At a time where we have seen an unprecedented increase in dog breeding to meet demand. It is more important than ever to ensure that we are breeding fit, healthy dogs. To ensure that those in the generations to come have the healthiest, happiest lives possible. 

If you are thinking about breeding your male dog, how can you play your part in this? What are the checks and tests that you should be considering before breeding? 

General veterinary health check 

Booking your dog in for a general health check is the first step. Here you can ensure that their vaccination and worming status is up to date and get an idea of their general body condition. The physical exam will involve a dental, eye, ear, heart, lungs, abdominal, lymph node, prostate and skin check. If there are any concerns, your vet will be able to have a discussion with you at the time of the appointment and recommend any further testing from there. 

Depending on the breed of dog, there are certain health issues that they should be screened for. The most common ones include hip and elbow scoring, eye testing, heart examination and DNA testing. 

Hip and elbow scoring 

Hip scoring grades a disease called hip dysplasia; a common orthopaedic disease in dogs. Which results in abnormal development of the ball and socket joint of one or both hips, leading to pain and arthritis. It is hereditary and common in larger breeds such as the German Shepherd, Labrador, Golden retriever and Great Dane. Scoring involves taking thorough x-rays of the hip joint under general anaesthetic; which are sent off to a panel of experts who provide an evaluation of each hip. 

Much like hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia is an inherited condition where the joints do not develop properly. Elbow scoring follows a similar methodology as hip scoring; x-rays of the elbow joints are taken and sent away for analysis. If the hips or elbows come back with high scores, then it is considered responsible practice to not proceed with breeding from your dog. 

Eye testing

It is recommended that breeding dogs get a specialist eye exam in the twelve months prior to breeding. This is to rule out the probability of passing down any inherited eye conditions to their progeny, and depending on the breed, can test for certain diseases that they are prone to. Conditions that are painful, may cause blindness, or result in lifelong medication or surgical correction of the disease; should be important considerations when choosing whether to breed or not. 

Inherited disease/ DNA testing 

Breed specific tests are important to look into and can be determined through genetic testing involving a cheek swab and sometimes blood sampling. There are DNA tests available for diseases such as dwarfism, exercise induced collapse, progressive retinal atrophy, juvenile epilepsy and congenital hypothyroidism. The Kennel Club provides some resources into breed specific diseases that should be tested for. 

Deafness testing 

Congenital deafness, or ‘deafness at birth,’ is an inherited condition in some breeds. BAER testing (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response) checks the brain’s response to noise. Breeds such as Dalmatians, Australian Shepherds, White boxers, Border Collies and English Setters are more likely to be affected. 

Respiratory function 

The respiratory function grading scheme is put in place to lower the risk of breathing problems in our ‘brachycephalic’ dogs (meaning a broad short skull), including the bulldog and pug. BOAS, ‘Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome’ is a progressive disorder caused by the anatomy of the skull; whereby there is too much soft tissue in the nose and throat, partially obstructing the airways and causing difficulty with breathing. Dogs should be assessed from twelve months of age, and every two years whilst breeding.  

Why test?

The need for responsible breeding cannot be understated, and we can all play our part in optimising the health of our canine friends of the future. Giving our pets the greatest start they can have in life will inevitably reduce the prevalence of disease and suffering, increasing their quality of life, and this starts with the small (yet great) actions we take now. 

There are, of course, plenty of other factors to consider when deciding whether to breed your dog that are outside the realm of testing. These include the temperament, age, genetic diversity and conformation. If you have any concerns, please speak to your local veterinarian who will be able to direct you further.

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