Why do health checks on pets?

Health Checks

Q. Why do I have to do health tests on my pet puppy — he’s never going to be bred?

First, for the health and well-being of your dog. If there is a problem, it’s best to know early on.

Second, because you agreed to in the application and contract.

Third, so your breeder can make a best guess on her next breeding decision. When a breeder decides to breed two dogs together, she does so based on educated guesses about structure, temperament, and health.

As a breeder, I can only make educated guesses about what the health clearances of puppies will be based on:

1) The health clearances of the parents and grandparents
2) The health clearances of previous pups from the same parents 
3) The health clearances of the siblings of the parents

Since what you get in the whelping box is often the sum total of the “aunts and uncles” of the litter, it makes sense to get health clearances of the WHOLE family before making a decision to breed a litter. Getting the health clearances of ALL the puppies in a litter, means that I have more information when it comes time to breed the sibling I kept. In turn that means each generation I know more and more what to expect in a litter of puppies.

Hip Displasia for instance is often a “shock” to breeders because the parents have good hips. But it is a threshold trait — meaning it’s there even if the dog is not himself affected by hip displasia but he can pass it along to his offspring. If you match him with a girl who also has a threshold hip displasia trait — not affected, but carries the gene — you are much more likely to see hip displasia in the whelping box.

In order to make an educated guess about whether a dog carries a bad health gene, you investigate the WHOLE pedigree, the breadth and depth of a pedigree. In the case of dogs with good hips producing Hip Displasia, it’s usually back in the pedigree — only most breeders don’t test, refuse to test anything but what they keep themselves. All pedigrees have some health problems, but if you know the TOTAL picture, you can make wiser decisions about which dogs to match together.

Hip, eye, thyroid, autoimmune diseases and seizures run in lines. If you have a TOTAL picture of the pedigree, you can reduce the chance of getting these problems again.

So if your breeder doesn’t do health clearances on the parents and their siblings, the grandparents and their siblings, and the previous siblings of the litter in question — you have to ask yourself…. why in the world not?

Sidney Helen Sachs

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