks of age with pain, lameness and fractures. OI is caused by a defect is in the way collagen is made. Because collagen is an important component of bone, bones of affected dogs are thinner than normal, fracture easily and do not heal properly. Other features of the disorder include loose joints and brittle teeth. Affected puppies may die shortly after birth and be smaller than littermates. Because of the severity of the disease, pups with OI are usually euthanized by 3 months of age.

Sensory Ataxic Neuropathy

Sensory Ataxic Neuropathy is an inherited neurologic condition affecting Golden Retrievers. Affected dogs typically present between 2 to 8 months of age with signs of neurologic disease. Symptoms include a lack of muscle coordination, abnormal gait and difficulty balancing especially affecting the hind limbs. Muscle mass appears normal and the condition does not appear to be painful. Although the disease progresses slowly, dogs are often humanely euthanized before three years of age

Heart and Eyes

All our dogs receive yearly heart and eye exams by our vet. She is very thorough and has trained under a certified eye specialist in Calgary. We feel very confident that she will find any issues should any arise.

Here at KountryKozy, we research all the latest health reports and studies. We have all the background information and results on the parents of our dogs to assist us in ensuring the correct tests are completed on our breeding dogs. We hope that this will continue to allow us to offer beautiful and healthy golden retriever puppies.

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