For every breed, there is a list of diseases or conditions which are more common in that breed, and will negatively affect the health of these dogs. Visit the national breed club webpage to learn about which genetic testing and certifications are recommended for your breed.
Some tests are performed on blood or cheek swabs, and test for a specific gene. There are companies on line which specialize in these tests, and will send you a test kit for at-home collection of an oral swab sample. An example of this is to test a collie to see whether it has inherited the gene making it sensitive to certain drugs, like ivermectin.
Other important tests involve examining the dog to see whether it is affected by a condition, not just a carrier of the gene. Examples of this are blood tests for hypothyroidism, or a skin biopsy for sebaceous adenitis. These are not tests for genes, but for the presence of the actual condition.
These types of genetic testing are generally performed by the veterinarian, along with a routine physical exam. Some of these test results are registered with organizations such as CERF and OFA. It is very important to follow the instructions exactly according to the requirements of the certifying agency, so please visit their web pages for the most current information.
Probably the most commonly performed test is an examination for hip dysplasia. We perform tests for both OFA and PennHip certifications. For OFA, radiographs are taken of the hip joints with the legs in full extension, and show how the ball of the hip fits into the socket.
With PennHip, radiographs are taken with the legs in a normal weight-bearing position with gentle pressure to simulate weight-bearing. This results in a “distraction index”, or the amount that the ball of the hip moves out of the socket during weight-bearing. It is a better measure of the likelihood of that individual of eventually developing osteoarthritis as a result of hip dysplasia, and therefore a better way of judging a breeding dog. Please contact us for further information on this important subject.
Aside from genetic testing, ensuring that the dog is in excellent physical condition prior to breeding is essential. Breeding dogs need to be a healthy body weight, and this is especially important for females. An overweight female is prone to infertility and difficulties with labor and delivery.
Good nutrition ensures not only a healthy weight, but strong muscles and increased fertility. A diet labeled complete for all life stages is good for pregnancy since these diets can be fed throughout lactation and weaning as well. The only exception is large breed dogs, in which a diet labeled for large breed puppies should be fed to the pups, and a diet labeled for performance should be fed to the bitch late in pregnancy (see the section on pregnancy for more details). If the diet needs to be changed, it is helpful to wean the bitch onto the new food more than three weeks prior to pregnancy so that her body has time to adjust.
Vaccinations need to be current to ensure that diseases are not transmitted between the breeding pair, or from the parents to the pups. Again, this is especially important for the female, since her immunity is passed to the pups through the milk, protecting them in the first few weeks of life. Regular parasite control is important for the same reasons.
Brucellosis testing is specific to breeding dogs, and you can find more information on that in the next section.