You are currently viewing A Basic Understanding on OFA and Genetic Testing in English Cocker Spaniels

If you have been looking for an English Cocker puppy, or have been interested in showing your ECS or competing in sporting events or training if it safe to day you have come across the terms OFA and/or Genetic Testing in your research. Let’s talk about what those terms mean and why they are so important for pet Cockers, show Cockers, or field Cocker Spaniels.

What is OFA?
OFA is the abbreviation for the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. OFA was developed in 1966, after its founder, James M. Olin, discovered that several dogs from the same breed had developed similar medical & health issues. As time and research went on, it was discovered that these health issues could actually be traced through a dog’s pedigree, and were not random issues for most dogs. OFA certification is performed through examination of X-rays, and now also genetic health testing through DNA. An OFA database exists which tracks and stores the test results in individual dogs. This database includes the dog’s name and other specifics, the dog’s breeder, birth location, and the dog’s genealogy. For the English Cocker Spaniel, OFA recommends the following tests: Hip Dysplasia (X-ray), Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) DNA Test (DNA based prcd-PRA test results from an approved lab), Patellar Luxation (X-ray), and various eye certifications. We test for the following: OFA eyes, hips, & elbows, AMS – Acral Mutilation Syndrome, AEIC – Exercise – Induced Collapse, FN – Familial Nephropathy (Cocker Spaniel Type), PFK – Glycogen Storage Disease VII, PFK Deficiency, Degenerative Myelopathy (DM), PRCD – Progressive Retinal Atrophy, and Progressive Rod – Cone Degeneration (PRA-prcd). As research is conducted by OFA and other animal health-related labs, there may be other health testing recommendations added for the English Cocker Spaniel.

Why Are These Tests Important? 
A reputable breeder uses these tests to determine which dogs are breed worthy. A dog who exhibits poor/weak skeletal structure or is an exhibitor or carrier of any genetic disease or abnormality should never be bred, as these traits will be passed on to its offspring. Note that an exhibitor of a condition is a dog that HAS the condition, while a carrier is a dog that may not display the condition, but carries the genetics to pass it on to each offspring. Breeding a carrier male and a carrier female will surely pass on the actual disease or condition to the offspring.
It is important for breeders to choose breed worthy dogs for several reasons. One reason is for betterment of the breed – as a way to hopefully remove these issues from the genetic pool. This is a difficult task, because there are just so many backyard breeders (unethical breeders) who breed for income and have no cares on what happens to the puppy during or after their possession. Another reason to health test is to ensure the cost of treating these issues (and the heartache) is not passed on to the puppy buyer. Imagine falling in love with your Cocker and raising it for several years only to find out that it is going blind or will die from a disease, or that it requires an extensive and expensive surgery in hopes of relieving skeletal pain. In our eyes it is absolutely appalling to knowingly and willingly produce animals and sell animals that will have such a fate.  And the truth is, there are more folks out there breeding & producing dogs without these tests then there are people like us. So, you really have to be particular when purchasing Cocker puppies, or any puppy for that matter. A reputable breeder will answer your questions, and provide proof of these tests.

Where Do I Find Out More Information on OFA And Genetic Health Testing?
We recommend visiting OFA, AKC, Paw Print Genetics, Embark, Animal Genetics, and UC Davis for information on skeletal & joint dysplasia, genetic eye issues, and genetic diseases in dogs. Questions? Please contact us.

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