Hip and Elbow Dysplasia Schemes - key features

Key features of the Hip and Elbow Dysplasia Schemes

The Hip and Elbow Dysplasia Schemes operate to the highest standards of expertise, quality, and consistency, which means breeders can have complete confidence in the rigour and accuracy of the scoring and grading processes.  The schemes also contribute to the Kennel Club’s unique database of hip and elbow scores/grades, which in turn are used to inform Estimated Breeding Values.

Key features of the schemes include:

  • Highly qualified & experienced vets – We currently have a panel of 10 scrutineers who are all veterinary surgeons with advanced professional qualifications in veterinary radiology and/or orthopaedic surgery. They are extremely experienced in the assessment of hip and elbow radiographs, scoring and grading over 16,000 each year.
  • Two scrutineers – Radiographs submitted to the schemes are simultaneously assessed by two scrutineers working together as a team, whether side-by-side or remotely, and reaching a consensus on the score/grade.
  • Quality & consistency – We only accept high quality radiographs and these are reviewed using high-definition radiology-grade equipment and Visbion imaging software. The panel of scrutineers meet annually to discuss the findings of a quality control exercise and to review a sample of appeal radiographs. This ensures consistency and continuity of results over time. Random selection of scrutineer pairs ensures that there is continuous peer review within the panel at each scoring/grading session.
  • Appeals process – The schemes have a robust appeals process which is open to any breeder who disagrees with the score/grade for their dog. The radiographs are re-scored by a different pair of scrutineers who are unaware of the original score, and then reviewed by the Chief Scrutineer. The final appeal score is therefore based on the professional opinion of five scrutineers.

How does scoring/grading work?

The total hip scores are published and can be compared with the median score for the breed (the score of the average dog in that breed, with equal numbers of dogs scoring higher and lower). The elbow grades for each breed are also published. Since dog breeds vary widely in the incidence of hip and elbow dysplasia, this allows individual dogs to be compared with others in the same breed, showing whether they are about average, or better or worse, in their hip or elbow status.

How are the results used?

Hip and elbow scores/grades of both individual KC-registered dogs and their relatives are published online via the Health Test Results Finder on the KC website. Taking into consideration the scores of an individual dog’s relatives provides greater guidance about a dog’s genotype than does its own score in isolation. In addition, for the most affected breeds, numerical ‘estimated breeding values’ (EBVs) are also provided for each dog. This service is unique worldwide in dog breeding and is underpinned by the close working relationship between the Kennel Club and BVA.

How do the BVA/KC schemes compare to other schemes internationally?

In many other schemes one scrutineer works alone and independently, with no central body providing oversight, and no ongoing quality control or validation. This means that scores or grades may lack consistency and reliability. Some schemes accept lower quality images (e.g. JPEG files) whereas we only accept medical grade DICOM image files.

While scores or grades from other schemes can assess the degree of hip or elbow disease, the results from other schemes are not directly comparable with the BVA/KC scheme and so this data cannot be used to inform Estimated Breeding Values.

Can I submit online?

Yes, we accept online submissions from vet practices, and over half are now submitted online. We plan to further increase the volume of online submissions and to gradually phase out paper-based submissions. We are also now able to score submissions with two scrutineers working as a pair remotely, and we are currently running in-person scoring sessions in parallel with remote sessions.