OFA and CHIC – What, Why and How!

You may have heard these acronyms when looking for a collie breeder, researching health issues or in your own breeding and showing journey. This page will explain to you what these acronyms mean, why we should pay attention to them and how to participate in their programs!

NEW!!!

The Collie Health Foundation has voted to subsidize the submission of the three required CHIC DNA tests to OFA for CHF members, for a value of $30 per dog (up to a maximum of 19 dogs submitted per person per year). Reimbursement will require submission of CHIC certificates, and will be retroactive to include CHIC certified dogs from 01/01/2023.

>>Submit your request for CHIC Certification Reimbursement here<<

The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, or OFA, was established in 1966 as a not-for-profit foundation by John M. Olin. In addition to being an inventor, industrialist, philanthropist, conservationist, and sportsman, Olin was a Labrador Retriever breeder and field trial enthusiast. However, when hip dysplasia began to affect the performance of his dogs, Olin saw the need for a centralized effort to diagnose and limit the disease. He organized a meeting with the Golden Retriever Club of America and the German Shepherd Club of America, which led to the creation and incorporation of the OFA and its original mission: “To provide radiographic evaluation, data management, and genetic counseling for canine hip dysplasia.”

Today, the OFA’s mission has broadened past focusing on hip dysplasia and has evolved into all-encompassing philanthropic health organization and registry aiming “To improve the health and well-being of companion animals through a reduction in the incidence of genetic disease.” Other species, such as cats, have also been added to the OFA database. The OFA also supports research aimed at reducing the incidence of diseases in companion animals. Since 2006, over $3 million in research has been funded through the AKC Canine Health Fund (AKC CHF), the Morris Animal Foundation and on occasion through direct grants. Many of those grants that affect conditions seen in Collies include epilepsy, degenerative myelopathy, hypothyroidism, congenital heart disorders, and of course hip dysplasia.

The OFA’s main function to canine enthusiasts and breeders is as a database. These serve all breeds of cats and dogs and provide breed clubs and preservation breeders with tools to improve the health of their breed through better breeding practices. One example, of particular interest to Collie enthusiasts, is the Companion Animal Eye Registry, or CAER. Before joining the OFA, this database was known as the independent Canine Eye Registration Foundation, or CERF. This is a repository of canine eye examinations done by veterinary ophthalmologists certified by the board of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO). All eye exams done by an AVCO board certified veterinary ophthalmologist are submitted to the CAER database, regardless of whether the owner submit their CAER exam for public certification. This allows OFA to aggregate statistics and provide information on trends in eye disease.

Beyond eye disease and hip dysplasia, the OFA maintains databases for genetic test results, elbow dysplasia, thyroid function, cardiac examinations and many more.

Two beautiful sable Collie puppies with their front feet on a rail.

The Canine Health Information Center, also known as CHIC, is a centralized canine health program born from the collaboration between the OFA, the AKC Canine Health Fund and parent breed clubs. Parent clubs are national breed clubs, such as the Collie Club of America. They set codes of ethics and rules at the national level, and therefore can help establish testing guidelines for their breed. The goals of the CHIC program are:

  • To work with parent clubs in the identification of health issues for which a central information system should be established.
  • To establish and maintain a central health information system in a manner that will support research into canine disease and provide health information to owners and breeders.
  • To establish scientifically valid diagnostic criteria for the acceptance of information into the database.
  • To base the availability of information on individually identified dogs at the consent of the owner.

The first mission of the CHIC program is to provide, thanks to assistance from parent clubs, recommended guidelines for health testing. If a dog has the required testing submitted to the OFA, it gains the “Canine Health” or CHIC certification, showing that all appropriate testing has been submitted to the public OFA databases. DNA testing results do not have to be clear/normal to obtain CHIC certification. The only implication is that all relevant breed screenings have been submitted. The dogs must also be identified permanently, via a microchip or a tattoo.

For Collies, the Collie Club of America has determined that the requirements for CHIC certification are submission of the following 3 DNA tests: Multi Drug Resistance 1 (MDR1), Progressive Retinal Atrophy rcd2 (PRA-rcd2), and Dermatomyositis (DMS). Once these three tests are submitted to OFA, a CHIC certificate will be emailed to you directly.

A second facet of the CHIC program is the CHIC DNA Repository. This is independent of the CHIC certification described above and aims to store canine DNA samples along with relevant genealogic and health data to facilitate future research. This is an invaluable resource for researchers by expediting the sample collection process and improving the likelihood of a genetic discovery or breakthrough.

The Collie Health Foundation has an ongoing collaboration with the CHIC DNA Repository and will cover submission costs as well as blood draw and shipping costs up to $125 per DNA collection. More details on our DNA Banking page!

Photo of a blue merle collie and a sable collie sitting in flowers.

Why submit to OFA databases and participate in the CHIC program?

The benefits of submitting tests to OFA and participating in the CHIC program are twofold. Firstly, OFA and CHIC provide a reliable source of health information regarding dogs. OFA requires that health results come from reputable labs, and submissions must show the lab name and date of testing for verification. For breeders, this may help in the selection of dogs to use in their breeding program. Potential owners can obtain accurate information on a breeder’s dogs’ health to assist their search for their future family member. For parent clubs and health foundations, OFA and CHIC provide a health database with no upfront cost. OFA maintains health data securely and independently from commercial labs, which prevents issues seen when the latter go out of business, leading to the loss of invaluable health data. The database is not subject to time, technology, or resource constraints, and allows parent clubs and health foundations such as the CHF to focus on identifying health concerns, educating their membership, and encouraging participation in these programs.

The OFA website itself has a wide range of useful tools and resources. Breed and disease-specific statistics are available publicly through the CHIC program and show trends for all breeds as well as individual breeds. The Advanced Search tool allows one to view results with breed- and disease-specific filters. Moreover, health information pedigrees are also available: the combined health pedigree shows testing done on a dog’s parents and grandparents, and the vertical testing pedigrees show, for each disorder, the test results for all those dogs’ siblings and offspring.

But more importantly, using OFA is paying it forward to future generations. The health data and statistics obtained thanks to these public databases are invaluable.

NEW!!!

The Collie Health Foundation has voted to subsidize the submission of the three required CHIC DNA tests to OFA for CHF members, for a value of $30 per dog (up to a maximum of 19 dogs submitted per person per year). Reimbursement will require submission of CHIC certificates, and will be retroactive to include CHIC certified dogs from 01/01/2023.

>>Submit your request for CHIC Certification Reimbursement here<<

Smooth Collie tolerating her baby.

How do I submit results to OFA for CHIC certification?

Submission of DNA results to OFA can be done online or by mail. The process for both is fairly similar, however the online version gets sent to OFA electronically and tends to be faster. Remember that, whether submitted by mail or online, OFA offers discounts for multiple tests submitted at the same time. These discounts include a litter rate (Three or more members of the same litter, submitted together), a kennel rate (A group of five or more individuals, owned/co-owned by the same person, of the same application type, submitted together) and, for DNA tests, a Single Dog/Multiple Test Rate (Three or more DNA tests submitted on a single dog).

Once all three tests required by the Collie Club of America are submitted to OFA, you will automatically receive a CHIC certificate by email. Of note: even if submitted by mail, OFA no longer sends paper copies of OFA certificates. All testing certificates are now sent electronically to the email address provided in the application.

Once you receive your certificates, your dog can now be found in the OFA database by searching for its AKC number or registered name! Thank you for contributing to transparency and the health of our breed!