Health: What to Look For

The following breeds participate in the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) Program. CHIC, working with the breed’s parent club, lists the primary health screening tests that breeders should perform on their stock before breeding. This provides basic information for breeders to make more informed breeding decisions in order to reduce the incidence of inherited disease. The results also provide valuable information for potential puppy buyers looking for responsible breeders that health test their breeding stock.The lists of breed specific health screening recommendations are not all encompassing. There may be other tests appropriate for each breed. And there may be other genetic diseases of concern for which there are no easily accessible screening protocols. For the participating breeds, the CHIC screening tests list the available tests of primary concern and benefit.

How to Research

  1. Find a breed at the links below, and click to see the diseases and/or conditions which are considered of high importance for screening in that particular breed. The list represents the breeds where the parent club participates in the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) program and has defined a recommended health testing protocol.
  2. Use the OFA Records Search feature to search the parents and relatives of your potential new puppy or dog by dog name, part of name, breed, disease type, etc. Searching by kennel name may also reveal valuable information about other dogs in this kennel. All dogs that have had an OFA screening test with normal results since 1974 are in the searchable online database. Dogs with abnormal results are in the searchable online database if the owner authorizsed disclosure. If a dog is not listed in the database, it is fair to assume that the dog has not been screened for genetic disease by the OFA, or had abnormal results. The OFA also has a reciprocal agreement to list any available CERF results on dogs with an OFA record.

“In my nearly 20 years as a veterinarian an overwhelming number of clients have come into my exam room with pieces of paper and misinformation from breeders that would shock you!”

Click this link to learn what to look for in the paperwork before you bring home your puppy.

When visiting a puppy at the breeder, be sure to walk in with as objective a view as possible. Eyes wide open. It’s easy to fall in love with puppies but you want to keep your eyes peeled for many things. 

Meet the parents, or at the very least, the mother. 

  • You want to see them interacting. If the mother is not keen to spend time with the puppies, this might be a red flag that there may be a lack of nurture early on, which can affect behaviour long-term. 
  • If the mother is fearful, anxious, avoidant, reactive, aggressive, or anything other than super friendly and relaxed, you have a sneak peek at what your dog may become later. Genetics are strong. Do not choose the dog that is hiding in the back, cowering, avoiding contact, or is being bullied by the other puppies. You’ll want the healthy-looking, confident, friendly puppy. 
  • If the environment is dirty or the puppies look unwell, leave. Don’t even touch the puppies. Save your time and heart and just leave. Purchasing a puppy from a puppy mill is NOT saving the puppy – it is financing a puppy mill and supporting their operation. 
  • Where are the puppies born and where are they being raised? In a home? Perfect. In a garage, a shed, a basement, a barn? Walk away. These are puppies who will grow up with social deficits stemming from a lack of early stimulation and socialisation. Look elsewhere. 
  • What is the breeder’s stance on socialisation? Do they have people of all ages/sizes/shapes/colours coming to meet the puppies in a safe way on a regular basis? Do they handle the puppies multiple times daily? Do they take the puppies out to public places (in a stroller if not yet vaccinated) from 5 weeks onward to expose them gradually and safely? If they are in a rural area, do they take the puppies to a city-type environment to expose them gradually and safely? Are they playing sounds of city noises, babies/children, thunderstorms and fireworks, etc. at a low volume to start the socialisation/habituation process? Are the puppies in a space where they have access to new/novel items on a rotating schedule? A ramp, various types of toys and objects, a tunnel, items that hang and make noise when struck, obstacles, textures, etc.? 

These are the things I look for. These are the puppies who are more likely to be successful in life and less fearful as they grow and develop. Remember. If you see red flags now, multiply that by ten and that is what you will be dealing with when your pup hits adolescence (6 months) or social maturity (2-3 years). And just because you’re not seeing red flags doesn’t mean you won’t see problems stem from a poor genetic makeup or environment. 

It’s easy to fall in love with a puppy and overlook any gut-feelings or concerns. Never make a decision on the spot. Take objective notes. Ask questions and record the answers to review later.

Do all this before you meet the puppies and fall in love, clouding your reasoning abilities.