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Labrador Hip Score and Rating FAQs


What is a Labrador hip score?

A Labrador hip score is a rating assigned to a Labrador’s hip joints based on an x-ray evaluation.  Hip scores or ratings are given to determine a dog’s risk of passing on hip dysplasia to his or her offspring. It also gives breeders the opportunity to make a more informed decision before breeding Labrador dogs.

 Labrador Hip Score and Rating FAQs

Labrador hip score: Is it necessary?

Getting your Labrador hip scored is necessary only if you have breeding plans. This should be done once your dog turns 1-year old. The age limit is a requirement because the hip joints are more likely to degenerate and show signs of hip dysplasia when your dog becomes an adult.


How is a Labrador hip score determined?

The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and the British Veterinary Association (BVA) are two foremost organizations that certify hip scoring in dogs using different scales/ grades.

OFA (USA)BVA (UK/Australia)


The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA)

The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals tests dogs for different genetic disorders, such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and degenerative myelopathy. The organization also releases certifications for dogs who have excellent health screening ratings, which certifies them as good for breeding. The OFA operates and keeps a database of genetic information of dogs bred in the United States.

OFA ratings or hip scores are classified into seven different categories including the following.

  • Excellent (E) – Dogs with excellent ratings have superior conformation. Their femoral heads or “balls” fit perfectly and smoothly into the acetabulum or hip sockets with enough space for movement. Labradors with excellent OFA ratings are perfect for breeding.
  • Good (G) – This Labrador hip score or rating is a slightly less superior than “Excellent hips.” Dogs with this rating have well-formed congruent hip joints as shown in their radiographs. The femoral head also fits well into the acetabulum. Dogs with OFA Good ratings are considered “suitable for breeding.”
  • Fair (F) – When a Labrador receives this rating, it means that minor irregularities have been seen in his hip or her hip joints. The hip joint may be wider than what’s considered a good hip, the femoral head may be slightly slipping out of the acetabulum, or the acetabulum may be a bit shallow. Dogs with this rating are “permissible to breed but not recommended.”
  • Borderline (B) – If your Labrador receives this rating, it means there are some issues found in his or her radiographs. Incongruent with no arthritic changes may have been found.
  • Mild (M) – Dogs are rated with Mild (M) if there is a significant hip dislocation. This means that the femoral head or ball is partially out of the acetabulum or socket, which causes excess joint space. The acetabulum could also be shallow and only partially covers the femoral head.
  • Moderate (Mod) – With moderate Labrador hip score or rating, the femoral head barely fits into a shallow socket. Signs of arthritis may be seen in the femoral head and neck. Changes in the hip socket rim and the trabecular bone patterns may also be present.
  • Severe (S) – Labradors with this hip score rating are found with existing hip dysplasia. The femoral head is either partially or completely out of a shallow acetabulum. Significant arthritic bone changes are also seen in the femoral head and neck. Changes in the acetabular rim are also seen.


The British Vet Association

Veterinarians from the British Vet Association determine hip scores by measuring a dog’s hips from a radiograph report. Each measurement is rated on a scale from zero. The hips are scored individually and are usually expressed as a ratio. For example, 4:6 or 4/6 would be a total hip score of 10. The BVA hip scoring scheme is used in the United Kingdom and Australia.

  • A high number indicates there are hip problems.
  • A low score means that the hips are healthy.
  • Zero indicates ideal hips.


Other Organizations

There are many other organizations that do hip scoring in their respective home countries. Some of these organizations include:

  • Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI), Thuin, Belgium.
  • Verein für deutsche Schäferhunde (SV) for German Shepherds, Augsburg, Germany.

How are radiographs taken to determine Labrador hip score?

Dogs need to be placed under anesthesia so that veterinary professionals can take a quality hip radiograph. During the procedure, the dog is placed on his or her back and the rear legs are slightly stretched to position the hips accurately. It usually takes no more than 30 minutes to get a satisfactory x-ray, but your Labrador still needs to completely recover from anesthesia before going home, which can take a couple of hours.


When is the best time to have your Labrador’s hips scored?

The best age is when your Labrador turns around 12 months old. At this age, his hip joints are almost fully developed. Hip joints deteriorate as the dog ages. Having the procedure done at a later time could show results that could have developed due to environmental factors or accidents.


How often should you have your Labrador’s hips scored?

In the United States and the United Kingdom, a Labrador’s hip score is determined once in his lifetime. This is done when the dog is around a year old and is being considered for breeding.


What is the acceptable Labrador hip score?

A hip score that is lower than the breed mean score (BMS), as determined by the British Veterinary Association, is considered acceptable. Currently, the BMS for Labrador Retrievers is 12, which is equivalent to the OFA Mild rating.


What happens if my Labrador doesn’t get a good hip score?

If your Lab doesn’t have a good hip score, it is recommended to keep him away from breeding.

Consult your vet about treatment and preventative measures that can help manage hip dysplasia or slow down the progress of the condition.