Unfortunately the German Shepherd Dog breed is known to have several genetic health issues associated with it. Not only do we have to worry about hip dysplasia (HD), but we also have to worry about elbow dysplasia, cancer, bloat, EPI and other digestive issues, degenerative myelopathy, pannus, and many more.
While there are not health tests available for every condition that affects the breed, there are some health tests available to breeders. By using these health tests to screen potential breeding dogs we will help to reduce the occurrence of these diseases in the breed. It is important to understand what the health screening is checking for and what the results mean.
For example, if you x-ray your GSD’s hips and receive a passing OFA rating, this simply means that your dog is free of hip dysplasia. This does not mean that your dog will never produce hip dysplasia in his offspring if he is bred. A dog that has good hips is much less likely to produce HD than a dog that has hip dysplasia himself. Because of the nature of the disease, it is important to look beyond the dog’s x-ray results. You must look at the rest of the pedigree, what is the status of the parents, grandparents and other dogs in the pedigree. If a dog has OFA excellent hips, but there are a lot of unknown or poor quality hips in the pedigree behind him, he is more likely to produce the bad hips than good hips.
Statistics have shown by only breeding dogs with good hips and from a pedigree of good hips, we will greatly reduce the percentage of hip dysplasia. However, when you choose a dog with poor or unknown hip status, unknown history or missing hip ratings in the pedigree, you are greatly increasing your odds to end up with hip dysplasia. Because of this, there really is no excuse for a breeder to not certify hips of their breeding dogs before producing a litter.