So you've been doing your homework deciding if this is the right breed for you and you're ready to start looking for the right breeder to make your dreams of quality purebred puppy ownership a reality. You have heard about health testing, and know what to ask for. But you've heard the stories about falsified health certificates and forged documents. You want to be sure you know that what you are seeing is the real deal. But how? How can you be sure if you've never had a dog tested yourself?
Through this month's blog edition we hope to be able to share and shed some light on what these genuine documents look like and where to go to verify the validity of these documents online. Also, what to expect when you see certain icons present on websites.
Eye Exam Forms
Eye exams have to be performed by a licensed ACVO (American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists) Veterinarian. There is no minimum age for testing your dog's eyes. A Canine Ophthalmologist looks at the animal's eyes and checks for hereditary defects such as cataracts, corneal dystrophy, progressive retinal atrophy, etc. The Vet then marks the results of these findings on the appropriate form. This form can then be sent in to the certifying agency with a very small fee and if the results allow the dog to be bred (no hereditary issues), they will issue a certification number. Once the results have been sent in, a certificate is issued with the certification number. Eye exams should be done ANNUALLY as a dog's eyes can change as it ages, and some disorders show up later in life. If the dog is to be used in a breeding program, eye exams should be repeated annually, and should be done within a year of the breeding in order to be considered valid.
We'll start by talking about the CERF certification, which is the Canine Eye Registration Foundation. CERF has been working to eradicate canine heritable eye disease for the past 30 years. As of June 15, 2014 CERF has closed their doors. CERF will no longer accept new registrations on this same date. The online database will continue to be accessible for approximately a year. After which all eye exams will be handled by OFA.
Next let's look at the OFA Eye Certification. OFA will be using an identical format to the CERF form.
Lastly we'll discuss SHOR, the Siberian Husky Ophthalmic Registry. This certification is only available for Siberian Huskies. SHOR is a low cost alternative to the CERF/OFA registrations and is offered through the Siberian Husky Club Of America. The SHOR exam is performed on the same form that is submitted for CERF/OFA. A photo copy is sent to the Siberian Husky Club Of America SHOR Chairperson. Upon receipt of a clear ACVO exam the dog will be eligible to receive a SHOR number. The original photo copy sent in for review will be sent back with a SHOR number written in the upper corner of the document. The certified dog will be listed in alphabetical order by Registered Name in the SHOR Database. This number may be used in advertising to indicate unaffected eyes. Just like with CERF/OFA, any breeding dog should have its eye exam repeated annually, and should have an exam within a year of any breeding in order for the results to be considered valid.
OFA Hip Certification Document
The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals issues results on hip x-rays and thyroid tests. For Siberians, a hip x-ray should be taken after 2 years of age by a regular veterinarian and submitted to OFA. Once submitted and evaluated by a panel of independent veterinarians the dog will be eligible for rating and a certification number. Once certified the dog can be searched on the online database at www.offa.org. You can search the database by kennel name, registered name, partial name and breed, etc. The OFA database is an excellent resource for verifying kennel health testing consistency or if they are even testing at all. OFA will not provide a proper rating until after the dog has reached 2 years of age. Hips can be rated Excellent, Good or Fair for non-dysplastic hips, and Mildly, Moderately and Severely Dysplastic for dysplastic hips. Dysplastic hips should never be bred. Hip x-rays need only be done and submitted for a rating once, after the animal turns 2 years of age. For this reason, no dog should be bred before the age of 2 and before hip x-rays have been performed and evaluated.
Though the Siberian Husky ranks in the lower percentile, in tested and reported hip evaluations, for hip dysplasia this does not give breeders wiggle room to not prove their breeding stock's hips. Working dogs, Show dogs, Companion dogs, none are exempt from hip issues and need to be proven prior to breeding. As discussed in last month's blog- True working kennels that are providing adequate mileage on the trail (not your recreational or amateur running teams) may not be OFA testing every dog in their kennel.
The Canine Health Information Center, also known as CHIC, is a centralized canine health database sponsored by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). CHIC, working with participating parent clubs, provides a resource for breeders and owners of purebred dogs to research and maintain information on the health issues prevalent in specific breeds by establishing a recommended protocol for breed specific health screening and recognizing dogs tested in accordance with that protocol
CHIC also maintains a DNA Bank that collects and stores canine DNA samples along with corresponding genealogic and phenotypic information to facilitate future research and testing aimed at reducing the incidence of inherited disease in dogs.
If you see this logo next to a dog's name in the OFA Database, you know that dog has had all the required health testing for the breed.
Growing up in Montana my love of the Siberian Husky started at a young age. It has been quite a journey so far. There has been much to learn and still a lot more yet to learn! I truly believe that we are never too old, too experienced, or too full of ourselves to learn something new. I also believe that knowledge is useless unless we are willing to share it with others.