Health testing and why it's important.
Why is health testing so important? I mean the people that started the breed didn't do it, so why should I? What should I test for in my dog? What tests should be done by the breeder I am looking at? I don't plan to breed, should I still test my dog? All are questions I hear often, along with why would you waste your money on that? To me it isn't a waste of money, and it shouldn't be considered that way to a potential puppy buyer either, here is why.
Health testing is important not only to the health of the dog(s) you own now, but to the future of the breed. The advances in understanding genetics have made it easier for us as responsible breeders and dog owners to test for inherited diseases and try to eliminate them from our lines. The goal is to have a 100% healthy dog, though we know as logical people that isn't possible, we still do the best we can to get as close to that number as possible. Health testing gives you the information you need to make an informed decision not only on the puppy you plan to buy, but how that puppies future health will look. It also helps you in knowing if that dog should be considered a candidate for breeding, your dog may have the all the looks and structure needed to be a great example for your breed, but if his hips are dysplastic you have to make the informed decision to not pass on those genes.
But they never tested before, why should we now? Good question, we should now, because we can! They didn't have the information and technology that we have now back in the days of breeding. They breed dogs that looked like good matches on paper and in person. As long as the dog looked and acted healthy, it was good enough to be bred. As a result, we have a high percentage of dogs with CHD(canine hip dysplasia) and that carry or are at risk for certain inherited diseases. So no, they didn't test back in the “good ol' days”, but as a result we have these diseases in our lines. As a responsible breeder and dog owner it is now up to us to help eradicate these diseases from our beloved pets.
Ok, so now you know why you should test, but what should you test for? This was a question I had when I first decided to breed as well. So I went to the Canine Health Information Center, or CHIC. Their websites has all the information on testing your dogs, dependent on the breed, in order for them to obtain a CHIC number. For example Chesapeake Bay Retrievers should be tested for at a minimum, hip and elbow dysplasia, CERF or OFA eye exam, PRA, EIC, and DM. I will go into a more detailed explanation of each below, but for now I just want to give you the basics. These are all tests that can either be done at a local vet, in your home, or at a dog show. They can be costly, but they are worth it knowing you won't be passing on any unwanted health problems. These are also the minimum you want any breeder you are considering to have done on the parents of your litter. Trust me, buying a untested dog with the hopes to breed in the future does not pay, even if you got him cheaper.
So you don't plan to bred, you just want a hunting partner or pet, so none of this stuff is important, right? Wrong! It is all still very important, if you want a hunting partner, you want to make sure his parents were tested negative for any disease that could affect his working ability. For example the breeder didn't test both parents, or either parent for CHD, they both have less than stellar hips, that in turn could cause your new puppy to have or be affected by CHD. You don't want that in a dog you are going to ask to hunt up to 1000 birds a season, that would take a toll on his hips. Or how about a breeder that didn't test for EIC(Exercise Induced Collapse) and both parents are at risk. You can tell just by the name that isn't a disease you want your new hunting partner to have, that would end his career as a hunter before it begins. So even if you don't plan on breeding your puppy, find health tested parents, and test yourself. Testing your puppy is the only way you will know for sure how healthy your new companion really is. So no, to me and to any other responsible breeder, health testing is not a waste of money. Health testing is insurance and a guarantee to getting the healthiest puppy you can.
Canine Hip Dysplasia
There are two test available for CHD, OFA and PennHip. Both require x rays for evaluation, though they are not at all the same. Below is a list of Pros and Cons of both methods.
More scientifically based.
Has to be done by a specialty licensed vet. You know you are getting quality and positioning.