Health Record Basics
Be sure to confirm that all veterinary information is legitimate.
Almost anything can be purchased by a “breeder” on the Internet, they can and often do play doctor. Many give vaccines themselves and administer medications to their puppies. They write that information in a booklet like this and you assume a veterinarian examined the pup. Most of the time the litter has never been to the vet.
It is CRITICALLY important that a licensed veterinarian has examined the puppy you buy. Verifiable medical records must be available to you. There should be a detailed description of the pup and the results of a complete physical exam, noting things such as presence or absence of a heart murmur, eye or ear issues, skin issues, hernias, internal and external parasites and SO much more!!! Reputable breeders are proud of the care they give their pups and breeding adults. They have a relationship with a private veterinarian who would be happy to answer your questions.
Veterinary professionals will record results of tests (such as fecal samples to test for intestinal parasites, heartworm screening, etc). They will record any medications given. Date, name of medication and dose should be easily readable in the medical records you are given. Directions for follow up of any medications should be recorded. Irresponsible breeders often ship animals with medications they started them on!!! This is not only irresponsible, it is illegal! Only a licensed veterinarian can prescribe medication for your dog and only after a client -patient relationship has been developed.
Licensed pet shops in some states and USDA commercial breeders are supposed to have animals examined by a veterinarian on a regular basis. The oversight and thoroughness of those exams is questionable. For more information and to check out the recent Office of Inspector Generals report on the lack of appropriate oversight, visit our Puppy Farm page.
Fecal sample results should be available so you know if your pup has intestinal parasites and a de-worming series should have been started if necessary. A mild burden of common parasites, such as roundworms, is acceptable. Multiple types of parasites or heavy burdens of parasites are an indication that the environment the pups were raised in is unacceptable and that the mother dog was heavily parasitized.
hookworms, whipworms, giardia, coccidia, heartworm
Fleas, ticks, demodectic mange, scabies, ringworm fungus
Common sense tells you that REPUTABLE breeders do not have dogs with TONS of worms. A heavily parasitized puppy is not ever something you should buy.!!! Some “breeders” charge such high prices for their sick pups we wonder if they are charging per worm!
Abandoned dogs may come to a shelter with parasites. REPUTABLE shelters/rescues will worm pups so they are not adopting out heavily parasitized dogs. They will also perform blood tests to make sure the dogs are free of heartworm disease.
Mother dogs should be up to date on vaccines or have titers (blood tests) proving she has sufficient immunity to common, contagious diseases. Mom’s immunity protects puppies from deadly diseases for the first few weeks of life. An improperly vaccinated dog's pups are much more susceptible to deadly viruses and it is a sure sign you are dealing with an irresponsible breeder! Verifiable proof of mom’s health records should be available from a licensed veterinarian.
Puppies should start their own series of vaccines at, depending upon circumstances about 7 wks of age. Pups should be vaccinated every 3-4 weeks until age 16-20 weeks depending upon breed and circumstances. So the breeder’s veterinarian should give the first pup vaccines, usually at the time of the thorough physical exam. Veterinary professionals will record types of vaccines given and the dates. Pups need a series of vaccines and dewormings. If someone tells you a 10-week-old puppy is “all set” on vaccines and dewormings they are lying or seriously misinformed, either way, walk away!!!
These are basics every reputable breeder should provide for each puppy they sell. You should be able to verify the information with the veterinary practice. Reputable rescues and shelters will have their pups and adults up-to-date before you adopt them.
To learn what vaccinations your puppy should have, speak to your veterinarian.
Screenings for Inherited Disorders
What specific screenings need to be done depend on the breed. PupQuest can't provide an exhaustive list of all tests for every breed but the links we provide will get you started on important research you should do about genetic problems. It is heartbreaking to learn the puppy you purchased and have fallen in love with has an unexpected short life expectancy due to an inherited disease that resulted from irresponsible breeding. You and your family deserve better and so do all the pups sold to unsuspecting people by careless breeders.
Reputable breeders work hard to try to eliminate inherited disorders from their bloodlines. Health screening on all dogs and pups guide breeders on which dogs to breed and which to spay or neuter so their problems are not passed on to the next generation. Risk can never be 100% eliminated but the risk can be minimized by contentious breeding. Puppy farms have absolutely no regard for genetics and instead of minimizing the risk of a pup inheriting a painful or deadly, costly disease their practices actually MAXIMIZE the chances of this happening.
