Health Testing on Dogs

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Health Testing in Dogs
Before dogs are approved for breeding purposes, it is crucial that they undergo an extensive health screening process. A dedicated breeder assumes responsibility for a dog's health problems. This commitment extends past giving puppies their first shots and beyond keeping the puppy healthy until the warranty expires after the sale has taken place. While no breeder wants to produce puppies that have inherent health problems, proactively taking actions to minimize genetic diseases help determine what makes an individual a genuinely responsible and dedicated breeder.

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Why Should I Do Health Testing on My Breeding Dogs?
A thorough pre-breeding health screening can detect genetic disorders or malformations disqualifying a dog from breeding. Responsible breeders of purebred dogs and veterinarians understand that controlling hip dysplasia, along with many other genetic diseases, is possible with precise, selective breeding programs. DNA tests for specific diseases remain the gold standard for determining a dog’s genotype. Phenotypic evaluations are the best alternative in the absence of available DNA tests. Test results allow breeders to apply elevated judicious pressure to produce healthy offspring and avoid affected ones. Researchers are continually identifying the genetic origins of canine diseases so they can be removed from breeding programs by responsible breeders.

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Do I Have to Go to a Specialist?
A general veterinarian can perform blood tests to detect venereal disease and also provide a thorough examination. The dog should be current on all vaccinations and de-wormed, if necessary. A board certified veterinary specialist performs additional tests that may include x-rays and certification of acceptable hips and eye exams. If any issues are identified that might limit breeding, they will be discussed with you.

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Health Screening Testing Basics
There is an extensive variety of health testing options that are breed specific. Some sources are highly relevant to help determine which tests are suitable for your dogs, such as your veterinarian, local breed clubs, the OFA website statistics section, and the health concerns reported on numerous national breed club websites. Different breeds of dogs are vulnerable to precise diseases and disorders. For information on a particular breed, please check the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals Canine Health Information Center.

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What are the Different Types of Health Tests?
Dogs are susceptible to over 300 genetic disorders, ranging from mild to severe. Some inherited abnormalities are specific to certain breeds or groups of breeds. Structural problems or genetic abnormalities, such as hip dysplasia, various heart ailments, glaucoma, sebaceous adenitis, and more, tend to affect multiple breeds of dogs. Some health tests to detect these common abnormalities include:

  • OFA Hip and Elbows. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) is a charitable organization that evaluates thyroid tests and canine elbow and hip x-rays to ascertain whether dogs are affected by inherited abnormalities. Dogs that are clear are registered.
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  • BAER testing. The Brain Stem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER) test is given to puppies to determine if they are deaf. It is useful for Dalmatian, Boston Terrier, Bull Terrier, Australian Shepherd, and other breeders in which deafness is a common problem.
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  • Cardiac testing. Many breeds of dogs have genetic heart abnormalities that impact the overall quality of life. These disorders can be expensive and challenging to control. An OFA cardiac report detects the appearance of heart abnormalities, including sub-aortic stenosis and mitral valve dysplasia.
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  • DNA Testing. DNA markers for canine genetic diseases are being discovered at an accelerated rate. The OFA continually updates and maintains a list of all known DNA tests by breed and disease type.
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  • Eye disorders. The Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CEFR) is a registry of dogs certified by a board certified veterinary ophthalmologist to be free from canine eye and eyelid disorders, including progressive retinal atrophy, entropion, cataracts, and glaucoma.
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  • Thyroid. Hypothyroidism causes poor coat quality, conception problems, weight gain, bad behavioral temperament, and lethargy. If not properly treated, more severe muscular and neurologic conditions can occur. It is readily treatable with daily medication, but dogs with this condition should not be bred. Tests should be performed annually, although dogs don’t usually experience problems until they are older.
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Other texts include x-rays to detect displaced or malformed hips, elbows, and knees, biopsies for sebaceous adenitis; blood tests for vonWillebrand’s disease, a bleeding disorder. Responsible breeders take advantage of these tests and plan to breed accordingly.

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