CHIC

What is the CHIC Certification Program?

The OFA created the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) by partnering with participating parent clubs to research and maintain information on the health issues prevalent in specific breeds. We’ve established a recommended protocol for breed-specific health screenings. Dogs tested in accordance with that protocol are recognized with a CHIC number and certification.

At OFA, we recognize that the more information stored and accessible in these databases, the better it will be for every breed. And so we encourage all breeders to attain CHIC Certification if their breed participates in the CHIC program.

A dog achieves CHIC Certification if it has been screened for every disease recommended by the parent club for that breed and those results are publicly available in the database.

CHIC Program Goals

  • To work with parent clubs in the identification of health issues for which a central information system should be established.
  • To establish and maintain a central health information system in a manner that will support research into canine disease and provide health information to owners and breeders.
  • To establish scientifically valid diagnostic criteria for the acceptance of information into the database.
  • To base the availability of information on individually identified dogs at the consent of the owner.

CHIC Program Benefits

The CHIC (Canine Health Information Center) Program offers benefits to breeders, buyers, parent clubs, and researchers.

For breeders, CHIC provides a reliable source of information regarding dogs they may use in their breeding programs. Breeders can analyze the pedigrees of a proposed breeding for health strengths and weaknesses as well as the traditional analysis of conformation, type, and performance strengths and weaknesses.

For buyers, the CHIC program provides accurate information about the results of a breeder’s health testing. For diseases that are limited to phenotypic evaluations, there are no guarantees. However, the probability that an animal will develop an inherited disease is reduced when its ancestry has tested normal. Further, as more DNA tests become available and the results are entered, the OFA database will be able to establish whether progeny will be clear, carriers, or affected.

For parent clubs considering the establishment of health databases on their own, the CHIC Program provides the answer with no upfront investment required by the club. The CHIC infrastructure is supplied and maintained by the OFA. The data is maintained in a secure environment by trained staff. The services are not subject to the time, technology, and resource constraints that parent clubs might face on their own. This frees parent clubs to focus on their core strengths of identifying health concerns, educating their membership, and encouraging participation in the CHIC Program through the OFA.

For researchers, the OFA database, and specifically those dogs that have achieved CHIC Certification, provide confidential and accurate aggregate information on multiple generations of dogs. This information will also be useful for epidemiological studies enhancing our knowledge of health issues affecting all breeds of dogs.

For everyone interested in canine health issues, the OFA database, and specifically those dogs that have achieved CHIC Certification, are tools to monitor disease prevalence and measure progress.

CHIC Program Policies

Breed-Specific

Core to the CHIC philosophy is the realization that each breed has different health concerns. Not all diseases have known modes of inheritance, nor do all diseases have screening tests. Some screening tests are based on a phenotypic evaluation, others on genetic testing. With all these variables, a key element of the CHIC Program is to customize or tailor the requirements to the needs of each breed. These unique requirements are established through input from the parent club prior to the breed’s entry into the CHIC Program.

Breed-specific requirements typically consist of the inherited diseases that are of the greatest concern and for which some screening tests are available. Each parent club also drives specific screening protocols. As an example, one parent club may allow cardiac exams to be performed by a general practitioner. Another parent club may require the exam to be performed by a board-certified cardiologist. A club may also use the CHIC Program to maintain information on other health issues for anecdotal purposes. Later, as screening tests become available, the disease may be added to the breed-specific requirements.

Permanent Identification

Regardless of breed, each dog must be permanently identified in order to have test results included in CHIC. Permanent identification may be in the form of a microchip or tattoo.

Informed Consent

The OFA-CHIC database operates on informed consent. Owners are encouraged to release all test results realizing it is in the ultimate health interests of the breed and the information greatly increases the depth and breadth of any resulting pedigree analysis. In order to qualify for a CHIC number (and achieve CHIC Certification), all results must be released into the public domain.

CHIC Numbers and Certificates

A CHIC number is issued when test results are entered into the database satisfying each breed specific requirement, and when the owner of the dog has opted to release the results into the public domain. The CHIC number itself does not imply normal test results, only that all the required breed specific tests were performed and the results made publicly available.

