Health Testing 101

The term "health tested" gets thrown around so much it can be very confusing to both new and experienced puppy buyers. In short, health tested breeding dogs have been screened genetically and phenotypically for ailments that are prevalent in their respective breeds. This term should never be used, but often is, for dogs that have ONLY seen a vet and been vaccinated and health checked for illnesses and/or parasites.

Every breed has it's own set of recommended health tests that breeders should do on all of their breeding stock. One step further is to follow the OFA Chic Program recommendations. Unfortunately that can be challenging, as finding specialists who are certified to conduct these evaluations, especially in isolated locations, can be difficult if not impossible. Still, it is something to consider when looking for a new puppy.

The basic health testing for White Swiss Shepherds (as well as German Shepherds) includes DNA (genetic) screening for MDR1 and DM, as well as radiograph (phenotypic) evaluation and OFA/PennHIP certification of hips and OFA certification of elbows. Additional health tests as recommended by the OFA Chic Program include evaluation of eyes, heart, and thyroid.

Puppies that are sold with vet certificates and vaccinations, are not necessarily health tested. Always research your breed and ask your breeder for documentation of health testing (x-rays, DNA reports, OFA certifications, etc.). Full transparency by breeders, and proactive purchasing by buyers is the best way to support responsible and productive breeding.

Why is it important to look for health tested parents? Doing so significantly reduces the chance that the puppy you purchase will face expensive and potentially devastating health issues down the road. Of course nothing is guaranteed because nature will take its course, but diseases like DM can be completely avoided, and instances of crippling hip and/or elbow dysplasia can be reduced when the parents used are not affected by these issues. Most breeders who take the time and expense (and potential loss from wiping/removing otherwise nice dogs from their programs) also offer support and health guarantees for their puppies. Ask anyone who has watched their perfectly healthy 5 or 6 year old shepherd become completely lame from DM. It is devastating and severely impacts the animal's quality as well as quantity of life with their families, not to mention the costs of care for these animals for the rest of their lives far exceeds any premium you pay upfront for a health tested puppy.

Information is powerful and knowing the difference between a health tested and health checked puppy is important! There are many stories of people who purchased what they thought were health tested, but were actually just health checked, puppies that ended up needing costly hip surgery, or worse, and their owners just didn't understand because they thought they had purchased responsibly. It is each individual's prerogative, as far as what they require when bringing home a dog/puppy, but when people are misled about what they are getting, it results in a bad experience for them and their puppy, and a very bad rap for all pure-bred dog breeders and enthusiasts.

***This is not to say that any dog that doesn't have completely 100% top scores across the board should be scratched from breeding, because that would be devastating to many already very limited gene pools, but breeders being honest with what they are working with, and buyers knowing what they are getting is a major step in getting things on the right track***

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