Join Date: Oct 2008
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I'm with everybody else who says "fair" is perfectly good for breeding. Many breeders will think twice before breeding "fair" to "fair," but "fair" does not mean "almost dysplastic."
Even dogs who fail OFA for hips may never develop problems. "Fair" is the minimum for ethical breeding, but it does mean the dog has properly formed hip joints.
As far as PennHIP, it gives you an actual quantitative measurement of the laxity of the hip joint, rather than a qualitative one. You need to know more to interpret the numbers, but it can really help breeders make decisions (i.e., not all "fairs" are created equal, and PennHIP can show you if one hip is very good and the other is more loose).
PennHIP also shows you where your dog's hip laxity falls as compared to other dogs from the breed who have had PennHIP done. This percentile number is only a comparison to other dogs, not an absolute figure, so unless the dog is very high, you can't put a whole lot of stock in it. Still, it can help breeders make better breeding decisions.
Some breeders appear to be using PennHIP when their dogs fail OFA. Because PennHIP doesn't have a pass/fail comment on the paperwork, unethical breeders can fail OFA, get PennHIP, and still say "my dog's hips were checked out and certified." Since the radiographs can be taken at the same time, there's no real reason a dog would have a PennHIP rating and not an OFA clearance; it may mean the breeder is up to something shady. If a dog has PennHIP but no OFA, you need to understand exactly why before you consider its offspring.
This stuff sounds really complicated, and sometimes people feel like it's a little much to bother with over a pet dog, but you're talking about an active companion animal who, with any luck, will be with you for the next fifteen years or more. A dog will always give you his best, and we need to be giving them the absolute best shot possible at a happy, healthy life.
This means only breeding or buying dogs with proper clearances and keeping all dogs at a healthy weight. Even a dog with well-formed hips can develop debilitating arthritis and joint problems if he's allowed to be overweight, especially if he's been overweight for years. By the same token, a dog with poorly formed hips may never experience the symptoms of HD if he's kept trim. On average, trim dogs live almost two years longer than dogs who are even moderately overweight, and they experience a delay in chronic health problems of almost two years. That's an extra two full years of health and happiness with your dog! For me, it's a no-brainer.