A CHIC certificate is issued at the same time as the CHIC number. The CHIC certificate is a consolidated listing of the tests performed, the age of the dog when the tests were performed, and the corresponding test results. As new results are recorded, online CHIC information is updated.

Once included in the CHIC program, the breed-specific requirements are dynamic. As health priorities within a breed change, or as new screening tests become available, the breed-specific requirements can be modified to reflect the current environment. If the breed-specific requirements are modified, existing CHIC numbers are not revoked. Again, the CHIC number is issued to a dog that completed all required tests at a given point in time.

CHIC provides reports for both the parent club and other interested parties, listing specific dogs that have been issued CHIC numbers or had updates to their CHIC information.

CHIC Fee Structure

Test results from the OFA databases are shared automatically with the CHIC program. There is no additional fee nor additional forms to fill out for CHIC purposes once the results are registered with the OFA.

All regular OFA fees apply in order to register the results with the OFA before they are shared with the CHIC program.

Breed Club Participation

Any parent club interested in participating in the CHIC program should contact the OFA to discuss the program, entry requirements, or to answer any questions.

Each breed should have a health committee and survey results that determine the major health concerns within the breed. The club should select one person from the health committee to be the CHIC liaison and to work with the club’s membership in determining what health tests should be considered for participation in the CHIC program. Questions to be considered are: what tests are currently available and being used, and at what age are the tests appropriate and reliable. The OFA will assist parent clubs during this phase of requirement and protocol definition.


Questions regarding the CHIC program may be emailed to chic@offa.org.

CHIC DNA Repository

Mission Statement

The CHIC DNA Repository collects and stores canine DNA samples along with corresponding genealogic and phenotypic information to facilitate future research and testing aimed at reducing the incidence of inherited disease in dogs.

Objectives

  • Facilitate more rapid research progress by expediting the sample collection process.
  • Provide researchers with optimized family groups needed for research.
  • Allow breeders to take advantage of future DNA-based disease tests as they become available.
  • Foster a team environment between breeders/owners and the research community, improving the likelihood of genetic discovery.

Submission by Blood Sample

Blood is the gold standard for genetic material; the yield of DNA is sufficient for all research methods, including technologies on the horizon. Moreover, the stability and purity of the DNA is of the highest caliber, which offers many benefits. The drawback of banking blood samples is cost — drawing, shipping, storing, and extracting DNA from blood are more expensive endeavors than the alternative.


Submission by Cheek Swab

Cheek swab-derived DNA is a viable option for DNA banking. Although the yield and purity of this DNA is inferior to that obtained from blood, the material is suitable for most genetic approaches. The swabs are inexpensive, and the samples can be taken by the owner of the dog without the necessity of a veterinary office call. Swabs are easily shipped in standard envelopes using postal mail, and they can be stored for at least a decade at room temperature, so long as they are stored under conditions of low humidity. The success rate for obtaining DNA from a swab in the laboratory is roughly 98%, so multiple swabs should be submitted for each dog to ensure representation in the archive.


Laboratories

To establish and maintain the DNA Repository, the OFA has partnered with the Veterinary Genetics Lab at the University of California–Davis and the Animal Molecular Genetics Lab at the University of Missouri. UC Davis will receive and store all swab samples, and Missouri will receive and store all blood samples.

To participate in the DNA Repository, complete the application and submit it to the OFA. You will receive the appropriate swab or blood collection kit in the mail. The Health Survey portion can be completed online, printed, and mailed to the OFA with the DNA samples.

Health Status Updates

If your dog has DNA banked in the CHIC DNA Repository and has had any significant health status changes since filling out the original phenotypic health survey, please remember to email the OFA with updates.

Include the dog’s name/number, as well as any updated diagnosis. As the number of researchers interested in this resource continues to increase, it is important to keep the health histories up to date, as that is typically the primary selection criteria for supplying samples to a given research proposal.

Email updates to: ofa@offa.org. Thank You!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of the CHIC DNA Repository?

