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When I got my first Newfoundland in 1975, hip dysplasia (HD) was the main health concern for the breed and it still is today.

Formed in 1966, the Orthopaedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) has assessed over 11,000 Newfoundlands for hip dysplasia and is the leader in this field in North America. They now have an incredible database on the world wide net. The database is not perfect or complete but it is a tremendous start and is continually getting better.

It is this database that I turned to to assess where we are now in terms of hip dysplasia. It will continue to be a major problem for a long time since the mode of inheritance is complex and unknown. When you go to the OFA database and look at the summary statistics for HD in Newfoundlands, it doesn’t look too bad. Of all of the X-rays evaluated since 1966, only 26% were found to be abnormal. Unfortunately this figure has been criticized as being misleading because most people don’t send in an X-ray for evaluation if it is obviously not clear. Complicating the analysis is the fact that OFA further rates the “clear” dogs as Fair, Good and Excellent. It is generally accepted that Good and Excellent ratings are “breedable” with Fair used in special cases. However, at the 2003 National Specialty of the Newfoundland Club of America, academics studying HD gave a presentation and shocked me when they stated that any rating less than OFA Excellent indicates some degree of HD.

With the above in mind, I tailored my analysis of the OFA data base. I found that 167 female Newfs were rated Excellent in the past five years compared to 150 in the previous five years. More stunning was the finding that 108 males were Excellent in the past five years, up from 33 in the previous five years. Because stud dogs have a greater effect on a breed as a single stud can service many bitches, this increase by more than threefold in the number of Hip Excellent males bodes well for the Newfoundland breed in North America. In addition, three of the males and three of the females who were rated Excellent in the past five years had both parents rated Excellent; not a lot but enough to show a light at the end of the tunnel.

Peter Maniate has been writing columns for the Newf News, the magazine of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada, since 1979.  In 1996 he started writing a Newfoundland dog column in the Breedlines section of Dogs in Canada magazine on behalf of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada.  When Dogs in Canada ceased publication at the end of 2011 he continued the Breedlines column in the Newf Newfs.

Permission is granted for re-publication of the preceding article or excerpts from it as long as the author is credited and the name of the original publication and date of first publication is included.

Dogs in Canada

December 2004