Health is essential to consider when choosing your puppy, but what should you look for? Veterinarian and agility athlete Eli Beate Sæther shares the health checklist she would go through when getting a puppy.
Get to know the breed you are considering and the problems they might be exposed to.
For Eli Beate, the most important health criteria is choosing the right dog breed.
- The health standard varies a lot across different breeds. Some dogs are bred to look a certain way. In extreme cases, their looks result in pain and severe disease. For example, short-nosed dogs are more likely to have breathing difficulties simply because their anatomy makes it harder to breathe normally.
Other breeds are predisposed to birthing issues, severe allergies, problems with the musculoskeletal system or problems with their eyes.
If you need help, you can consult your local veterinarian.
The musculoskeletal system is essential, especially for sporting dogs and working dogs. The muscle- and skeletal system is highly hereditary.
The most common health screenings to get done are hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia. A breeder will usually provide information about the parents' x-ray results when advertising the puppies.
In addition to this, Eli Beate would check the patella status, LTV x-ray (Lumbosacral transitional vertebrae) and the grade of luxation of the superficial digital flexor tendon. Several gene tests also cover disorders affecting the musculoskeletal system, such as degenerative myelopathy (DM), which causes lameness in the hind legs over time in many dog breeds.
- It is always preferable that both parents are free of both hip dysplasia (grade A or B) and elbow dysplasia (grade 0), have a normal back (LTV0) and that neither the patella nor the superficial digital flexor tendon are luxating. Often, this data is available in the kennel club systems if the parents have been checked by a veterinarian certified to perform these tests.
Your dog's tail is also a part of the musculoskeletal system. Some puppies are born with a kinked tail. This is usually discovered at the 8-week vet check performed by the breeder's veterinarian.
- Having a kinked tail will most likely not affect your dog's well-being, but it is not ideal if you plan to go to dog shows.
The eyes are an essential organ that are often taken for granted. There are a number of diseases you'd naturally want to avoid if you can. Therefore, several breed organizations require dogs to be screened for eye diseases within the year prior to being bred.
- I would prefer both parents to be eye screened, to reduce the risk of disease in future puppies.
To find out which gene tests are most relevant for the breed you are considering, you can consult your veterinarian.
4. Umbilical hernia
An umbilical hernia usually appears as a swollen belly button caused by incomplete closure of the umbilical ring after birth. The condition can usually be discovered at the 8-week veterinary check.
- For some dogs, surgery is necessary. Umbilical hernias are hereditary and common for some breeds. It is not recommended to breed dogs with this condition.
Cryptorchidism is a condition where the testicles have not completely descended into the male dog's scrotum. This is not a disease, but a condition that is a disadvantage for breeding and showing your dog. It is not recommended to breed cryptorchid dogs.
- If it turns out your dog is a cryptorchid, I recommend that you regularly get the testicle in the abdomen checked by a veterinarian. Testicular cancer is usually easy to discover as the testicle's size changes, but when the testicle is hidden in the abdomen, it is harder to see, and the disease might develop further before you notice.
- Dog's behavior is also hereditary!
Look for the traits you want to see in your future dog in the parents of your puppy.
Even though aggression, for example, can be caused by past trauma, it is also often inherited from parents. Be sure to consider signs of negative behavior traits in parents which you want to avoid.
Eli Beate has also shared useful tips on training dogs in our podcast Unleashed. If you want to learn more about her, check out this video: