Health Testing-What is it and what do all those acronyms mean? 


What to look for in an Australian Cattle Dog breeder:

A responsible breeder will screen breeding stock for health conditions such as deafness; progressive retinal atrophy, or PRA, which causes vision loss; and hip dysplasia. For buyers, the CHIC program provides accurate information about the results of a breeder’s health testing. For diseases that are limited to phenotypic evaluations, there are no guarantees. However, the probability that an animal will develop an inherited disease is reduced when its ancestry has tested normal. Further, as more DNA tests become available and the results are entered, the OFA database will be able to establish whether progeny will be clear, carriers, or affected. For potential puppy buyers, CHIC certification is a good indicator the breeder responsibly factors good health into their selection criteria. The breed specific list below represents the basic health screening recommendations. It is not all encompassing. 

Recommended Health Tests From the National Breed Club:

Hip Evaluation

Elbow Evaluation

Ophthalmologist Evaluation

BAER Testing

PRA Optigen DNA Test


Most info is cited from website.

Canine Hip Dysplasia typically develops because of an abnormally developed hip joint, but can also be caused by cartilage damage from a traumatic fracture. With cartilage damage or a hip joint that isn’t formed properly, over time the existing cartilage will lose its thickness and elasticity. This breakdown of the cartilage will eventually result in pain with any joint movement.

No one can predict when or even if a dysplastic dog will start showing clinical signs of lameness due to pain. The severity of the disease can be affected by environmental factors, such as caloric intake or level of exercise. There are a number of dysplastic dogs with severe arthritis that run, jump, and play as if nothing is wrong and some dogs with barely any arthritic x-ray evidence that are severely lame. 

The OFA classifies hips into seven different categories: Excellent, Good, Fair (all within Normal limits), Borderline, and then Mild, Moderate, or Severe (the last three considered Dysplastic).

  • Here at Flying D, we will never breed a dog with a Dysplastic score.

  • Elbow dysplasia is a general term used to identify an inherited polygenic disease in the elbow. Three specific etiologies make up this disease and they can occur independently or in conjunction with one another. These etiologies include

Pathology involving the medial coronoid of the ulna (FCP) Osteochondritis of the medial humeral condyle in the elbow joint (OCD)

Studies have shown the inherited polygenic traits causing these etiologies are independent of one another. Clinical signs involve lameness which may remain subtle for long periods of time. No one can predict at what age lameness will occur in a dog due to a large number of genetic and environmental factors such as degree of severity of changes, rate of weight gain, amount of exercise, etc.. 

  • Ununited anconeal process (UAP)

For elbow dysplasia evaluations for dogs, there are no grades for a radiographically normal elbow. The only grades involved are for abnormal elbows with radiographic changes associated with secondary degenerative joint disease. Like the hip certification, the OFA will not certify a normal elbow until the dog is 2 years of age. 

The purpose of the OFA CAER examinations is to provide breeders with information regarding canine eye diseases so they make informed breeding decisions in an effort to produce healthier dogs. CAER examinations must be performed by board certified veterinary ophthalmologists of the ACVO. For a list of Common Conditions they check for please see:

“Congenital deafness in dogs (or other animals) can be acquired [caused by intrauterine infections, ototoxic drugs like gentamicin, liver disorders, or other toxic exposures before or soon after birth] or inherited. Inherited deafness can be caused by a gene defect that is autosomal dominant, recessive, sex-linked, or may involve multiple genes. It is usually impossible to determine the cause of congenital deafness unless a clear problem has been observed in the breed, or carefully planned breedings are performed.” The Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER) test is the only accepted method of diagnosis. Please see our webpage for a futher in depth explanation of BAER testing.

The patella, or kneecap, is part of the stifle joint (knee). In patellar luxation, the kneecap luxates, or pops out of place, either in a medial or lateral position.
Bilateral involvement is most common, but unilateral is not uncommon. Animals can be affected by the time they are eight weeks of age. The Patellar Luxation Database is for dogs 12 months and over.

Congenital heart disease in dogs is a malformation of the heart or great vessels. The lesions characterizing congenital heart defects are present at birth and may develop more fully during perinatal and growth periods. Many congenital heart defects are thought to be genetically transmitted from parents to offspring; however, the exact modes of inheritance have not been precisely determined for all cardiovascular malformations. Adult-onset or developmental cardiac diseases develop later in life and include for example; hypertrophic, arrhythmogenic and dilatative cardiomyopathies. Because acquired disease can appear subsequent to a normal cardiac exam, adult onset clearances are only valid for one year from the time of the exam. Many adult-onset or developmental cardiac diseases may have a genetic component, however the exact modes of inheritance have not been precisely determined for all cardiovascular malformations.
A breed registry number will be issued for any dog found to be normal for cardiac disease at 12 months of age or older. The exam is based on auscultation. The breed registry number will indicate the age at evaluation and the type of examiner (C-cardiologist, S-specialist, and P-practitioner). Since acquired heart disease may develop later, these evaluations are valid for 1 year from the time of examination and annual exams are recommended.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a well-recognized inherited condition to which many breeds of dogs are predisposed. The condition is characterized by bilateral degeneration of the retina which causes progressive vision loss that culminates in total blindness. There is no treatment for PRA, of which several genetically distinct forms are recognized, each caused by a different mutation in a specific gene. It most commonly presents between 4-8 years of age. It is a recessive autosomal gene and both parents need to carry the gene for it to show up in the offspring. There are 3 test results for PRA: A-clear, B-carrier and C-affected.

RCD4 Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) Geneticists at the Animal Health Trust (AHT) have identified a recessive mutation that is associated with the development of PRA in the Gordon Setter. The research has revealed that there are at least two forms of PRA segregating in the Gordon Setter. The DNA test we are offering is for the mutation that causes one of these forms, rcd4; the mutation that causes the additional form has yet to be identified. Rcd4 is the most common form of PRA among Gordon Setters and the development of this test therefore enables breeders to slowly decrease the frequency of an important form of PRA in their lines. However, because we know that at least one other form of PRA exists within the breed, we cannot guarantee that any dog will not develop PRA, even if they are clear of the rcd4 mutation.