General Health Screening and OFA Procedure Questions

Veterinarians and responsible breeders of purebred dogs and cats are well aware that hip dysplasia and other inherited diseases can be controlled by careful, selective breeding programs. DNA tests for specific diseases remain the “gold standard” in determining an animal’s genotype, but in the absence of available DNA tests, phenotypic evaluations are the best alternative. Information regarding the test results from the sire and dam, along with information on other close relatives such as siblings, half-siblings, aunts and uncles allows breeders to apply greater selective pressure to produce normal offspring and avoid affected offspring.

A number of sources are available in determining what tests are the most appropriate for your dog. These include your veterinarian, the OFA statistics section, the CHIC program, and the health concerns documented on the websites of various national breed clubs.

Yes. The OFA does not require dogs to be purebred or registered in order to perform an OFA evaluation or to register test results into our databases.

Breeds are not included in the OFA statistics tables until a minimum number of individuals have been evaluated. For hips, each breed must have at least 100 evaluations in the database. For all other databases, there must be at least 50.

Yes, the OFA accepts cats into the hip dysplasia, cardiac, and patellar luxation databases. Requirements, protocols, procedures, and fees are identical to dogs.

The OFA can be reached by phone, fax, mail, or email. Our hours of operation are from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm CST.
Phone Number: (573) 442-0418
Fax Number: (573) 875-5073
Mailing Address: 2300 E Nifong Blvd, Columbia, MO 65201-3806
Email Address: ofa@offa.org

No, the OFA does not require permanent identification. However, the AKC does require verified permanent identification for inclusion in their database. All assigned OFA numbers will clearly indicate whether the dog was permanently identified through the use of the -PI, -VPI, and -NOPI suffixes.

There is a lag time of approximately one month between the time the OFA issues clearance numbers and the time this information is imported into the AKC registry. At this time, the AKC only imports OFA hip, elbow, and eye clearances. It should be noted that the AKC requires dogs to be permanently identified in the form of tattoo or microchip in order to include their OFA results in the AKC database. Per AKC policy, only dogs with verified permanent identification (VPI) will have their OFA data transmitted to the AKC for inclusion in their database.

No, the sire and dam are not required entries, however they are useful in helping breeders analyze the health records of related animals. If at all possible, the sire and dam AKC registration and/or OFA numbers should be included. This will allow relationships to show properly in internet search results.

To receive a corrected or duplicate copy, please send a written request and in the case of corrections, include the original incorrect certificate with the corrections indicated. Where possible, please send verification such as the AKC registration papers to verify the requested changes. Following receipt of the request, the OFA will update its records, and mail a new certificate. There is a $5 fee for duplicate certificates.

Click here for a matrix containing the current OFA fees.

Hip & Elbow FAQs

Radiographs, taken by the veterinarian of your choice, are submitted to the OFA along with the completed application form and service fee. The application can be downloaded from this site. Detailed instructions on the correct radiographic positioning and required film identification are included on the second page of the application. Please note, digital radiographs may only be submitted by the attending veterinarian.

Any licensed veterinarian can take OFA radiographs. The necessary forms and instructions for submitting OFA evaluations can be downloaded from this site.
OFA Hip and Elbow Dysplasia Application
General Hip Dysplasia Information
General Elbow Dysplasia Information

No, hip dysplasia is a polygenic, inherited disease. Environmental factors, like high caloric diet during the rapid growth phase, may exacerbate changes in dysplastic hips but will not create hip dysplasia. There is no evidence in the scientific literature that supplements (i.e Vitamin C) will prevent hip dysplasia. Reduced caloric intake and glucosamine products in immature animals genetically predisposed to hip dysplasia may lessen the pathologic changes associated with hip dysplasia.

Preliminary evaluations are available for dogs over 4 months and under 24 months. For more information, go to the section on Preliminary Evaluations.

Transitional vertebra is an incidental radiographic finding noted during the evaluation process. Transitional vertebrae are a congenital malformation of the spine that occurs at the junctions of major divisions of the spine. Transitional vertebrae take on anatomic characteristics of both divisions of the spine it occurs between. The most common type of transitional vertebrae reported by the OFA is in the lumbar-sacral area where the last lumbar vertebral body takes on anatomic characteristics of the sacrum. Transitional vertebrae are usually not associated with clinical signs and the dog can be used in a breeding program. The OFA recommends breeding the dog to a dog with a clear family history for transitional vertebrae.

