It is all very well to be told you must buy a puppy whose parents have hip and elbow score certificates, the biggest problem for the novice is having any idea what the numbers mean. There is no score which is the highest parameter allowed in order to be in breeding range. All that is required is that all breeding stock have scores. Therefore it is imperative that the buyer knows a little about the system.
First the hip score. Dogs hips are scored after being x-rayed under a general anaesthetic. He/she must be at least 1 year old before his/her hips can be assessed. The dog needs to be asleep and totally relaxed in order for the veterinarian to position the femoral heads in the acetabulum (in layman’s terms, the top of the bone (femur) in the hind legs, which is shaped like a ball, as correctly as possible in the sockets of the pelvis). The smoother and rounder the ball at the top of the femur and the deeper it sits in the socket of the pelvis, the better the dogs’ hip are, in most cases.
The x-rays are sent to a radiographer approved by the Australian National Kennel Council to be measured and scored. The scoring system is a measurement of 9 components of the hip joint scored from 0, which is perfect, to 5 or 6, which is the worst possible result. The best result is 0.0, which means there are no changes at all to the joints, and the worst possible score is 53.53, which means the dogs hips are very badly made and degenerative joint disease in the form of arthritis will set in very early in the life of the dog and will eventually probably overwhelm the individual. At the very least, pain management will be needed for the arthritic animal with degenerative joint disease.
Obviously, the lower the score the better. It is also important that that both hips are relatively even, i.e. 4.4 is much more desirable than 0.7.
The elbow score. The elbow is positioned so as to show a lateral view of a fully flexed elbow. In layman’s terms that is a side view of the elbow with a folded front leg. This x-ray can be done without a general anaesthetic, but, it is usually done when the hip x-ray is done. Again the minimum age for assessment is 1 year of age.
The elbow x-ray is also assessed by the radiographer and scored on the following scale
Grade 0 – Normal - no change
Grade 1 – changes of less than 2mm of calcification (arthritis)
Grade 2 – changes of 2 – 5mm of calcification (arthritis)
Grade 3 – changes of more than 5mm of calcification (arthritis)
Once again, there is no restriction on the parameter of breeding stock, so you need to make the enquiry and decide for yourself what you find acceptable. A score of Gr. 2 or above is too high and there is a much greater likelihood of problems in the progeny of these dogs and bitches.
It is important to be aware of this information prior to buying your puppy so that you can make an informed decision about the status of the parents of your pup. Remember, pups cannot be screened for these conditions, only the parents.