Health testing fun and games
Honestly, health testing is the bane of my life as a dog breeder. It is my absolute desire to have the healthiest, happiest dogs possible. But that comes at a cost! I monitor the ongoing health of all the puppies I have bred and am proud of their health and temperament, on the whole. As I’ve already boasted, quite a few of the pups have gone on to become therapy dogs, supported by amazing charities like Canine Concern.
My first litter are now 11 years old, with one of these dying aged 8, from cancer. Luna is diabetic, but this has been well-managed (by me :p). In an ideal world, I would like ALL my dogs to live well into their teens, with very few illnesses and health issues.
Sadly, not everything can be prevented through responsible breeding and health testing. I have had one epileptic puppy, who was put to sleep at under two years of age. Despite a great deal of research, no test is available for this horrible condition, so we breeders can only check our lines and try to steer clear of it.
The Kennel Club require certain health tests to be carried out as a minimum, before a litter can be registered as pedigree dogs. We are extremely fortunate that more and more DNA tests are becoming available, which can test for conditions likely to affect certain breeds.
The current requirement is for all parents of puppies to have the following tests:
- hip score – an x-ray is carried out and analysed by a panel of veterinarians to determine the health of a dog’s hips and the likelihood of that dog developing hips dysplasia, or passing it on. The lower the score, the healthier the dog. The aim is for scores to go down with each generation.
- eye test for CEA – an annual eye test is required to check the ongoing health of the eyes and identify any possible eye disease that may be hereditary.
- eye test for glaucoma – a gonioscopy test is required to check for the possibility of developing glaucoma, A DNA test is now available for this, which both parents of this litter have had.
In addition to these tests for the parents, it is recommended that puppies are given an eye examination and a hearing test at the age of 6 weeks.
Luckily for me, the wonderful Davies Veterinary Specialists are not far away and able to carry out these tests for my puppies. So on Tuesday I put the pups in the van and headed there. We arrived in good time and a team of staff arrived to take the pups away. Before the pandemic I was able to hold them during the examinations, but of course this is not currently possible.
I therefore had to wait for two hours in the car park while the tests were carried out. It was torture, being away from them for so long, although of course they were receiving exemplary care and plenty of cuddles. And of course their eyes and hearing were all fine!
I took Busy with me and met up with Gunna, the sire of the litter, who needed his annual check-up at the same time. Busy wasn’t very pleased to see him!
It is an awful lot of time and effort, not to mention the cost! So is it worth it? Well I’m really not certain about that. I hope it does give the new owners peace of mind. In addition to the minimum requirements, both Busy and Gunna have been DNA tested for other conditions, including MDR1, which relates to drug resistance. Dogs who carry this gene can develop reactions to drugs, including those found in common worming treatments.
The challenge is with all the bureaucracy involved! If the Kennel Club were able to cope with the volume of registrations they are presented with, and turn these around in good time, breeders like me would be a lot happier!
If owners knew more about what health tests should be done and why, that would also be better. This is a challenge though, as finding the information on the KC website is hard to do and the requirements keep changing!
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that just because a dog is ‘KC registered’ does NOT mean it is a pedigree, or that it is health tested, or responsibly bred. Any old mongrel can get a KC registration certificate, for the ACTIVITY REGISTER. It’s just a piece of paper, but it fools some people.
What do you think? Please let me know?
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