Health testing for better dogs
There is a strong ‘movement’ for people to ‘adopt don’t shop’ for dogs. You are told to get a dog from a rescue centre and not from a dog breeder, or ‘greeder’ as we are often called. I’m revisiting this issue to talk about the value of health testing in dogs.
We do health tests to prevent possible suffering and illness. This is no different from taking our blood pressure, or doing a blood test to check our cholesterol levels. We take preventative medication ourselves, so why wouldn’t we want to do that for our dogs?
Pedigree or crossbreed – which is healthier?
I’ve seen a great deal of anger about the fact that pedigree dogs can have huge health issues. Yes, that’s true. But what you may fail to realise is the just because a dog is a pedigree, that does NOT mean it has been bred responsibly, for better health.
The definition of a pedigree dog is one with two parents of the same breed. Insurance companies call a labradoodle bred from two labradoodle dogs a pedigree. The parents are known to be specific crossbreeds and they are the same. However, that has nothing to do with a pedigree as defined by the Kennel Club. For this organisation, a pedigree is a dog that conforms to the Breed Standard for that breed. Even then, that dog may not be the healthiest it can be. That it’s down to the way it is bred.
Why health test
For me, health testing is part of the process of making sure our dogs are as healthy as possible. I feed the food I believe is best for my dogs. They are exercised the right amount for their age and development. I engage them with training. My dogs are vaccinated every year, to prevent them suffering from common, preventable disease.
If you don’t care about ‘papers’, or where your dog has come from, that’s your choice. Sadly, that means your dog may have started life in a tiny pen, in the dark, in a barn, with little or no human contact. It means your dog may have come from a mother who was repeatedly bred from. Or your dog may have been brought here from another country, either legally or illegally.
A better life?
It’s fantastic if you take on a dog that has had a poor start in life and give it a better life. That’s great, because all animals deserve this. But I believe it’s better to have a dog that has been bred on purpose. This means talking to a breeder, placing an ‘order’ and waiting, hopefully until the puppy you want becomes available. It might take a long time.
Taking a chance
If there are health tests available, why take the chance? I would prefer to have a dog that has been tested? Organisations like the Royal Veterinary College are continuing to do fantastic research into health conditions, adding to the lists of tests that can be done. And the Kennel Club are taking this on board, adding to the list of health test requirements and recommendations.
Continued improvement required
Finally, just a comment about the fact that an obviously unhealthy Bulldog won Best of Breed at Crufts this year, 2022. I challenged the Kennel Club about this and received an interesting response. The Kennel Club say they are continuing to work hard to reduce this type of judgement being made in showing, but that the judge on the day makes their own decisions. They say they are improving breed standards and health testing requirements for the Assured Breeder Scheme, but that not all dogs entering the showing classes have to conform to these standards.
The response I received stated:
“The Kennel Club, as part of the Brachycephalic Working Group Brachycephalic Working Group – Working together to improve the health and welfare of brachycephalic dogs (ukbwg.org.uk), has been working to change perceptions about what should be normal and desirable when looking for flat faced dogs. Changes to entire breeds – inside and outside the show ring – will take time to surface but we urge puppy buyers to see the puppy’s parents to look for more moderate examples of these dogs, and to also look for dogs that have been tested for potential breathing difficulties.”
The Kennel Club say the following about the Assured Breeders scheme: We’re the only organisation accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) to certify dog breeders under our Assured Breeders scheme. The scheme is intended to help direct puppy buyers to breeders who follow best breeding practice and conduct health testing for known inherited health conditions in their breeds. Find out more about the scheme and how to join.
I have written about health testing many times already, including one of the pupdates from last year’s litter.
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NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.