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OFA Hips OFA Elbows CERF OFA Thyroid OFA Cardiac von Willebrand's Bloat (GDV) Study Dog Owner's Reference

OFA Cardiac



This is an actual copy of an OFA clearance for Cardiac. Inside the red box I have drawn on the certificate is the actual OFA registry number.  This number contains elements that give you detailed  information about this exam.


Here is how it breaks down:



  1. BF:  The first two letters of the OFA Registry Number are an indication of the breed of the dog.  In this case it stands for Bouvier des Flandres.  On an OFA certificate for a Shetland Sheepdog, the first two letters will be "SS".
  2. CA:  Designates this Registry number is for a (CA) Cardiac certificate.
  3. 1:  The next group of numbers before the slash indicate how many Bouvier des Flanders (or whichever breed of dog you are concerned with) have been screened for OFA Cardiac prior to this particular dog.  In this case, this dog is the very 1st Bouvier to have been screened for Cardiac abnormalities.
  4. 15:  This tells you this dog's age, in months, when the exam was completed.  This dog was 15 months old at the time of her OFA Cardiac exam.  12 months/1 year is the minimum age for a dog to receive this particular certificate.  
  5. F: Designates (M) Male or (F) Female.
  6. C: Designates this dog was examined by a Cardiac Specialist.  Other designations at this point in the Cardiac OFA # might be (S) Specialist or (P) Practitioner.  Look for an (S) Specialist or (C) Cardiac Specialist designation - this gives more credibility to the certificate.
  7. T or PI: in the last place, after a hyphen "-" (Not indicated on the above certificate) these letters would tell you that the dog was permanently marked with some form of identification.  In this case, this dog had a form of permanent identification, but the vet forgot to mark it on the paper work. Effective January 1, 2001, the OFA has adopted a policy acknowledging animals that have been submitted for inclusion in our databases that have permanent identification in the form of DNA profile, microchip, or tattoo with a suffix of "-PI" instead of "-T".

    This letter signifies that the test was most likely performed on the dog listed on the certificate, but not all vets verify the dog's identification.  There have been cases where owner's have substituted dogs to obtain a certificate on a dog that, in fact, couldn't pass a health exam.  I want to hope that most people are basically honest and that we should question every certificate we look at - this is only a word of warning if you are already dealing with an individual with questionable morals.  As of January 1, 2001, OFA requires all dogs examined for certificates carry a permanent form of identification.



The OFA site gives the following Cardiac statistics on the breeds raised at Moonstruck:



% Normal

% Equivocal

% Abnormal

Bouvier des Flandres





Shetland Sheepdog

OFA has no data for Shetland Sheepdogs at this time.


Use the following diagrams to help clarify the information contained in the following detailed explanations of cardiac disorders and diagnostics:








American College of Internal Medicine ~ Specialty of Cardiology

For detailed information about Canine Cardiology published by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine/Specialty of Cardiology Click here for a link to the ACVIM Cardiac website).  You can also find a Cardiac Specialist by location or alphabetically. <Use your back arrow to return here.

Another EXCELLENT website for cardiac information.  Click here<Use your back arrow to return here.

**All italicized words in purple can be found in the Glossary on the main Dog Health page.**

The following Cardiac information is taken from the OFA site:

Purpose of OFA database

The purpose of the OFA cardiac database is to gather data regarding congenital heart diseases in dogs and to identify dogs which are phenotypically normal prior to use in a breeding program. For the purposes of the registry, a phenotypically normal dog is defined as:

  1. One without a cardiac murmur
  2. One with an innocent heart murmur that is found to be otherwise normal by virtue of an echocardiographic examination which includes Doppler studies.

Examination and Classification
Each dog is to be examined and classified by a veterinarian with expertise in the recognition of canine
congenital heart disease in accordance with procedures outlined in the OFA Application and General Instructions.

Dogs with Congenital Heart Disease (CHD)
The veterinarian and owner are encouraged to submit all evaluations, whether normal or abnormal, for the purpose of completeness of data collection and to assist in the analysis of inheritance of important canine
congenital heart defects. There is no OFA fee for entering an abnormal evaluation of the heart into the data bank. An owner can elect to have the diagnosis remain confidential while still supplying the data to OFA. 
     The most common
congenital cardiovascular defects can be grouped into several anatomic categories. These anatomic diagnoses include:

  1. Malformation of the atrioventricular valves
  2. Malformation of ventricular outflow leading to obstruction of blood flow
  3. Defects of the cardiac septa (shunting defects)
  4. Abnormal development of the great vessels or other vascular structures
  5. Complex, multiple, or other congenital disorders of the heart, pericardium, or blood vessels


Examination of dogs for CHD (Canine Heart Disease) is aimed at the identification and classification to the phenotypic abnormalities. Heritable aspects of CHD cannot be addressed unless suitable genetic studies have been conducted.

Developmental Inherited Cardiac Diseases (SAS and Cardiomyopathy)

At this time the inherited, developmental cardiac diseases like
subaortic stenosis and cardiomyopathies are difficult to monitor since there apparently is no clear cut distinction between normal and abnormal. The OFA will modify the congenital cardiac database when a proven (echocardiography/Holter) diagnostic modality and normal parameters by breed are established.

