The CHIC breed health improvement plan, developed by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), offers a modular approach to increase awareness regarding breed-specific health issues, encourage health testing and open sharing of results, dissemination of information and data regarding disease prevalence and progression, and support of future health research. In combination, they provide breed clubs and individual breeders a solid toolset to improve the future health of their breeds.
The four basic breed health improvement plan modules include:
Health screening protocols
The OFA has created a service for parent clubs to develop online breed-specific health surveys. The OFA provides a basic template and encourages parent clubs to customize the questions to their individual needs. The online surveys are developed and hosted by the OFA at no charge, and real-time survey results are available as each new survey is completed. The ongoing live surveys provide a tool to assess overall breed health, identify new areas of concern as well as perceived areas of concern which may be overstated, and allow parent clubs to focus their limited resources on the most appropriate areas for future research. Active surveys can be accessed at: www.offa.org/surveys/index.html.
Health Screening Protocols
The Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) program works directly with breed clubs to develop breed-specific health screening criteria. The criteria are based on breed-specific concerns, as well as widely accepted and available phenotypic and genotypic health screening protocols. Individual CHIC numbers are issued when a dog meets all the breed-specific health screening requirements, regardless of results, where the owner has agreed to place all test results in the public domain. CHIC certificates provide a single composite source of documented health testing and results. The results are also available on the OFA website. The website also provides detailed health screening results, when recorded, through hotlinks on each dog's close relatives including sire, dam, offspring, and siblings. This creates a powerful matrix allowing the public to verify health screening results, and breeders to perform in-depth health screening pedigree research. The depth and breadth of available data are an important element in making more informed breeding decisions to apply the selective genetic pressure to produce healthier animals.
The OFA provides a variety of statistics to breeders, breed clubs and veterinary groups to assist in monitoring disease prevalence, progression, and improvement.
The OFA website provides statistics by breed and by disease which are updated annually. Breed clubs are provided with quarterly reports detailing all OFA activity for their breed, including dogs and individual test results for all public domain data. CHIC reports are also distributed to each parent club detailing all dogs that qualified for CHIC in the previous quarter. And each parent club is also provided with an annual summary report that provides statistics by year for each major OFA database.
The OFA also maintains responsibility for the maintenance and production of the ACVO Blue Book, "Ocular Disorders Presumed to be Inherited in Purebred Dogs." Updated annually, the Blue Book provides statistics by breed for all the diagnostic codes included on the ACVO/OFA Companion Animal Eye Registry (CAER) Exam Forms.
The OFA established and maintains the CHIC DNA Repository, a DNA Bank containing over 20,000 canine DNA samples and corresponding health histories. These samples are made available to approved molecular research projects examining the underlying causes of genetic disease in dogs. To date, over 3,000 samples have been distributed to more than 25 projects at a variety of research institutions and universities worldwide.