NZVA Elbow Dysplasia Scheme

The New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA), in conjunction with Dogs New Zealand (formerly NZ Kennel Club), runs an Elbow Dysplasia Scheme which is open to any member of the public.

What is dysplasia?

Dysplasia is a condition caused by abnormal development, in this case, of a joint. Hip and elbow dysplasia (HD and ED) are conditions common in rapidly growing large and giant breed dogs, but can also affect smaller breeds and cats.

Clinical signs to look out for

Clinical signs include lameness, joint pain and an inability to exercise properly. Both conditions are caused by genetic factors and are influenced by environmental conditions such as excess calorie intake and exercise. Instead of normal development and healthy cartilage, the abnormal joint wears prematurely and leads to potentially crippling arthritis from an early age.

Currently there are no reliable genetic tests for either disease, hence radiographic (x-ray) scoring schemes are still used to select dogs with better than average hips/elbows for breeding.

What's involved in the NZVA Elbow Dysplasia Scheme?

Dogs scored for elbow dysplasia will require an outpatient visit to their veterinarian. Owners will need to provide their dog’s registration documents (if pedigree, though non-pedigree dogs can still be scored) by completing the "Owner form for completion" that is available at the bottom of this page.  The veterinarian is required to identify the dog by microchip scanner and then verify the information completed on the form. The dog will be sedated for accurate scoring. The x-rays are uploaded online and sent to the elbow panel, who will evaluate, grade and certify the degree of osteoarthritic changes. The results are emailed to the veterinarian.

In the case of a dispute, an independent veterinary radiologist will audit the submission. Results are recorded in the NZVA register which provides information by breed.

The benefits of participating in the scheme

Selective breeding only from dogs with known good hip and elbow joints can reduce the incidence of dysplasia in future generations.

Guidelines on how to interpret the scores are available in the resources section below.

For all queries about the NZVA Elbow Dysplasia Scheme please contact

Please note: veterinarians (members and non-members) please log into the website to see the requirements and further information.  If you don't have a log in please contact us at

Associated documents

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