Spondylosis is another incidental radiographic finding where smooth new bone production is visualized between vertebral bodies at the intervertebral disc spaces. The new bone production can vary in extent from formation of small bone spurs to complete bridging of adjacent vertebral bodes. Spondylosis may occur secondary to spinal instability but often it is of unknown cause and clinically insignificant. A familial basis for its development has been reported. Like transitional vertebrae, dogs with spondylosis can be used in breeding programs. It is recommended however, that they not be bred to others with the same condition.

Some female dogs exhibit additional subluxation when radiographed during these times. The OFA recommends radiographing three to four weeks before or after the heat cycle, avoiding pregnancy, and three to four weeks after weaning a litter of puppies.

The OFA performs hip and elbow preliminary evaluations on dogs that were under 24 months of age at the time of radiograph. For certification purposes, the animal must be at least 24 months of age to be eligible.

Each radiograph submitted must have positive permanent identification within the film that ties the radiograph to the application. This should include at a minimum the animal’s name and/or number, the name of the veterinarian or clinic, and the date of the radiograph. If this information is missing or is illegible, the radiograph and application will be returned to the vet without being processed. This requirement also applies to digital radiographs. For digital radiographs, data overlay files are not accepted. The required data must appear within the image without the use of any specific viewing software.  To ensure integrity of the image, digital images are ONLY ACCEPTED directly from the veterinarian – NO digital owner submissions are accepted.

Owners may mail traditional radiographs and the accompanying application, however, digital images MUST be sent directly from the attending veterinarian.  This is to ensure proper identification requirements in the digital film emulsion, and to ensure the integrity of the image itself.

The radiograph needs to be the extreme flexed medial to lateral view of each elbow.

Pelvic (hip) evaluations are based on the standard ventro-dorsal (VD) view with good pelvic definition, pelvis not tilted, and femurs extended and parallel.

The OFA recommends chemical restraint to the point of muscle relaxation, however it is not required.

Digital media (CDs, USB drives, etc) are not returned. For non-digital radiographs, the OFA scans each radiograph submitted and keeps the digital image for long-term referral and storage purposes. After scanning, the radiographs are recycled. Owners may have the radiographs returned if a written request is received with the application. The fee to return radiographs is $5.00 per application. Return requests cannot be guaranteed if the request is submitted after the evaluation is already in process since it is likely the radiograph will already have been scanned and recycled.

The OFA will re-evaluate animals as often as the owner likes. However, the re-evaluation must be based on a new set of radiographs. All consensus evaluations on a given radiograph submission are final. In all cases, the results from the most recent radiograph will dictate the animal’s final OFA consensus evaluation as well as the results displaying on the OFA website.

Yes, older radiographs can be submitted for evaluation as long as more recent radiograph hasn’t already been evaluated. Note, that the evaluation will be based on the dog’s age at the time of the radiograph, not when they were submitted to the OFA.

A synopsis of the OFA’s published study, “The Reliability of Early Radiographic Evaluation for Canine Hip Dysplasia Obtained from the Standard Ventrodorsal Radiographic Projection”, JAVMA, 11/97, is located on the Preliminary Evaluations Policy page.

When results of 1.8 million radiographic evaluations by 45 radiologists were analyzed, it was found that all three radiologists agreed as to whether the dog should be classified as having a normal phenotype, borderline phenotype, or HD 94.9% of the time. In addition, 73.5% of the time, all three radiologists agreed on the same hip phenotype (excellent, fair, good, borderline, mild, moderate or severe). Twenty-one percent of the time, two radiologists agreed on the same hip grade and the third radiologist was within one hip grade of the other two. Two radiologists agreed on the same hip grade and the third radiologist was within two hip grades of the other two 5.4% of the time. This percentage of agreement is high considering the subjective nature of the evaluation.

Soft Tissue FAQs

For OFA eye certification (CAER – Companion Animal Eye Registry), an eye exam is performed by the veterinary ophthalmologist of your choice. A list of ophthalmologists can be found on their website at: www.acvo.org. At the completion of the exam the ophthalmologist will provide the owner with a copy of the OFA eye exam form. For OFA certification, you must send the completed form along with the service fee to the OFA.

The examining ophthalmologist will also forward a copy of the exam to the OFA; however, this is for a different purpose. This information is only used in aggregate for statistical gathering purposes to monitor breed specific trends and susceptibility and will not result in OFA certification.

The OFA patellar luxation certification, is based on a physical exam that can be performed by any licensed veterinarian. For OFA certification, send the completed application form along with the service fee to the OFA. The Patellar Luxation Database application form can be downloaded here.

