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Much Ado About Hips - Why Testing Matters

Although all health testing is important, ask for this test first, and it will be the easiest way to eliminate a breeder from your consideration. This crucial test is ignored by the vast majority of breeders I see recommended on Facebook groups and top google searches. Corgis are assumed to always have bad hips and backs, when in reality, the likelihood/severity of hip dysplasia can be affected by testing prior to breeding.

Hip dysplasia is a degenerative condition, meaning a puppy or adult can seem perfectly fine for years. But then, “out of nowhere”, a dog can have symptoms and issues that get progressively worse. It’s easy for an irresponsible breeder to wave away a problem when it won’t manifest until well after the check has cleared. It won’t be the breeder’s problem by then - instead, it will be the problem of the dog and their family.

If you find a breeder that claims their dogs are “completely health tested” but they don’t do hip x-rays, or they claim to take hip x-rays but do not submit them to OFA/PennHIP for a grade, run for the hills. Choosing not to research best practices for breeding isn’t acceptable when other lives are involved. Instead, I believe the motivation to discredit hip x-rays and other health testing is for profit.

It’s also easy to fall in love with a puppy you’ve found, and to rationalize that health testing isn’t important, because you need a dog in your life, and here you’ve found one. The thought of waiting for a puppy from a responsible breeder can feel impossible when there’s one available now, with less hassle, and they’re just so cute... People say they’ll love their pup no matter what, and it’s that love that allows irresponsible breeders to continue their unethical behavior, and harm even more dogs and their families. It is the love you will have for your dog that will make experiencing the effects of dip dysplasia and other conditions all the more painful.

It costs a maximum of $500 per breeding dog to x-ray and score the hips, and that cuts into profits (which is the primary reason driving irresponsible breeders to breed at all). A dog must be at least two-years-old to have their hip x-rays scored by OFA (although preliminary tests can be done, they are not “official” until after age 2). This is a problem for many irresponsible breeders, because they don’t want to wait that long before they start breeding their bitches and dogs. Even worse, failing hip scores would give them a good reason to NOT breed a particular dog, after they’ve invested those 2 years in raising that dog and are expecting to profit off breeding them.

I’ve also seen the excuse “it has been impossible to do hip x-rays because of COVID restrictions”. Bullocks. It may be more difficult than an average year, but not at all impossible. People like this will find and use any and every excuse, because they know they will eventually find a buyer that doesn’t care.

Another lie I see to explain a lack of health testing is: “My vet says my dogs are perfectly healthy!”. A vet cannot look at a dog and say they have healthy hips - that’s why x-ray imaging is required, and scores are given by board-certified veterinary radiologists. There are a number of other excuses you may hear: the tests are subjective, the tests aren't accurate, hips are more influenced by their environment, my puppies have never had issues ... all fiery red flags.

These factors create an incentive for unethical breeders to ignore this testing entirely. It is better for business to pretend they’re doing nothing wrong, usually because the consequences of their inaction won’t be felt by them - it will be felt by the dog, and the family who loves them, years down the line. Only a change in the demand of the market / their customers will alter their behavior, which means dog lovers should do their research and never support a breeder who does not complete all health testing by buying one of their puppies. Your bare minimum requirement should be to find a breeder that performs hip x-rays, and don’t settle for one who doesn’t.

But... there’s a lot of grey areas in terms of which test is better, how to interpret the results, how to decide whether or not to breed a dog based on those scores, the reliability of the tests… It’s complicated. An ethical breeder will explain their reasoning for using one test or another, and how and why they interpret the results to make their breeding decisions. Taking the x-ray and getting a score isn’t the end of the road, but you want a breeder that is going to take that road for the best possible outcomes for their future puppies and families.

I trust you agree this is a health test you will prioritize in your search for a breeder, so in the best way I can, I’ll explain how those tests are performed, and how to interpret the results.

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