Originally published in the September 2010 issue of Texas Dogs and Cats Magazine
I recently received an e-mail from one of my clients. Her incredibly cute fluffy puppy, not yet one year old, has two luxating patellas (dislocating kneecaps). Unless Molly receives two expensive surgeries, she will suffer more as she ages. Molly is very lucky, and she has had her first surgery, with her second scheduled in the next few months. Her owner is several thousand dollars poorer. Another client had a boxer puppy. While the puppy seemed healthy, she did drink a lot of water. The puppy was eventually diagnosed with renal dysplasia, a fatal condition, and did not live to see her first birthday.
When you are choosing a breeder, you should be prepared to ask about diseases and conditions common in the breed. Some conditions are fairly common among certain sizes of dogs. Luxating patellas and liver shunts are not uncommon in small dogs, while large and giant breeds often experience hip dysplasia. Other diseases, like renal dysplasia, occur frequently to specific breeds, such as soft-coated Wheaton Terriers, Shih Tzus, Lhasa Apsos and Boxers. Some things are specific to one breed, such as the high uric acid found in all Dalmatians.
Luckily, there are some organizations that help prospective puppy buyers choose healthy parents for their new puppy. OFA, or the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, determines the quality of adult dogs’ hips and elbows. The Canine Eye Registry Foundation, CERF, tests the eyes of dogs that have been registered with CERF. Some breeds have organizations that track genetic diseases. Unfortunately, there is not a registry to cover every dog disease. Research your chosen breed and related health issues carefully.
A good breeder will test her breeding stock. You will often see dogs tested for hip and elbow problems (OFA), eyes (CERF), heart tests, and thyroid tests. The breed and size of the dog will determine the problems a breeder and puppy purchaser should check. A reputable breeder will contact the owners of her puppies, to determine if they are mentally and physically healthy. If you do not have the contact information for the breeder, you are purchasing from a source that is not reputable.
It is fairly easy to breed an apparently healthy eight week old puppy. It is a bit more difficult to breed a healthy adult dog. If you intend to purchase a puppy, do your homework. Give yourself the best chance of owning a healthy, happy dog by choosing your puppy carefully.
Orthopedic Foundation for Animals: http://www.offa.org/
Canine Eye Registry Foundation: http://www.vmdb.org/cerf.html
Tricia Fagan CPDT-KA
DogS Gone Good