OFA stands for Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. They are a non-profit organization that is dedicated to improving the health and well being of purebred companion animals through a reduction in the incidence of genetic diseases.
In our program, we chose to OFA certify our bulldog's patellas and hearts. We also have spinal X-Rays performed and studied by a Veterinarian for Hemivertebrae, a Hypoplastic Trachea and other potential spinal problems. We DNA test our dogs for genetic diseases and these are discussed on the DNA Information page.
Heart certification is especially important. Congenital heart diseases in dogs are malformations of the heart or great vessels. The lesions characterizing congenital heart defects are present at birth and may develop more fully during perinatal and growth periods. Many congenital heart defects are thought to be genetically transmitted from parents to offspring; however, the exact modes of inheritance have not been precisely determined for all cardiovascular malformations. No breeder should ever breed a dog with a bad heart. It is not only extremely dangerous for the pregnant dam but also for the puppies during the birthing process.
Patella certification is also extremely important. We never breed dogs that have luxating patellas. Luxating patellas are extremely common in French Bulldogs and small breeds in general. There is NO way to guarantee that a dog will never develop this condition. There is evidence that loose knees (luxating patellas) have a genetic component BUT it can also be caused by an injury to the knee. It is still important to have all of your breeding dogs checked for this condition. The patella, or kneecap, is part of the stifle joint (knee). In patellar luxation, the kneecap luxates, or pops out of place, either in a medial or lateral position. Bilateral involvement is most common, but unilateral is not uncommon. Animals can be affected by the time they are 8 weeks of age which is usually attributed to being genetic. If it occurs later in life, it could be due to an injury or genetics. This condition is VERY common in bulldog breeds due to their shortened structure. There are varying grades of severity. Only the most severe grades require surgery. Most of the time, if you put your dog on a Glucosamine supplement they will be just fine.
Hemivertebrae (wedge shaped vertebrae) are a VERY common occurrence in French Bulldogs. Most bulldogs have at least one or more hemivertebrae. Problematic hemivertebrae or an excessive number of hemivertebrae can be an issue. "Normal" hemivertebrae can become problematic if an injury to the spine occurs. This can cause compression in the spine and can sometimes cause paralysis. For this reason, we have chosen to X-ray the spines on all of our breeding dogs. Two views of the entire spine are taken. The X-Rays are studied for an excessive number of Hemivertebrae along the spine. Most vets consider more than three Hemivertebrae to be an issue and would make the dog unsuitable for breeding. With all of this being said, there are PLENTY of Frenchies with Hemivertebrae that never experience any symptoms and live long, healthy lives. While X-raying the spines of our breeding dogs, we also check them for a hypoplastic trachea. This is basically a fancy word for a VERY narrow trachea. This can cause the dog to have severe breathing problems.
Keep in mind that the Frenchie is both a short-nosed (brachycephalic) and dwarf (chondrodystrophic) breed, so it can have some special health issues. As a short-nosed breed, they have shorter air passages than average, so they are not able to cool themselves as efficiently as most dogs. This means that heat and humidity can cause problems for them. Other issues that can occur with brachycelphalic dogs are pinched nostrils that constrict breathing or an elongated soft palate. This is called brachycephalic airway syndrome (BAS). If your dog seems to have problems breathing, have your vet evaluate him to have potential corrective surgery. It is important to mention that we never breed any dogs that have BAS or have had corrective surgery for BAS.
As with some other dwarf breeds, the spine can have some issues. In some cases a dog can have an extra vertebrae, or experience some degeneration in the intervertebral discs. Disc disease can be a problem which is why we perform x-rays on all of our breeding dogs to check for abnormalities.
We always recommend that you find a vet that is familiar with treating and anesthetizing Bulldogs!