For OFA thyroid certification, blood is drawn by the veterinarian of your choice. Blood serum is forwarded to one of the OFA’s approved labs listed on the OFA thyroid application form. The attending veterinarian should contact the lab prior to shipping for specific instructions. The completed OFA application form as well as the OFA service fee should be sent to the lab along with the sample. The approved lab will forward results and payment on to the OFA when the lab work is complete. DO NOT send blood serum to the OFA office. The thyroid application can be downloaded here

The OFA maintains two separate cardiac clearance databases, the Congenital Cardiac Database and the newer Advanced Cardiac Database (implemented April 2016). The Congenital Cardiac Database will only clear for congenital disease, and may be performed by any licensed veterinarian. The Advanced Cardiac Database results in a two-tiered clearance – one for congenital disease, and a second for adult onset disease. Advanced Cardiac exams may only be performed by boarded veterinary cardiologists with Diplomate status in either the ACVIM or ECVIM. Adult onset clearances are only valid for one year. The minimum age for certification in either cardiac database is 12 months. For OFA certification, send the completed application form along with the service fee to the OFA. The Congenital Cardiac Database application form can be downloaded here. The Advanced Cardiac Database application form cannot be downloaded as it is a triplicate form. The examining cardiologist will have copies of the application form available at the time of the exam.

The OFA recommends the advanced training of a specialist or cardiologist, but does not require it for the Congenital Cardiac Database. The OFA number issued to normal dogs will clearly indicate the examiner’s level of expertise with the following designations: P (practitioner), S (specialist), or C (cardiologist). For the new Advanced Cardiac Database implemented in April of 2016, the exam MUST be performed by a boarded veterinary cardiologist with diplomate status in either the ACVIM or the ECVIM.

No. To register DNA test results, the OFA must have a database established for the specific test, and if so, the test must be specific to the breed, and the test must be done at an approved lab. Click here for a matrix of accepted tests and specific labs.

Complete information on the CHIC DNA Repository, including the application form and sample submission instructions can be found here.

Order Information and FAQs

The average turnaround time for hip and elbow evaluations is approximately two to three weeks from the time the application and acceptable radiographs arrive at the OFA. Keep in mind that depending on the method of delivery, it can often take almost that long for films to arrive at the OFA. Processing time takes longer if the radiographs do not include the required embedded identification and/or the application forms are incomplete or improperly filled out. For consultations and the soft tissue databases (eyes, cardiac, thyroid, patellar luxation, DNA, SA), the turnaround time is approximately one week from the time the application arrives at the OFA.

The OFA website is updated nightly. Results load to the website approximately 1 week after the evaluation is complete and the OFA report is printed.

No. Information is not uploaded to the website until the evaluation has been completed and reports mailed.

The OFA does not offer any expedited processing of applications. Turnaround for hips and elbows is approximately two to three weeks following receipt. For consultations and soft-tissue databases (cardiac, thyroid, patellar luxation, DNA tests, SA) the average turnaround time is approximately one week.

The current OFA fees went into effect on January 1, 2008. However, many clinics are still using old application cards with the outdated fees. It should be noted that although an outstanding balance will not hold up the evaluation process, no results will be released and no final reports will be mailed until the fees are paid in full.

Certification Code FAQs

Example: LR-100E24M-PI

LR = Breed Code, in this case a Labrador Retriever

100 = Ascending numerical identifier given to each animal within a breed evaluated as normal and given a number, in this case the 100th Labrador to be given a number

E = The phenotypic OFA evaluation, in this case E = Excellent, other normal phenotypes include G (Good) and F (Fair).

24 = The age in months when the testing was done, in this case 24 months

M = Sex, in this case a male

PI – Indicates that the animal has been permanently identified in the form of tattoo or microchip. If the dog has been permanently identified AND the identification has been verified by the attending veterinarian, a suffix of VPI is applied. If the animal lacks permanent identification, a suffix of NOPI is applied.

Effective January 1, 2001, the OFA adopted a policy acknowledging animals that have been submitted for inclusion in its databases that have permanent identification in the form of tattoo or microchip. Animals not permanently identified will continue to be evaluated; however, they will be issued a number clearly indicating that the animal has no permanent identification. Animals with permanent identification will have a suffix of PI added to the OFA number. Animals that are permanently identified AND have had the identification verified by the attending veterinarian will have a suffix of VPI applied. Animals with no permanent identification will have a suffix of NOPI applied. Effective 1/1/08, only dogs with verified permanent identification (VPI) will have their OFA data transmitted to the AKC for inclusion in their database.

GDC stands for the Institute of Genetic Disease Control. GDC formerly maintained canine health databases similar to those of the OFA. In late 2002, the GDC databases were merged with the OFA. Numbers beginning with GDC indicate that the evaluation was performed by GDC prior to the merge.

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