Much is made of growth defects being present in larger breeds of dogs. Breeders are blamed for these faults and the dog world in general is castigated. In truth pure bred dogs are healthier than cross breeds due to the care of the people who love and protect each breed.
Large breeds of dog will grow fast and if there are any birth defects or inherited defects in the dog these can show up while the puppy is still quite young. Regardless of the health of a puppy from a large breed care should be taken that it is not over exercised or encouraged to jump up and possible damage immature bones. Guidance should be taken from the breeder.
Buying a Dog
Before purchasing a puppy, not only from a large breed but for any breed of pedigree dog, it is vital to do your homework and study any possible health problem within the breeds of your choice. Like humans no dog is perfect and regardless of the most scrupulous breeding health problems may occur during the lifetime of the dog. It is up to the breeders of these dogs to breed to the standard set by the Kennel Club and provide proof that they have carried out all relevant health checks and investigations for their breed. Never be fobbed off with excuses as to why the breeder has not got a copy of a document. You must always insist on proof that the parents of the puppies have had every health check, scan, blood test and check that is relevant to the breed.
The Kennel Club
The Kennel Club Health and Information department can advise any prospective owner of what problems there are within a breed and what to ask for when you visit a breeder. They also run an Accredited Breeder Scheme where breeders registered under this scheme have proved that they are competent breeders and have worked for their breed in ensuring that their breeding stock has been fully health checked and in some cases had their DNA checked to see if there are any inherited defects that will affect the life of your puppy.
Some of the health problems that are being screened for include: Hip dysplasia, which affects the hips and mobility of a dog. From the age of one year a dog’s hips are x-rayed under sedation and a panel from the BVA and the Kennel Club score each hip from 0 to 53 (zero being good). An average for each breed is kept by the Kennel Club and it is up to the breeder to aim to keep their breeding stock below this number. Similarly there are tests for elbow dysplasia and eye diseases.
Every breed club is affiliated to the Kennel Club and they will be taking part in health screenings and advising members and prospective owners of the breed how to improve the health of the dogs and breeding stock. Quite often breed clubs will hold seminars and breed information days where you can find out more about the breed and meet owners and breeders to further your knowledge of the breed.
In 2004 the Kennel Club along with most breed clubs carried out a pure breed health study which not only shows the major health problems within dogs but also what many dogs have died from. The full results of the survey are available for download from the Kennel Club website www.thekennelclub.org.uk
The Kennel Club Charitable Trust
This branch of the Kennel Club raises funds to enable breed clubs (who also raise funds themselves) to enable DNA testing for inherited diseases within their breed.
Doing Your Homework
By doing your homework and checking with the Kennel Club, breed club and breeder before purchasing a puppy from a large breed you will be doing the best you can to have to have a healthy puppy that will live to be a fit and happy adult dog.
Once you have purchased your puppy, regardless of whether you wish to breed from it, please play your part carrying out all health screening checks when the animal is old enough. By participating in your breed’s health studies you will be ensuring a healthy future for your breed.