Dear Future Puppy Parent
As someone considering getting a puppy you may have questions about how to find a reputable breeder what questions your should be asking. Annie Wilson from Devon is a devoted dog lover who lives in Devon with her her gorgeous Bernese named Button and she has written this letter reaching out to help those considering getting a dog.
Dear Future Puppy Parent.
Having a dog as part of the family is a wonderful experience. If you do your research and choose with care, you'll have many years of joyous companionship.
How to find a reputable breeder
You might have heard about the importance of meeting your potential pup with its mother. Knowing this fact will help you to avoid buying from an unscrupulous dealer who may have imported the puppy from abroad.
Equally important is the subject of hereditary health. There is a way to protect yourself from bringing home a puppy that has a hereditary disease. How do we stop diseases from being passed on to puppies? Many of these hereditary diseases can be screened for - ask to see the health certificates of your puppy's parents.
Read More: How to Socialise Your Puppy
How to check for hereditary diseases
You can easily check out which diseases affect which breeds at DogBreedHealth.
I want to talk to you about two particular diseases: Elbow and Hip Dysplasia. I've had first-hand experience with them as my puppy inherited both. I want to help you know how to avoid going through what my pup and I have been through.
Yes, she looks stunning in this photo but underneath her beauty is a dog with a crippling hereditary disease. Her quality of life is reduced and she is on pain medication forever.
This is why it's so important to consider health and temperament before looks.
There are many other equally devastating hereditary diseases amongst our dog population. Look for any diseases that affect the breed of the dog you are thinking of buying, read the puppy's parents health certificates and if in doubt ask your vet.
Questions to ask your breeder:
In the Inherited diseases factsheet the RSPCA urge puppy buyers to:
Ask to see the parents' certificates for any disorders which can be screened for before agreeing to buy a puppy.
Be sure the dogs were not only tested but were considered suitable to breed.
You may need to seek help from your vet when interpreting the test results.
For those diseases which cannot currently be screened for – ask the breeder about their efforts to avoid them.
Reputable breeders will welcome you phoning the owners of closely related dogs to ascertain if they've experienced any health problems.
Note: the puppy's parents' health being good enough to breed is as important as the screening tests are.
No screening test can ever totally rule out a disease. Getting a dog tested before breeding at least gives an indication of whether or not there is a disease to be passed on. There are always those sneaky genes that get through, but testing does help.
What is Elbow and Hip Dysplasia?
Both can be incredibly painful and debilitating for your dog. Button, my pup, had to have operations at the tender age of 8 months followed by nearly a year of rehab. She's now on painkillers for life and her quality of life is reduced. I really want to help future pups avoid a life of pain.
Schemes: screen tests to spot certain hereditary diseases
Such is the high number of dogs in certain breeds having elbow and hip dysplasia the British Veterinary Association in collaboration with the Kennel Club have schemes for breeders to test in order to see if their dogs have either before breeding.
Read More: Adem Fehmi tells us how to prepare our puppies for their first vet visit.
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) on the topic of Elbow Dysplasia:
Elbow dysplasia is a significant problem in many breeds worldwide, and, although it begins in puppyhood, it can continue to affect the dog for the rest of its life.
Elbow dysplasia is a common inherited orthopaedic problem in dogs where the elbow doesn’t develop properly.
Check out their leaflet for more information: BVA Elbow Dysplasia Leaflet
The British Veterinary Association, about Hip Dysplasia:
Hip dysplasia (HD) is a common inherited orthopaedic problem of dogs and a wide number of other mammals.
Abnormal development of the structures that make up the hip joint leads to subsequent joint deformity. As a dog gets older, the joint undergoes wear and tear and deteriorates, leading to a loss of function. This can cause varying degrees of pain, discomfort, stiffness and lameness.
Why look at the health test certificate of the puppy's parents?
I had a chat with Carol Fowler, founder of The Dog Breeding Reform Group. She has been working to raise awareness of hereditary health in dogs for many years.
I asked her, 'Why is it important for puppy buyers to see the health test certificates for hip and elbow dysplasia?'
"Over 60 years ago, a painful condition involving a malformed hip joint in dogs was recognised as affecting many dog breeds. Both hip and elbow dysplasia became widespread and the veterinary profession, dog owners and dog breeders became increasingly concerned about the effects on a dog’s quality of life.
The British Veterinary Association and Kennel Club devised X-Ray Schemes to measure whether a dog is affected and to what degree, based on a numerical scale. The mode of inheritance for both these diseases is complex, involving many genes and environmental factors.
Estimated breeding values (EBVs) became available in the UK in the first decade of the 21st century based on the hip and elbow scores submitted to the scheme. EBVs increased the accuracy in predicting whether offspring will be affected by HD or ED. EBVs also provide information about genetic diversity of a proposed match.
Hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia are still affecting many thousands of dogs even after 50 years of the Schemes. It is important that the puppy parents know to purchase puppies from only reputable breeders. Ask for the results of these Scheme tests. The puppy purchaser must drive change, insist to be shown the BVA/C Scheme certificate for both parents. Reputable breeders have done the Scheme tests."
Advice from the professionals:
Read More: Oli Juste tells us why he Loves People as Much as Dogs
What can we do?
I got curious to see how widespread Elbow and HIP Dysplasia really were in certain breeds. I looked up some of the pedigree Scheme tests to find that 60 years later many dogs are still susceptible to these diseases. We need to work together to stamp it out. If all puppy buyers ask to see these certificates, soon only health tested parents will be breeding dogs.
A list of the common breeds at risk of these diseases, but some other breeds do also suffer from them.
Basset Hound ED
Bernese Mountain Dog ED & HD
Border Collie HD
Dogue de Bordeaux ED
German Shepherd Dog ED & HD
German Shorthaired Pointer HD
Goldendoodles ED & HD
Golden Retriever HD
Great Dane ED
Hungarian Vizsla HD
Irish Water Spaniel ED
Labrador ED & HD
Newfoundland ED & HD
Rottweiler ED & HD
If you're looking for technical statistical info, check out the two links below. There are many breeds affected by ED & HD.
Button is not alone, many affected dogs need to undergo surgery. And many develop arthritis as they age which is painful and debilitating. Some dogs, like Button, have a life of pain medication and restricted exercise. And some, in extreme cases, have to be euthanised.
So – why am I telling you all this horrible stuff when you are looking for that little bundle of fluff to bring into your family?
The reason is I don’t want other dogs to suffer as my Button has. I don’t want other owners to go through the heartache I did. A dog should be born to be able to do all that a dog can do! Added to that is the enormous emotional toll it can take on the family and yes sadly it is a factor – the financial cost too!
So please, before you choose your puppy ask the breeder for the Elbow and Hip Dysplasia health certificates. Then ask your vet to explain what they mean to you. That way you can ensure you bring a healthy puppy home. By asking to see the screen tests, in time we can diminish the problem.
Pro Tip: Getting a look at that screen test is a way of knowing that you're doing business with kind breeders.
Oh yes, and before I go I have to mention The Puppy Contract which is an easy to use guide full of useful do’s and don'ts when buying a puppy.
I wish you all the luck in the world in choosing your pup and may you both have many many years of snuggles, fun and joy together.
PS: Pop in at PawsAgainst campaign, help us raise the awareness of hereditary diseases in dogs. There's also a competition for you to win prizes for your dog! “What’s in my Gens?” is our campaign to raise awareness of hereditary diseases in dogs.
PPS: Ask to see that Scheme test - let's work together to reduce instances of Elbow and Hip Dysplasia in future generations of puppies.
love from Annie & Button xxx