AKC Gazette Columns

AKC Gazette - October 2004


In 1990, the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals(OFA) added an elbow registry, and the Institute for Genetic Disease Control (GDC) initiated an open registry that included elbows. (In an open registry, affected as well as normal evaluations are available for public access.) In July 2002, GDC's database merged with OFA; however, GDC records are not included in the American Kennel Club's database for recording clearances on pedigrees and registrations of offspring.

Because many Berner breeders utilized GDC, it is important to understand the differences in GDC and OFA requirements. GDC granted permanent numbers for dogs I 12 months and older based upon evaluation of two radiographic views of each elbow, in contrast to OFA's age limit of 24 months or older, with one view of each elbow. Both registries established a rating of Normal for certification purposes.

According to OF A statistics through December 2003, Berners rank third in the percent of evaluations found to have dysplastic elbows, with Chow Chows being first and Rottweilers second. Records for Bernese show 69.2 percent of Bernese (out 5,061 evaluations) with elbows rated Normal. The highest percentage of Berners not passing were rated Grade 1, Mild Elbow Dysplasia.

An OFA Consensus Report for Elbows indicates three grades of Elbow Dysplasia (ED): 1, mild; 2, moderate; or 3, severe. Radiographic findings list four components of ED: degenerative joint disease (DJD); ununited anconeal process (UAP); fragmented coronoid process (FCP); and osteochondrosis (OCD). Technically, true elbow dysplasia represents the1atter three, UAP, FCP, and OCD. DJD (degenerative joint disease) is arthritis.

In the Use of Health Databases and Selective Breeding, 4th Edition (2003), Dr. Greg Keller, Chief of Veterinary Services at OFA, states, "There are multiple studies supporting the theory that the various components of ED have a polygenic [many gene] mode of inheritance. Further" it appears that environmental factors also contribute to the expression of the disease."

In certain instances, based upon superior overall quality of the dog and its fulfillment of all other clearances, some breeders do choose to breed a dog evaluated as having ED but with no clinical signs. Such decisions must involve judicious consideration of the findings of the radiographic evaluation, along with careful attention to selection of mates with Normal elbows.

Breeders should provide prospective puppy owners with a four generation pedigree indicating OFA or GDC ratings for dogs in the puppy's ancestry. Foreign bloodlines should have information, if available, from the countries of origin. The greater the documentation of clearances for health issues, the better the chances for physical soundness. While knowledge of clearance results for all dogs in a pedigree may not be available, those of the immediate parents should be furnished willingly. If a particular clearance has not been recorded for one or both parents, it is essential to know what the consensus of the actual evaluation revealed.

The OFA's web site, www.offa.org, can aid in understanding what the clearances are, their importance, and how to interpret the findings. With the exact registered name of the sire and dam, you can explore pedigrees there and at www.bernergarde.org. Remember, when selecting a puppy, let your head rule, not your heart- but may you fill your heart with the right Berner.

- Julie Crawford, 26391 May Twilley Rd., Delmar, MD 21875