Cardiac Grading

Grading of heart murmurs is as follows:
Grade 1a very soft murmur only detected after very careful auscultation
Grade 2a soft murmur that is readily evident
Grade 3a moderately intense murmur not associated with a palpable
precordial thrill (vibration)
Grade 4loud murmur; a palpable
precordial thrill is not present or is intermittent
Grade 5a loud cardiac murmur associated with a palpable
precordial thrill; the murmur is not audible when the stethoscope is lifted from the thoracic cavity
Grade 6a loud cardiac murmur associated with a palpable
precordial thrill and audible even when the stethoscope is lifted from the thoracic cavity

Other descriptive terms may be indicated at the discretion of the examiner; these include such timing descriptors as: proto(early)-systolic, ejection or crescendo-decrescendo, holo-systolic or pan-systolic, decrescendo, and tele(late)-systolic and descriptions of subjective characteristics such as: musical, vibratory, harsh, and machinery.

A careful clinical examination that emphasizes cardiac auscultation is the most expedient and cost-effective method for identifying CHD in dogs. While there are exceptions, virtually all common congenital heart defects are associated with the presence of a cardiac murmur. Consequently, it is recommended that cardiac auscultation be the primary screening method for initial identification of CHD and the initial classification of dogs.
     Murmurs related to
CHD may at times be difficult to distinguish from normal, innocent (also called physiologic or functional) murmurs. Innocent cardiac murmurs are believed to the related to normal blood flow in the circulation. Innocent murmurs are most common in young, growing animals. The prevalence of innocent heart murmurs in mature dogs (especially in athletic dogs) is undetermined. A common clinical problem is the distinction between innocent murmurs and murmurs arising from CHD.

Definitive diagnosis of CHD usually involves one or more of the following methods:

  1. Echocardiography with Doppler studies
  2. Cardiac catheterization with angiocardiography
  3. Post-mortem examination of the heart (necropsy).

Other methods of cardiac evaluation, including electrocardiography and thoracic radiography (chest x-ray), are useful in evaluating individuals with CHD, but are not sufficiently sensitive nor specific to reliably identify or exclude the presence of CHD.

  1. The non-invasive method of echocardiography with Doppler is the preferred method for establishing a definitive diagnosis in dogs when CHD is suspected the clinical examination. Echocardiography is an inappropriate screening tool for the identification of congenital heart disease and should be performed only when the results of clinical examinations suggest a definite or potential cardiovascular abnormality.
  2. Two-dimensional echocardiography provides an anatomic image of the heart and blood vessels. While moderate to severe cardiovascular malformations can generally be recognized by two-dimensional echocardiography, mild defects (which are often of great concern to breeders of dogs) may not be identifiable by this method alone.
  3. Doppler studies, including pulsed-wave and continuous wave spectral Doppler, and two-dimensional color Doppler demonstrate the direction and velocity of blood flow in the heart and blood vessels. Abnormal patterns of blood flow are best recognized by Doppler studies. Results of Doppler studies can be combined with those of the two-dimensional echocardiogram in assessing the severity of CHD. Color Doppler echocardiography is used to evaluate relatively large areas of blood flow and is beneficial in the overall assessment of the dog with suspected CHD. Turbulence maps employed in color Doppler imaging are useful for identifying high velocity or disturbed blood flow but are not sufficiently specific (or uniform among manufacturers) to quantify blood velocity. It is emphasized that quantitation of suspected blood flow abnormalities is essential and can only be accomplished with pulsed or continuous wave Doppler studies. Pulsed wave and continuous wave Doppler examinations provide a display of blood velocity spectra in a graphical format and are the methods of choice for assessing blood flow patterns and blood flow velocity in discrete anatomic areas.
  4. Cardiac catheterization is an invasive method for identification of CHD that is considered very reliable for the diagnosis of CHD. Cardiac catheterization should be performed by a cardiologist, usually requires general anesthesia, carries a small but definite procedural risk, and is generally more costly than noninvasive studies. While cardiac catheterization with angiocardiography is considered one of the standards for the diagnosis CHD, this method has been supplanted by echocardiography with Doppler for routine evaluation of suspected CHD.
  5. Necropsy examination of the heart should be done in any breeding dog that dies or is euthanatized. The hearts of puppies and dogs known to have cardiac murmurs should always be examined following the death of the animal. A post mortem examination of the heart is best done by a cardiologist or pathologist with experience in evaluating CHD. While it is obvious that necropsy cannot be used as a screening method, the information provided by this examination can be useful in guiding breeders and in establishing the modes of inheritance of CHD.

