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PennHip Testing in Golden Retrievers

PennHIP is a method used to screen hips on dogs. It is one of the most effective tools for evaluating hip dysplasia nd osteoarthritis in young dogs. 


In order to do PennHIP xrays, a veterinarian must be certified. Not every veterinarian has been trained to properly take the xrays that Penhip require. It is important that you check with your vet before assuming they are qualified. 


PennHIP testing can be done as early as 16 weeks of age, which is very beneficial to dogs who may be affected by hip issues. This early detection can help breeders make early decisions and pet owners prevent or lessen any risks. 



How are the hips evaluated?

PennHIP uses three different views to determine the laxity of a dog's hip joint. These different views allow the veterinarians to obtain a better reading of the dog's hips. These views provide measurements of the joint laxity, which is called Distraction Index (DI).


PennHIP method:


  • Obtains OA readings from the standard hip-extended view

  • Obtains hip joint congruity readings from the compression view

  • Obtains quantitative measurements of hip joint laxity from the distraction view" (PennHip)


PennHIP involves the assessment of three different radiographic views of the hip joints called the distraction view, the compression view and the EHR. The EHR view is looking for secondary osteoarthritic changes in the joint, the distraction view is to provide a quantitative measurement of joint laxity called the Distraction Index (DI) and the compression view is to assess joint congruity (




Unlike OFA, PennHIP does not give a passing or failing score. Instead, they grade on a score between 0-1. Numbers closer to 0 are better than scores closer to 1. These scores are given based on how loose the femoral head is in relation to the acetabulum. Both hips will be scored, and each side can get a different score. 



For example: a score of  .40 means that the femoral head comes out of the joint by 40%. This means that a dog with a hip score of .80 is twice as laxitive as a dog with a score of .40. The dog with the score of .40 has better hips than the dog with .80.

When to test?

PennHIP can be tested as early as 16 week, however, it is recommended to do a followup at 6mo or a year. 


It is recommended for females in heat or with puppies to be tested at least 8 weeks after lactation or 16 weeks after whelping. It is not thought that a heat cycle affects the laxity of hips, but birthing and lactation may increase laxity. 


What is a good score for a golden retriever?

Dogs are ranked within their breed. Vets from the PennHIP scheme recommend breeding dogs with overall scores and DIs that are better than the breed average, to continue to try to improve the hips in the breed whilst not excessively narrowing the gene pool. The average for a golden retriever is around .55, so it is recommended to breed dogs with hips above this (


PennHIP has labelled dogs with a laxity of .3 as a normal joint laxity.  Dogs with increasing DI values over 0.3 up to 0.7 have increasing joint laxity and an increasing likelihood of hip dysplasia A. Only 5% of Golden retrievers that have been assessed have a DI less than 0.3 (95%). 

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