The CHIC DNA Repository collects and stores canine DNA samples along with corresponding pedigree and health history information to facilitate future research and testing aimed at reducing the incidence of inherited disease in dogs. The program objectives are:

  • Facilitate more rapid research progress by expediting the sample collection process
  • Provide researchers with optimized family groups needed for research
  • Allow breeders to take advantage of future DNA based disease tests as they become available
  • Foster a team environment between breeders/owners and the research community improving the likelihood of genetic discovery
What is the cost?

The fees for placing samples in the bank are $5.00 per dog for swab based samples and $20.00 per dog for blood based samples. The fees cover the costs of data management, sample processing, and sample storage. Owners are encouraged to view the fees as supporting canine health research.

How are samples stored?

Swabs: Swab samples are stored as swabs with DNA extraction taking place when the sample is approved for use in a specific research project. The swabs are stored indefinitely at the Veterinary Genetics Lab (VGL) at UC Davis. UC Davis has demonstrated solid success in long term storage and subsequent processing of swabs.

Blood: Blood samples are processed upon receipt. The extracted DNA is then frozen and also stored indefinitely. The Small Animal Molecular Genetics Lab at the University of Missouri-Columbia is the laboratory partner for blood based samples.

Who has access to the samples?

Any legitimate research project focusing on canine health is eligible to receive samples. However, since the samples are finite, each project must be approved prior to sample distribution. An application form must be completed for all sample requests. The approval process is streamlined for research funded by either the AKC CHF or the Morris Animal Foundation since the project would have already passed a scientific review board during the funding process. For all other projects, the OFA will assemble an appropriate review committee to evaluate the merits of the research and the request.

Can owners/parent clubs direct sample use?

Sample use is directed solely by the OFA. Owners and parent clubs are welcome to contact the bank about potential research opportunities and should encourage researchers with whom they have direct relationships to apply for sample use. However, the final decision rests with the bank.

There is one exception. If a DNA-based disease test becomes available in the future, owners may request that any remaining samples of their dogs be forwarded to the appropriate licensed lab for testing. The owner remains responsible for any lab costs associated with the test itself, as well as the direct costs to prepare and ship the sample.

Who owns the samples?

Once owners donate their dogs’ DNA to the CHIC DNA bank, the samples are the property of the CHIC DNA Repository. Individuals donating samples have no claims to any future financial gain due to commercial invention, royalties, or patents that may be developed as a result of research which utilized their dog’s samples.

Which type of sample is preferred?

Blood is the gold standard for genetic material; the yield of DNA is sufficient for all research methods, including technologies on the horizon. Moreover, the stability and purity of the DNA is of the highest caliber, which offers many benefits. However, cheek swab derived DNA remains a viable option for DNA banking. The yield and purity of this DNA is inferior to that obtained from blood, but the material is suitable for most genetic approaches. The greatest benefit of cheek swabs is reduced collection and processing costs as well as noninvasive collection. To offset the lower yield, owners are asked to submit multiple cheek swabs from each dog.

If my sample is used in a study which results in a new commercially available disease test, will I be informed of the test results?

This depends on the policy of the researcher. Some researchers release test results as part of their standard procedures, others do not. There may also be anonymity issues, since the samples will be initially provided in a blind format which does not disclose the dog or owner identities.

My dog already had a DNA profile done with the AKC. Can that sample be used?

No. The AKC does not release samples collected through their DNA program for any other use.

If I donate a sample to the CHIC DNA Repository, can the same sample be used for the AKC’s DNA program?

No. There is a clear distinction between samples provided to the AKC which are used for parentage verification and overall stud book integrity versus samples provided to the bank for research purposes. Samples may be collected at the same time however, and sent independently.

What if the status of my dog’s health changes after I’ve already completed the health survey?

Since many diseases are late onset, the bank recognizes that periodic updates to the health records of each dog are important. Owners will be contacted approximately every two years to determine if there are any health updates. However, owners are encouraged to proactively contact chic@offa.org to update the health status of their dog(s) whenever there are significant changes.

Quarterly Reports

CHIC provides reports for both the parent club and other interested parties, listing specific dogs that have been issued CHIC numbers or had updates to their CHIC information.