excellent vs dysplastic hips

The x-rays show two dogs, one of which has healthy hips (in red). The other is severely dysplastic (in purple). Ethical breeders do OFA testing of hips to avoid this outcome. It’s why we encourage anyone thinking about getting a puppy from a breeder to be SURE a puppy’s parents have OFA or PennHIP tests for their hips. OFA testing is expensive for breeders, but it is critically necessary to avoid hip dysplasia. The dog on the left has OFA Excellent hips; she is an akita from a reputable breeder whose parents and grandparents had health tests. The dog on the right is a German shepherd from a backyard breeder.

The hip is what is called a “ball and socket” joint. The head of the femur is a round ball that can fit into the socket in the pelvis. You want that socket to fit as tightly as possible. To understand why, make a fist and cover it with your hand, holding it loosely. Twist your fist. It will only be able to move a certain amount, and it will only move in the socket. It won’t move up and down or in and out. Now do the same thing, but only cover your fist with your fingertips. See how much more you can move your fist around? That movement is bad, because it puts additional, uneven wear and tear on the joint. It creates a lack of stability. This is the joint assembly a dog is going to walk on for its entire life - hips like the ones on the right will wear out by age 5, necessitating costly surgery to help limit the dog’s pain. It is a painful disease that is difficult to treat.

Please, if you are choosing a puppy from a breeder, get your puppies from OFA tested parents and reputable breeders. It will save you so much heartache down the road.

  • Thanks to ACA Member Madison Schaeffer for this explanation.
  • Thanks to ACA Member Connie Gaddy for the "excellent" hip xray image
  • Thanks to ACA Member Elizabeth Fulghum for the "severe dysplasia" hip xray image