Standardized Health Tests for Dog Breeds

If you have your heart set on a big doggo, it is especially important that you buy from a breeder who participates in genetic testing screening for the disorders and diseases that are common in their breed, like hip dysplasia or cardiomyopathy.

Genetic health testing allows breeders to screen out dogs that may have genetic markers for one or more medical issues and conditions that afflict their chosen specific breeds.

An array of diagnostic tools such as genetic testing, x-rays, blood, and eye tests are performed to screen for disorders specific to the breed. For example, German Shepherds, Great Danes, and Golden Retrievers are prone to hip dysplasia. A breeder of these dogs would refer to the health grade provided by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) certification program, which evaluates the hip and elbow joints of dogs for dysplasia. Breeding only from dogs with a passing grade reduces the likelihood of their progeny developing this debilitating condition. See here for more common health problems in large breeds

The Canine Health Information Center (CHIC), maintains a centralized canine health database sponsored by the AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF) and the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). The database enables breeders and owners to research the health issues that are common in particular breeds.

Here is how CHICA presents the required and optional assessments and testing alternatives for the Dogue de Bordeaux:

CHIC health tests for a Doge De Bordeaux

Note that the last three items on the table are optional but because these are conditions that do affect the breed, they are recommended.

Not every breed is included in CHIC’s database. The Perro de Preso De Canario for example is not. To find out prevalent health conditions in this case, you can refer to breed standard pages in dog registries such as the AKC in the US, or Kennel Club (KC) in the UK.

When a dog has been tested its health data and ancestry are stored in the CHIC database and can be retrieved by the owner or breeder to assess its fitness as one of a breeding pair. Ideally, the conditions that commonly afflict the breed, would be absent in its forebears also, giving the dog a clean bill of genetic health.

Conformational characteristics can also be assessed and prospective breeding pairs chosen to enhance the chances of specific physical characteristics but this is often not a positive. You only have to listen to the belabored breathing of a brachycephalic pug to know that selective breeding for aappearance rather than for health can be devastating. 

German Shepherd show line

In the above two images, compare the sloped back of a show German Shepherd to the straight back of a working line German Shepherd. This is another good example of selective breeding for appearance.

Another example of dog health screening is the Canine Cardiac Database – a database of echocardiograms (ultrasound of the heart). It helps breeders make informed decisions about breeding dogs with normal hearts and avoid breeding dogs with heart conditions.

There are many other health check organizations available for different medical conditions, like the Eye Certification Registry (CERF) and the Canine Genetic Disease Network.

Choose The Breeder and then the Puppy

There are two kinds of dog breeder. Those that are in it for the money or neglect, and those that are in it for the love of the breed. In the first camp, are backyard breeders, puppy mills, and careless owners of dogs that have had oops litters.

In the second camp are breeders who are passionate about their dogs and about their chosen breed. These are the guys that are more likely to give prospective buyers a good grilling to ensure their puppies are going to a good home. They are also more likely to include a contract that says if ever the buyer decides they want rid of the dog, they must sell it back to the breeder. This ensures their dogs do not end up in a shelter.

And, these are the guys that further the overall health of the breed by only producing litters from health certified dogs.

So, part of your process in finding the right puppy from one of the bog doggo breeds, is doing your research on the breeder. Check the websites of those you are interested in to be sure that they use standardized health tests specific to the breed you want to buy. Contact the breeders on your short list and ask questions about their process.

The breeder should be happy to answer any health and pedigree questions that you have and also happy that you have informed your self about the medical conditions that affect the breed.