Everybody talks about health testing… All of us reputable breeders health test our dogs! Our hips are excellent! Our thyroids are normal! Our eyes are clear! Yay yay yay!!!
But what the crap does that all actually mean?
When you’re ready to buy a new house, you find yourself a real estate agent, yes? And it’s that real estate agent’s job to pull the title report and coordinate the home inspection, right? The whole point of the exercise is to help you avoid buying a home that has a six figure tax lien on it, or a foundation that isn’t stable.
Health testing works the same way.
The primary benefit of health testing is for the breeder to know what’s in the title report, or what comes up in the home inspection. The results aren’t meant to be perfect, but instead, data points to establish the bigger question of, “is my dog healthy enough to be considered a breeding prospect?”
The secondary benefit of health testing is for prospective buyers to be assured that they’re buying a dog from a breeder who has done their homework.
So what are the components of health testing, and what information should come with a Weimaraner that has been health tested?
To simplify the discussion, we’ll talk about the two primary sources of health information.
- OFA. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals is a registry for genetic diseases, and has created the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) Program to work with breed parent clubs to list primary health screening tests that breeders should perform on their stock before breeding. The OFA recommends the following screenings for Weimaraners:
- Hip Dysplasia – OFA Evaluation (for the record, one can also get a PennHIP evaluation done in lieu of an OFA evaluation)
- Thyroid – OFA thyroid evaluation from an approved laboratory
- Eye Examination by a boarded ACVO Ophthalmologist – Results registered with OFA
- DNA. The genetic bases for Hyperuricosuria (elevated uric acid levels), Hypomyelination (shaking puppy syndrome), and Spinal Dysraphism (spinal canal defect) have been identified by researchers, and DNA testing is available through the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at UC Davis.
In addition to the above screenings, Barrett Weimaraners are also usually tested for elbow structure, color, and coat length. (We’ll talk about that in separate article.)
To the prospective puppy buyer: Please ask about health screening results. If you have the sire and dam’s AKC number, you may also go to the OFA website and verify the information OFA has on file by typing the AKC number into the search box in the upper right hand corner of the home page.
To the prospective Weimaraner breeder or stud dog owner: The following steps are intended to help you navigate through the health screening process for your dog:
- Verify your dog is age appropriate for testing. Minimum ages are:
- Hips and Elbows: 24 months
- DNA testing – HUU / HYM / SD: birth
- Eyes: 6 months
- Thyroid: no minimum, but should be spot checked for the life of the dog
- Order DNA test kit. Click here to get to the VGL website. Create an online account and order the Weimaraner Health Panel. This panel includes the three tests that are relevant to Weimaraner health. The shopping cart will ask you whether or not you want to “supply your own interdental/GUM brushes,” or if you want the lab to send you their cytology brushes for use. Choose the latter; there’s no additional charge. The test kit will arrive in the mail in a few days. Review the directions, complete the test, and mail it back in. Results will follow via email in a few weeks.
- Schedule veterinarian appointment to conduct x-rays and test thyroid. If the veterinarian is familiar with providing reproductive services (and not all of them are), this will be a simple procedure for them and for you. When you schedule the appointment, you are asking the veterinarian to do two things: 1) “x-ray hips for OFA,” 2) “draw blood for OFA thyroid panel,” Most vet will also require a general exam. You will be asked to fill out two forms for submittal to the OFA, one for hips and the other for thyroid. To complete this information, you will need a copy of your dog’s AKC certificate. Recommended veterinarians are posted here.
- Find a canine ophthalmologist. The OFA Companion Animal Eye Registry (CAER) certifications are performed by board certified (ACVO) veterinary ophthalmologists. Evaulations are quick and easy, and the office staff should be able to get your information “submitted to the OFA.” A simple Google search for “canine caer eye exam in [your area]” should yield plenty of results to choose from.
- Obtain results. OFA results will come in the form of hard copy certificates in the mail. DNA results are typically emailed when they are available. Once you have all of this information, consider what the results mean, and work with your breeder and/or mentor to determine the appropriate next steps for you and your dog.
All health records are posted on every litter announcement published by Barrett Weimaraners. Here’s an example out of the Swede x Mango litter post:
MISS GCHG Camelot’s Luxe Winter’s Waltz, “Swede”
Sire: GCH Camelot’s I’m a Travelin’ Man, “Ricky”, Dam: BIF CH Camelot’s Diggin’ the Dancing Queen, “Izzy”, Bred by Susan Thomas, Owned by Julie Aune and Susan Thomas, AKC SR89369910, DOB 7/26/2015, OFA CHIC # 124332 (Hips: Good, Elbows: Normal, Advanced Cardiac: Normal, Eyes: Normal, Thyroid: Normal), HUU N/N, HYM N/N, SD N/N, Coat Length S/S
CH Smokey Topaz n’ Barrett’s Margarita Peak, “Mango
Sire: GCHB Knight N’ Barrett’s Pioneer Mountain Man, “Boulder”, Dam: GCH Weimshadow-N-Smokey Topaz’s Lenka, JH NJP V, Bred by James and Deborah Ebert, Owned by Kim Burnell and Barry Burnell, AKC SR98702701, DOB 5/1/2017, OFA CHIC # 145384 (Hips: Excellent, Elbow: Normal, Thyroid: Normal, Eyes: Normal), HUU N/N, HYM N/NU, SD N/N, Coat Length S/S
Got questions?! Please feel free to contact me directly, anytime.
Cheers! – Kim