Each of the methods of evaluation indicated above may be associated with false positive and false negative diagnoses. It must be recognized that some cases of CHD fall below the threshold of diagnosis. In other cases, a definitive diagnosis may not be possible with currently available technology and knowledge. These limitations can be minimized by considering the following general guidelines:

  1. The results to the examinations described above are most reliable when performed by an experienced individual with advanced training an experience in cardiovascular diagnosis. Echocardiography with Doppler, cardiac catheterization, and post-mortem examination of the heart for CHD requires advanced training in cardiovascular diagnostic methods and the pathology and pathophysiology of CHD.
  2. Examinations performed in mature dogs are most likely to be definitive. This is especially true when considering mild congenital heart defects. Innocent heart murmurs are less common in mature animals than in puppies are less likely to be a source of confusion. Furthermore, the murmurs associated with some mild congenital malformations become more obvious after a dog has reached maturity. While it is quite reasonable to perform preliminary evaluations and provide provisional certification to puppies and young dogs between 8 weeks and 1 year of age, final certification, prior to breeding, should be obtained in mature dogs at 12 months of age or older.
  3. Examination conditions must be appropriate for recognition of subtle cardiac malformations. Identification of soft cardiac murmurs is impeded by extraneous noise or by poorly restrained, anxious, or panting dogs.
  4. A standardized cardiac clinical examination must be performed according to a predetermined and clearly communicated protocol. Physical examination and cardiac auscultation should be used as the initial method of cardiac evaluation. If the clinical examination is normal, no further diagnostic studies are recommended. If the clinical examination is abnormal, a tentative diagnosis may be made, but the definitive diagnosis generally requires other diagnostic studies (as indicated above).
  5. Examiners who perform echocardiography with Doppler must use appropriate ultrasound equipment, transducers, and techniques. Such individuals should have advanced training in non-invasive cardiac diagnosis and should follow diagnostic standards established by their hospital and by the veterinary scientific community, including standards published by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, Specialty of Cardiology (J Vet Internal Med 1993;7:247-252).


Cardiac Evaluation for Database Registration

Cardiac Examination
The clinical cardiac examination should be conducted in a systematic manner. The arterial and venous pulses, mucous membranes, and precordium should be evaluated. Heart rate should be obtained. The clinical examination should be performed by an individual with advanced training in cardiac diagnosis.
     Board certification by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, Specialty of Cardiology is considered by the Veterinary Medical Association as the benchmark of clinical proficiency for veterinarians in clinical cardiology, and examination by a Diplomate of this specialty board is recommended. Other veterinarians may be able to perform these examinations, provided they have received advanced training in the subspecialty of congenital heart disease.

Cardiac auscultation should be performed in a quiet, distraction-free environment. The animal should be standing and restrained, but sedative drugs should be avoided. Panting must be controlled and if necessary, the dog should be given time to rest and acclimate to the environment. The clinician should able to identify the cardiac valve areas for auscultation. The examiner should gradually move the stethoscope across all valve areas and also should auscultate over the  area, ascending aorta, pulmonary artery and the left craniodorsal cardiac base. Following examination of the left precordium, the right precordium should be examined. 

Effects of heart rate, heart rhythm, and exercise
Some heart murmurs become evident or louder with changes in autonomic activity, heart rate, or cardiac cycle length such changes may be induced by exercise or other stresses. The importance of evaluating heart murmurs after exercise is currently unresolved. It appears that some dogs with congenital subaortic stenosis or with dynamic outflow tract obstruction may have murmurs that only become evident with increased sympathetic activity or after prolonged cardiac filling periods during marked sinus arrhythmia. It also should be noted that some normal, innocent heart murmurs may increase in intensity after exercise. Furthermore, panting artifact may be a problem after exercise.


The Echocardiographic Exam

echocardiographic examination should be conducted in a systematic matter. The examiner must be able to perform two-dimensional, pulsed-wave Doppler, and continuous wave Doppler examinations of the heart. The availability of color Doppler is valuable but not essential for most examinations. The echocardiographic examination should be performed and interpreted by individuals with advanced training in cardiac diagnosis.
     Board certification by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, Specialty of Cardiology is considered by the American College of Veterinary Medical Association as the benchmark of clinical proficiency for veterinarians in clinical cardiology, and examination by a Diplomate of this Specialty Board is recommended. Other veterinarians may be able to perform these examinations provided they have appropriate equipment and have received advanced training in

pericardial space, both atria, both ventricles, the great vessels, and the four cardiac valves should be imaged using long axis, short axis, apical, and angled image planes as necessary to perform a complete examination of the heart. Nomenclature should follow that recommended by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Specialty of Cardiology. An anatomic diagnosis may be possible based on two-dimensional imaging; however, the origin of cardiac murmurs should also be evaluated using Doppler methods.

Doppler examination of all cardiac valves should be performed and recorded. Abnormal flow should be quantified using pulsed wave or continuous wave Doppler techniques. Values obtained should be compared to reference values. The depressant effects of any tranquilizers or sedative must be considered when measuring peak flow velocities. Color Doppler echocardiography should be employed if available to assess normal and abnormal blood flow patterns. Identification of abnormal flow across the cardiac septa or shunts at the level of the great vessels is best done by a combination of color and pulsed wave Doppler techniques. 


  1. OFA Hips OFA Elbows CERF OFA Thyroid OFA Cardiac von Willebrand's Bloat (GDV) Study Dog Owner's Reference