Common Inherited Problems in Popular Breeds
Hip dysplasia is a common, potentially crippling, painful disease. It is an abnormality of the ball and socket hip joint. These are the dogs with “bad hips”.
||Some breeds prone to Hip Dysplasia: Most!
Almost all giant/large breeds. Popular breeds include: German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Shelties, Bernese Mountain Dogs, etc.
||What to sniff out: OFA or PENN HIP certification for parents
Reliable screening tests are available for dogs. Very young puppies cannot be screened for hip dysplasia themselves, that is why it is IMPERATIVE that parents and grandparents are tested. Many breeders tell buyers that a very young pup’s hips have been checked and they are “excellent”. This is a lie.
If your breed is predisposed to hip dysplasia (most are) only purchase a pup from a breeder who can show you OFA or PENN HIP certification on their bloodlines.
» Search OFA Records for your pup's parents' certificates.
» PENN HIP dysplasia info
» What is PENN HIP?
Many dog breeds have inherited heart abnormalities that severely impact their quality of life. These disorders can be expensive and difficult to manage.
Heart abnormalities include:
» Pulmonic and aortic stenosis
» Mitral valve dysplasia
» Patent ductus arterious
» Subaortic stenosis
||Some breeds prone to heart problems
Some cardiac disorders are more common is small breeds, others are very common in giant breeds. Unfortunately, many sizes in between are vulnerable as well.
Popular breeds include: Great Danes, Boxers, Doberman Pinschers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Poodles, Golden Retrievers, etc.
What to sniff out: ARCH Certification, OFA Cardiac Report
Reputable breeders screen their breeding stock to minimize the risk of passing on one of these problems. They will be proud to provide the medical records that their dogs are free of cardiac disorders and will provide the contact information of the Board Certified Veterinary Cardiologist they use.
Adults and puppies of high-risk breeds should be examined by a Board Certified Veterinary Cardiologist. Parents, grandparents and your pup should all be clear of cardiac disease. Clearance on some disorders is only possible when dogs are one year of age but all pups of high risk breeds should at least have had a good cardiac exam by a veterinarian. Results should be verifiable from the veterinarian.
OFA Site Requires DVM for clearance.
ARCH Site Requires Boarded Cardiologist DVM for clearance.
Many breeds are afflicted with inherited disorders that cause them to be born blind or become blind early in life. Some of these disorders cause dogs a great deal of pain and are expensive and difficult to manage. Fortunately, this can be avoided.
The many eye disorders include...
» Progressive Retinal Atrophy
||Some breeds prone to eye disorders
Collies and colllie-types, Poodles, Cocker Spaniels, Basset Hounds, Beagles, Pugs, etc.
||What to sniff out: CERF Certification
The Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) is a registry of dog eye and eyelid disorders. Be sure both parents, grandparents and your potential pup are CERF certified. Reputable breeders have had their dogs registered with this group to prove they do not have any eye disorders.
No conscientious breeder would breed a dog with one of these problems and they will prove it to you by showing you information from a Board Certified Veterinary Ophthalmologist.
» CERF Site
Chronic allergies can manifest themselves in many ways in dogs. They are often painful to the dog and annoying and expensive for you. Special medications, diets, and shampoos could all become part of your daily routine. Is that what you wanted to pay money for??
||Some breeds prone to allergies/skin disorders
All breeds are at risk, but popular breeds include: Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Shelties, West Highland White Terriers, and Cocker Spaniels
What to sniff out:
Signs of allergies in the parents, thyroid test results
Although there are no actual screening tests that can be done on your pup to be sure he won’t suffer with allergies, there are a few indications you should look for.
When you visit the breeder's home (because you would NEVER buy a dog sight unseen!!) here are some things to look for when you spend time with the parents:
» Notice if their skin looks healthy. Part the hair, does the skin look healthy or is it red with scabs.
» Lift up the ears, are they red, thickened? Take a good sniff. Ear infections often smell terrible and if Mom has one chances are you will be battling them in your new dog as well. It is expensive, painful and AVOIDABLE!
» With Golden Retrievers, never buy from a breeder who can’t supply proof that both parents have a normal functioning thyroid gland. Hypothyroidism is ridiculously common in Goldens and it is the underlying cause of many skin and ear issues. Orthopedic Foundation for Animals has a registry of thyroid test results.
Look for your breeder’s dogs in this database.
Many behavior traits are genetic. Individual bloodlines may have dogs that are more shy or aggressive than the average dog of the breed. That is why it is SO important to meet the parents of family member you are thinking about bringing into your home.
See socialization info on PupQuest’s About Breeders Page for more info.