About the author: Doctor Sharon French is a veterinarian and veterinary dentist with 35 years of experience. Sharon is the founder of PuppyViewer.com and helps people make informed choices when it comes to dog ownership and breeder support.
Health clearances: it’s a term that can confuse many dog owners and prospective dog owners alike, so today we’re taking a closer look at what they are, and why they’re so important.
What are Health Clearances?
Essentially, health clearances are for accountable and responsible breeders who want to produce excellent dogs free from disease, whether inherited or otherwise.
When you take your puppy home from a reputable purebred breeder, you can be sure they have previously checked the parents, grandparents, and often puppies themselves for evidence of inheritable disease. The other usual practice of veterinary physical exam, deworming and vaccines are a no brainer.
In North America, for example, the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) has a registry of those tests. Veterinary professionals encourage owners to check mandatory and optional tests by breed. It’s also recommended that owners consult the websites of the specific breed clubs for extensive information.
What’s Involved in Health Clearance Testing for Purebred Puppies?
Health clearance tests may involve imaging on areas like the hip and elbows, auscultation or actual echocardiogram by a cardiologist, examination of the eyes by an ophthalmologist, hearing tests (BAER), temperament tests and DNA.
If that sounds like a lot, it’s because it is! Health clearance testing is a significant part of the cost of a purebred puppy.
Why are Health Clearances for Purebred Puppies Important?
Breeders adhere to health clearances to improve the breed and doing so can greatly diminish and eliminate disease – but of course, this requires co-operation of breeders everywhere.
In addition to puppy mills, backyard breeders or “small home breeders” often don’t bother with health clearances because it is an expensive process, and they simply don’t care… But they should!
As a dog owner, it is not worth the lower cost to later discover your puppy has developed some terrible disease that you now need to manage emotionally and financially.
Breeders have a responsibility to ensure they puppies they produce are going to be healthy.
What if My Breeder Doesn’t Believe in Health Clearances?
If someone says they don’t believe in health clearances because their dogs are fine, run away!
How do they know their dogs are fine? Some inherited diseases emerge later in life. Do they follow all their puppies in every litter?
A lack of contract is another red flag. A contract protects you and your puppy as well as your breeder. Contracts often stipulate that if you cannot keep the dog for any reason, it goes back to the breeder to rehome.
Those are the breeders that care.
If someone offers breeding rights for an extra fee without rigorous investigation… Proceed with caution!
Considering Breeding Hybrid Puppies? Not So Fast…
This bring us to one final point – hybrid vigor. The crossbreeds which people inherently feel have to be healthier are very often not.
Veterinary professionals urge those who mix two breeds to do the health testing on both sides – I personally believe they are morally obligated to do so. I can tell you from experience that simply mixing two breeds doesn’t protect a puppy from devastating disease – sadly, I see it every day at work.
The bottom line: testing for inherited disease helps us to eradicate disease, makes better, healthier dogs and plainly just must be done.