Q: 1 What is pupscan?

The Pupscan Project was established in early 2015 to research and develop the diagnosis and treatment of inherited hip and elbow disorders in dogs.

The project team will identify the post-natal events that lead to changes that are described as ‘dysplasia’ at skeletal maturity, as distinct from inherited disorders, by scanning hips in the early months of life using modern ultrasound technology.

Over the research period the Pupscan Project is producing breed and gender specific data, genetic analysis, and marker measurements.

Q: 2 What is Genetic and what is Congenital?

Congenital means that you are born with it, but not everything you are born with is genetic.

‘Congenital’ problems may be acquired while in the womb or during birth; for example, human breech babies have a higher incidence of ‘dysplastic’ hips because the legs are not free to move naturally in the breech position. This is not necessarily genetic.

It is important to the project that the whelping history of the litter is as complete as possible together with the family history of both the sire and dam.

Genetic is what you inherit through genes acquired from both parents. Not every gene is expressed in the offspring.

Q: 3 How is the Pupscan method different from the current scoring system?

The Pupscan Project is very different as the existing method is based on phenotype. By the nature of phenotypical analysis, it is impossible to isolate poly-genic factors from environmental and other influences, such as acquired conditions that naturally occur throughout the life process.

The Pupscan Project takes account of phenotype, genotype and environment influences, as well as breed, age and gender.

Scanning with Ultrasound requires no anaesthesia, no muscle relaxation and no hair removal. A DNA sample is collected from any puppy that exhibits differing development from its litter and breed mates. The DNA sample is stored for genetic analysis. 

Using non-invasive Ultrasound, the Pupscan method acquires an image within the early months of the puppy’s life. Ultrasound can also be used to assist in diagnosis throughout both the growth and development period. Additionally, It can go on to aid and promote non-invasive musculo-skeletal diagnostics throughout the whole of life.

Q: 4 What non-genetic conditions contribute to a poor hip score?

There are several pathologies in both the Hip and Elbow joint that are not genetic and therefore are NOT a contra-indication to breeding. These pathologies are not taken into account when scoring under the current screening method.

Slipped Epiphysis. “Growth plate” injury common and often caused through repeated micro- trauma, such as jumping on and off furniture, running and jumping up and down step(s) and other strains to the joints caused by slips and falls. All these factors contribute to abnormal joint development during growth. 

Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD). Condition affecting the elbow and knee joints; predominately caused through trauma.

Un-united Anconeus Process. Affecting the elbow joint, almost certainly acquired through trauma. 

Avascular Necrosis. Defects to blood flow to the bone commonly in the mature skeleton often caused by raised fluid pressure in the hip joint. Blood clotting disorders have not yet been found as a cause for avascular necrosis in dogs, although there is some evidence for this in humans.

Perthes disease of the hip is well documented in some breeds. This may be due to increased fluid pressure in the growing hip joint, damaging blood flow which softens and deforms the head of bone. The socket acquires an abnormal shape to fit the deformed head. No gene(s) have yet been identified as the cause.

These are all examples of acquired changes without a proven genetic basis and therefore should NOT be a contra-indication to breeding. 

It is widely acknowledged that obesity, excessive exercise and infection can contribute to abnormal development in both the elbow and hip joints.

Q: 5 How long does it take to scan a litter?

The time required to obtain a diagnostic image from a puppy depends on the age and activity levels of the puppies. Some puppies are by their nature relatively quiet, while others are very active and inquisitive. However, the average time is between 5 and 10 minutes. If both hips and elbows are to be scanned this will add an extra 10 minutes.

Q: 6 Why is Pupscan Breed and Gender specific?

The Pupscan Team have established that there are very different growth patterns across the breeds and genders.  

In human growth, we know that girls and boys mature at different rates. A girl’s thigh bone will usually stop growing at about age 15 years, whereas a boy’s thigh may still be growing beyond 18 years.

The differences between male and female across all species have been well established for some time, especially in the agricultural world. This is recognised in legislation.

 The Pupscan vets inform us that in their opinion and experience, many breeds are unable to be placed in the required position for scoring without potentially causing damage to the hip joints.

Q: 7 How can Pupscan help me as a breeder?

Pupscan will assist you in making an informed decision regarding your breed.  Our aim is to provide you the breeder, with the information that is needed to minimise the risk of predominantly genetic abnormalities that prevent normal hip and elbow development.

Some abnormalities that have no genetic basis can be helped by early non-invasive intervention to prevent disability in adult life. This approach has proven to be successful in human infants for many years.

If joint problems develop after the scan has shown normal hips there is a high probability that it is not due to your breeding.  A full diagnosis should be obtained from an appropriately qualified veterinary surgeon before removing the dog from your breeding stock.


 It is worth noting that the term ‘Dysplasia’ is not a diagnosis but rather a descriptive term.  Unless a true genetic cause is established with gene analysis or statistically validated inheritance data, the presumption must be that the dog is “innocent”.


‘…environmental factors are responsible for about 50% of the variation of the severity of hip ‘dysplasia.’Henricson B, Norberg I, Olsson E. 1966. On the Etiology and Pathogenesis of Hip Dysplasia: a Comparative Review. J Small Anim. Pract. Vol 7, 1966, pp. 673 to 688.


February 24th2017Dog World.

