NZVA Elbow Dysplasia Scheme

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NZVA Elbow Dysplasia Scheme

The New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA), in conjunction with NZ Kennel Club (NZKC), runs an Elbow Dysplasia Scheme which is open to any member of the public.

Dysplasia is a condition caused by abnormal development, in this case, of a joint. Hip and Elbow dysplasia (HD and ED) are conditions common in rapidly growing large and giant breed dogs, but can also affect smaller breeds and cats.

Clinical signs to look out for

Clinical signs include lameness, joint pain and an inability to exercise properly. Both conditions are caused by genetic factors and are influenced by environmental conditions such as excess calorie intake and exercise. Instead of normal development and healthy cartilage, the abnormal joint wears prematurely and leads to potentially crippling arthritis from an early age.

Currently there are no reliable genetic tests for either disease, hence radiographic (x-ray) scoring schemes are still used to select dogs with better than average hips/elbows for breeding.

Dogs scored for elbow dysplasia will require an outpatient visit to their veterinarian. Owners will need to provide their dog’s registration documents (if pedigree, though non-pedigree dogs can still be scored) and the veterinarian is required to identify the dog by microchip scanner and then complete the certification documentation. The dog will be sedated for accurate scoring. The x-rays are sent to the elbow panel, who will evaluate, grade and certify the degree of osteoarthritic changes. The results are posted to the veterinarian.

In the case of a dispute, an independent veterinary radiologist will audit the submission. Results are recorded in the NZVA register which provides information by breed (see the resources in the resources section below).

Selective breeding only from dogs with known good hip and elbow joints can reduce the incidence of dysplasia in future generations.

Guidelines on how to interpret the scores are available in the resources section below.

For all queries about the NZVA Elbow Dysplasia Scheme please contact

Digital submissions are to be in DICOM format only, on USB, CD or DVD. Clearly name the individual files eg. left elbow, right elbow, hips, microchip number and registered name of the dog (if applicable).

Please do not place sticky labels onto the CD, these will be rejected. Identifying labels can be placed on the CD case.

Find more information to help you with submissions in the resources section at the end of this page.

The PennHIP system

As of 1 January 2014 the NZVA/NZ Kennel Club (NZKC) Hip Dysplasia scheme was replaced by the University of Pensylvania's PennHIP system.

The previous NZVA Hip Dysplasia scheme was based on the Willis/BVA scheme which dates back to the 1960s. Since then our knowledge of Hip Dysplasia has grown and the role of hip laxity (looseness of the hip joint) has been identified as a key contributor. Whilst it has definitely helped us remove badly affected dogs from the breeding pool, the existing Willis/BVA scheme (and also the American OFA and Australian schemes) underestimates the degree of laxity.

The PennHIP method targets laxity by measuring distraction index and its heritability, which influences the speed at which genetic improvement can be obtained.

Veterinarians must complete a training course and accreditation programme to take PennHIP radiographs.

Find a PennHIP trained veterinarian near you >>
Register for online PennHIP training >>

In the following two videos, Andrew Worth, Small Animal Surgery Specialist and Senior Lecturer at Massey Veterinary Teaching Hospital explains the PennHIP system.

Dysplasia Kit Order Form

Please use this form to order Dysplasia kits from the NZVA

NZVA Elbow Dysplasia Scheme Resources

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Resources for veterinarians participating in the NZVA Elbow Dysplasia Scheme
Item Name Posted By Date Posted
Costs and other general information PDF (477.42 KB) Administration 18/03/2019
Explanation of the Elbow Dysplasia scoring system PDF (54.76 KB) Administration 12/08/2020
Info for vets on digital submissions PDF (562.38 KB) Administration 24/08/2016
Elbow submissions requirement & illustration PDF (73.93 KB) Administration 24/08/2016
Historical hip dysplasia results (Willis scheme) PDF (233.1 KB) Administration 6/04/2017
The latest elbow dysplasia results PDF (194.1 KB) Administration 18/03/2019