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The connection between elbow, hip dysplasia, and the demand for frequent radiographs coupled with the high rate of osteosarcoma in large breeds is inescapable.


June 2016 | TheDogPress DogSense

TheDogPress Staff


Even when there are no symptoms, large and giant breeds are routinely x-rayed for early signs of elbow and hip dysplasia but owners are rarely told about the increased risk of bone cancer. Dysplasia is uncomfortable, painful, in some cases disabling but bone cancer is all of that and finally, fatal.


The NetPlaces Network Science and Advisory Board agrees with PetMD and other canine health authorities who state "Osteosarcoma is the most common bone cancer in dogs". CO State University school Of Veterinary Medicine notes "Osteosarcoma commonly affects the limbs of large or giant breed dogs" and Wikipedia says "Osteosarcoma is the most common histological form of primary bone cancer .... and typically afflicts middle-aged large and giant breed dogs."


Veterinary journals are filled with declarative statements that point to purebred dogs as having a higher rate of bone cancer than mongrels/mixed breed dogs. That is patently dishonest, distorted by the obvious rate of purebreds x-rayed compared to mutts.


But worse than that is failure to inform breeders of radiation risk. Surely dog owners would be more concerned about bone cancer than about loose hips. The frequency of Osteosarcoma (bone cancer) is far greater in large breeds which are regularly x-rayed for elbow and hip dysplasia, beginning at a young age. True, giant breeds are at greater risk for joint dysplasia due to their rapid growth rate exacerbated by owners who overfeed in order to achieve greater weight and size. Even so, rapid growth does not account for the greater frequency of osteosarcoma, i.e. leg-bone cancer.


PetEducation.com states: Osteosarcomas generally affect older large or giant breed dogs" and "It is not a very common tumor in small breed dogs and rarely occurs in cats."


Is that significant difference in bone cancer rates deliberately obscured for financial reasons? While growth rate may be a factor, the FACT is, hip and elbow x-rays are performed in large breed dogs at more than triple the rate of medium to small breed dogs. It doesn't take a mathematician to draw a conclusion.


Veterinary authorities understand the pressure on breeders to prove normal hip and elbow joints through radiographs. Soundness and freedom from pain can be ascertained by any experienced breeder or vet but both have been conditioned to believe that visual exam is not as reliable nor predictive as elbow and hip x-rays. OFA, Penn State, and other veterinary groups provide expert readings, evaluations, and certification of normal hip and elbow joints but that's where medical schools and common sense part ways.


The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) was founded in 1966. The purpose was based on x-raying hip joints to prove they were normal, the hypothesis being that good joints would stay that way. We will never know the actual incidence of canine hip dysplasia (CHD) in purebred dogs because to this day, no statistics have been released. Radiographs of canine hips as a predictive practice was a noble concept but proved so unreliable that one of OFA's founders (Gerry Schnelle, DVM) resigned from the board of OFA {1}, stating that he could not in good conscience accurately read an x-ray on a dog he had not observed as regards weight, condition, overall health, pregnancy, etc.


Dr. Schelle was proven right on radiographic diagnostics but good marketing prevailed and in the 80s the University of PA launched a competing x-ray program called PennHip.  Barbara J. Andrews, writing for The Dog (the first canine newspaper), questioned the predictive value of both programs.{2} Ultimately, AKC's financial alignment with OFA and its agreement to include OFA numbers on the AKC registration certificate ended debate and further research.{3}


The diagnostic-predictive x-ray concerns waned but a new and deadly consequence has arisen. We received this email from Elsa Laplante, Elswick Rottweilers.


ELSA "I was very interested in your article on the health risks of X-rays. Bone cancer is well known in the Rottweiler breed. I have always done the OFA hips and elbows plus heart for over 38 yrs... Some breeders make each pet puppy owner get their OFA X-rays rays done at 2 yrs of age but I never felt that was necessary when they were not breeding them. I’m a senior now and only have 3 Rottweilers, two retired, but I have a 2 yr old female that I was going to take in for X-rays. After reading your article, I have a gut feeling (x-ray) is not in the best interest of my last female, especially as there are several generations of sound hips and elbows behind my lines."


Elsa closed her email with this poignant question;


"Would I be deemed the bad dog lady, and disciplined from a breed club if I just went with my gut feeling not to put this one last Special Friend through this procedure?"


Many owners share Elsa's concern. So we ask you for your feedback. What is your breed? Have you ever lost a dog to bone cancer? How many times were those dogs x-rayed?


Reference Information:

{1} How To Prevent Knee, Hip & Patella Problems

{2} X-ray, Infertility and Radiation Risks Revealed

{3} Health Certification, The Worst Genetic Fraud


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