Mike Tempest stated that "there are various estimates of the heritability of HD that show it is on average about 30% genetic (therefore of medium heritability), 70% environmental, but this will vary from breed to breed and is dependent upon which scheme results were used in the calculations… "


October 6th, 2017. Our Dogs; Professor Steve Dean.  Health Testing for Hip Dysplasia.

"Even the classic x-ray evaluation (hip scoring) has never been validated… However, just like the gene test, a specific score cannot be reliably related to the future development of clinical lameness given the assumed influence of environmental factors on the clinical symptoms. The remarkable thing is how little work has been carried out to identify the environmental factors that affect the clinical appearance of Hip Dysplasia.”

It is no wonder as breeders we are left with confusion as to what percent is predominantly genetic (so far, no genes have been identified) and what percent is environmental.

The prevailing assumption over many years has been that all abnormalities described as “dysplasia” have a genetic origin despite expert opinion all over the world for more than 50 years that this is not the case.

 We are dependent for breeding guidance upon which system we use and are obliged to trust that systems applied in other countries match the one we are obliged to use when there is known to be such disparity between scoring methods. It is sad that in many cases we find that the mechanisms used fail us and thus create problems between kennels.”

 (Take note, validated means never published for peer review.)

We at Pupscan understand the issues faced by many breeders when deciding on which stud dog to use. We are developing an evidence-based system that will produce a diagnosis and not a score that is left to the breeder’s own interpretation.

 It is time that we had an evidence-based method in place to correctly evaluate our precious dogs and thus protect long established and healthy breeding lines. This is what the Pupscan Project intends to achieve.

Q: 8 What is Laxity?

Laxity is a greater than average range of movement of a joint. In humans, it is normal in gymnasts and dancers who can do the splits and adopt other unusual positions. This type of laxity does not predispose to osteoarthritis in humans unless a joint has been injured.

However, Laxity following injury, (such as ruptured cruciate ligament) is strongly correlated with arthritis but is clearly unlikely to be genetic. Therefore, based on what we have learned for the benefit of humans from research on dogs and across other species over the past 25 years, it is reasonable to assume your dog does not need to be excluded from the breeding pool if, as in many other conditions, experience in humans is comparable to dogs.

Q: 9 Does the scanned image come with a Veterinary report

All images collected by Pupscan will be subjected to clinical analysis and any abnormalities will be reported directly to the breeder. If the abnormality is not genetic but more probably congenital then it is important that the breeder has full knowledge to enable an informed decision regarding the gene pool.

An initial report of an abnormality will be supplied to the breeder. If a more in-depth veterinary report is required, then this is done at the request of the breeder and agreed with the Pupscan vets. Any costs that are incurred are agreed between the consulting expert and the breeder dependent upon what type of report is requested.

Q: 10 Where can I get my puppies scanned?

Puppies can be scanned at home or they can be taken to one of our participating veterinary centres.

Q: 11 How much does it cost to have my puppy scanned?

The Pupscan Project has made significant progress in researching hip and elbow problems in dogs. The project is now partnered with the Irish Kennel Club who recognise the urgent need for a hip/elbow health screening method that is evidence based and is the way forward. University College Dublin are working closely with the Project and will now be the centre for all analysis of data collected.

We will be setting costs per puppy and litter in the very near future. We will ensure that the costs are reasonable and will also be influenced by the number of puppies in the litter. As this method of analysis is delivered primarily by breeders, for breeders we will endeavour to keep costs proportionate.

The cost is likely to vary between countries and regions as travel costs will vary..

We anticipate that DNA swab samples for identification of parentage and genetic analysis will be in operation very soon as agreed with the Irish Kennel Club.

All puppies microchipped by us will be entered onto the relevant database for that country, in the UK it will be Pet-Log. Microchipping has frequently been carried out at the time of scanning by our trained team and is remunerated at the usual cost.

Q: 12 Does the UK kennel club recognise Pupscan?

It must be acknowledged that the Fédération Cynologique Internationale(of which the Irish Kennel Club is a member) is the dominant organisation representing Breeders and their Clubs. The UK Kennel Club remains independent of the FCI and has not yet adopted the Pupscan process for hip and elbow joint screening.  Pupscan is now formally partnered with the Irish Kennel Club and consulting with University College Dublin. We are also in talks with several other Kennel Clubs who are members of the FCI and who also want to progress evidence-based health screening for dogs. The UK Kennel Club is a stand-alone club and it will be for them to form their own decisions.

Q: 13 Can Pupscan help me if my adult dog has got a poor hip or elbow score and I don’t know if it is safe to breed?

Pupscan is appointing an x-ray review panel to help make a diagnosis for dogs who have received an undesirable hip or elbow score. If your vet has retained copies of the scoring x-ray he or she may be able to provide you with a diagnosis. If your vet is uncertain of the diagnosis the film(s) can be referred to our x-ray panel for assessment.


Diagnostic X-Rays are usually presented as two views (A-P and Frog Lateral for hips and A-P and Lateral for elbows). Without both views a full diagnosis may not be possible. If this is the case when you have submitted your x-rays to us, we will endeavour to assist you as much as we can. The Project is collating increasing numbers of x-rays taken over time that will create new opportunities to make a full diagnosis as the database of appearance, function and prognosis grows.


 In 10 years the current views will certainly have changed! We will be analysing the effects of environment, activity levels, nutrition and training against a backdrop of knowledge of anatomy a few weeks after birth which has never been done before; so there are exciting times ahead.

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