Health Assessment for Breeding Dogs

Health screening tests are performed on parent dogs before they breed. They are aimed at assessing breeding dogs for unwanted heritable health conditions that can be passed on. Breeding parents with normal health assessments will minimise the chances of producing unhealthy puppies. This will help to improve the health and welfare of dogs over generations.

There are a number of different tests that we routinely perform on breeding animals. Deciding which tests to perform is based on the susceptible risk each breed has to certain diseases. Our highly experienced vets can discuss with you the tests recommended for your breed of dog. Most testing can be performed at our veterinary surgery, others need to be performed at a specialist centre.

Hip Dysplasia

Canine hip dysplasia is the most commonly inherited orthopaedic disease of dogs. It most often affects medium to large breed dogs. Small or toy breed dogs are less likely to be affected. The development of hip dysplasia is multifactorial, including genetic and environmental factors. Hip dysplasia leads to hip arthritis, causing pain, stiffness and diminished quality of life. For working/service dogs, identifying a dog with healthy hips can extend the working life of the dog. For breeding dogs, early detection of at-risk hips can allow the breeder to make early, informed decisions as to which dogs to keep in breeding programs. There are two main tests designed to identify dogs with hip dysplasia:

  • PennHIP Xrays – The hip joint is a ball-and-socket joint, with the ball of the femur (femoral head) fitting into the hip socket (acetabulum). Hip laxity refers to the degree of “looseness” of the ball in the hip socket. Studies have shown that dogs with looser hips (excessive hip laxity) are at higher risk to develop hip dysplasia than dogs with tighter hips (minimal hip laxity). The PennHIP Hip Improvement Program is a research-based hip-screening procedure, proven to be the most accurate and precise method to measure hip laxity. It can identify, as early as 16 weeks of age, dogs that are susceptible to developing hip dysplasia. This offers breeders the opportunity to make early decisions on breeding stock, and allows our veterinarians to advise you owners on lifestyle adjustments and preventive strategies to minimise the pain and progression of the disease. Veterinarians need to be registered to perform this testing, and we have a number of accredited veterinarians at McLaren Vale Veterinary Surgery. Further information can be found HERE.
  • The Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC) Canine Hip and Elbow Dysplasia Scheme (CHEDS) - This is a program run by Dogs Australia to assess and score the hips and elbows of breeding dogs. Assessment of hips and elbows can be made from 12 months of age. This procedure involves taking x-rays of the hips under general anaesthesia to look at the overall conformation of the hip joint and uses specific radiographic landmarks to calculate a score. Information can be found HERE.

Genetic testing

Genetic testing is routinely performed to screen dogs for both genetic traits and genetic diseases. Different breeds of dogs may be carriers for numerous genetic diseases. Genetic testing is performed to determine whether a potential breeding dog is a carrier of one of these genes and whether they may pass on certain diseases. Our Veterinarians routinely perform ORIVET DNA testing via a cheek swab. A list of the various traits or diseases specific breeds are tested for can be found at HERE.

Further testing

If testing is required for the Australia Canine Eye Scheme or Cardiac screening, a referral to a specialist can be provided.