Pupscan Project

Tel: UK 0044 (0) 7500 311900
Tel: Ire 00353 (0) 86 2345460

Frequently Asked Questions

Q  What is PUPscan

A   The PUPscan Project is to research and develop the diagnosis and treatment of inherited hip and elbow disorders using Ultrasound. 

The team will identify the post-natal events that are described as ‘dysplasia’ at skeletal maturity as distinct from inherited disorders by scanning hips in the first 2 months of life.

Over the period of the research the PUPscan project will produce breed and gender specific data and measurements that can be used as guidance for puppy care for the future in order to minimise the risk of disability.

Q.  What is Genetic and what is Congenital?

A Congenital means 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 high incidence of ‘dysplastic’ hips because the legs are not free to move naturally in the breech position; the same may also be true for multiple pregnancies. However, this is not necessarily genetic. 

It is important to the project that the whelping history 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 either or both parents. Not every gene is expressed in the offspring.

Q.  Will PUPscan replace the current hip screening/scoring method?

A. The research project is designed to last for at least 3 years, to follow through to full skeletal maturity. Thereafter participating vets will be able to continue to provide the screening service.

During the first 3 years, a conventional x-ray at skeletal maturity obtained by the breeder/owner for scoring PUPscan asks that a copy is forwarded to the project for analsys. In particular the x-rays that are recommended not to be sent for scoring.

We will consider any changes and identify other possibly genetic or non -genetic abnormalities that may have been labelled ‘dysplastic’ Thereafter, PUPscan Vets will continue to work with you, the breeders, to develop a refined assessment system. 

As there can never be enforced compulsion to score it will remain, as now, the choice of the breeder to decide if a score or a diagnosis is of greater value to their breed.

We are also asking owners to include a ‘frog lateral’ x-ray view in addition to the single standardised x-ray presently used; this will assist your vet to make a firm diagnosis, before submitting for scoring.  

Vets participating in the PuPscan project will not charge for the additional ‘frog lateral’ x-ray as this is an essential part of the research. A full list of participating vets can be obtained from the PUPscan website. www.pupscanproject.org

Q. How is the PUPscan method different from the current scoring system?

A.   The PUPscan method is breed, age and gender specific. It requires no anaesthesia, no muscle relaxation, no hair removal. The hips are in a natural load bearing position without the need for any unnatural rotation or extension of the hip or elbow joints. 

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

PUPscan will image the entire litter without pre-selection, giving us the best chance to find a truly genetic dysplastic puppy and the occurrence of the abnormality in every breed we study.

On identification of truly genetic dysplasia DNA and chromosome studies can then be targeted to identify the responsible Gene(s). To date the responsible gene(s) have not been identified.

Q. What non-genetic conditions contribute to an undesireable hip score?

A.   There are several pathologies in both the Hip and Elbow joint that are not genetic and therefore are NOT a contraindication to breeding: 

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

Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD). A 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 often caused by raised fluid pressure in the hip joint.

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.   How long does it take?

A. The PUPscan team have established that different anatomy exist in both genders and breeds; It has been established that differing breeds need to be scanned at different ages. 

The time required to obtain a diagnostic image from a puppy is on average between 5 and 10 minutes. If both elbows and hips are to be scanned then extra time will need to be factored in.

Q.   Is PUPscan Breed and Gender specific?

A. YES.  The PUPscan team have established after scanning a variety of breeds that both gender and breed specifics are definitely required.

PUPscan have established that there are significantly different growth patterns emerging as early as 3 weeks of age.  Only with further investigation will we be able to give the best guidance for both breed and gender specific husbandry.

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

The differences between male and female have been well established for some time in the agricultural world and is even embodied in regulation. So why are dogs any different?

We have been advised by several vets that, in their opinion and experience, some breeds are not able to be placed in the required standardised position for scoring without potentially causing damage to the hip joints by restricting blood flow or stressing ligaments.

Q. How will the PUPscan method help me as a breeder?

A.   Using the PUPscan method you, as a breeder, will be reassured that every puppy in your litter has healthy hips /elbows at the time of scanning. If an abnormality is found it may be possible to treat it by bracing or other methods to prevent disability in adult life, just as has been done with human infants. As the breeder you will be able to assure your new puppy owners that using up to date diagnostic methods the hip / elbow joints of the puppy are developing normally.

If subsequent joint problems develop there is a high probability that it is not due to your breeding and a full diagnosis should be obtained from an appropriately qualified veterinary. Without an expert diagnosis it would be unreasonable to blame the genetics, when Norberg, et, al 1966 published ‘environmental factors are responsible for about 50% of the variation of the severity of hip ‘dysplasia’.

The advantage of using the PUPscan method enables you to know immediately if there is an abnormal hip or elbow joint present. If an abnormality was identified and corrected, as has been achieved in humans for many years, you can go on to sell that puppy as a pet with the knowledge that you can safely exclude them from your gene pool for the future but with the expectation of a normal adult life.

Q. What method of measurement is used?
A.   All details of measurements are subject to patent and are not available for publication

Q.   What is Laxity?

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

However, Laxity following injury (such as ruptured cruciate ligament) is strongly correlated with arthritis but is not genetic and therefore does not need to be excluded from the breeding pool if, as in other conditions, experience in man is comparable to dogs

Q.   Does the scanned image come with a Veterinary report?

A. All images collected will be subjected to veterinary appraisal and any abnormalities will be reported to the breeder along with a copy of the image. The breeder may request the images.  

If a full veterinary report is requested then this is done at the request of the breeder and any costs that are incurred are solely between the consulting veterinary and the breeder.

Q.  Where can I get my puppies scanned?
A.   .   It is possible that your puppies can be scanned at home or they can be taken to one of our veterinary centres which are listed here

Q. How much does it cost?

A. The PUPscan project is a research and development project and is self-funded by the PUPscan team; we have received no grants or maintenance from any organisation as of yet. 

A charge of approx £25/€25 per pup will be charged by participating vets to cover their time and costs, in return your puppies will be scanned, micro-chipped and D.N.A. collected for identification purposes.

All puppies will be entered onto the relevant micro-chip data base for that country; the micro-chip numbers will be used for identification purposes only. 


A.   PUPscan is in  talks with the English KC, the IKC and other International KC establishments. These communications have to remain confidential for the time being.