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Buying a pedigree puppy can be costly – both in terms of the purchase price, and the cost of caring for the dog for the entire duration of their lives. Naturally, anyone who is considering buying a pedigree puppy will want to ensure that they make the right choice, and that they do everything possible to ensure that they buy a healthy pup.
Nearly all of the pedigree dog breeds that are eligible for Kennel Club registration in the UK have a hereditary predisposition to specific inherited health problems and conformation defects – and knowing what these are for the breed of dog you are considering can help you to understand the risks, and take steps to mitigate them.
For many hereditary health conditions that can affect the longevity or wellbeing of any given breed, DNA testing or health screening tests can be performed to identify the status of the two parent dogs – and so, determine whether or not their offspring are likely to be affected by said conditions.
Responsible breeders who are committed to producing healthy breed lines and improving the health of the breed as a whole perform all of the relevant health tests on their parent stock prior to mating, and make the results of these tests available for review by prospective puppy buyers.
However, not every dog breeder is as vigilant as they should be about undertaking health testing – either due to the cost of the tests themselves, or because they are afraid that a poor result will affect the value of the puppies and their ability to sell them.
The onus falls to puppy buyers to ensure that any appropriate health tests have been performed prior to committing to a purchase, and not just to assume that the breeder has taken care of it.
That said, because The Kennel Club oversees and operates a range of health testing protocols and records keeping for many pedigree breeds, many puppy buyers still assume that a Kennel Club registered pedigree puppy will by definition be clear of known hereditary health problems.
In this article we will examine what Kennel Club pedigree registration is, explain its limitations in terms of breed health, and look at the few exceptions to the rule – dogs bred by breeders registered under The Kennel Club’s Assured Breeder Scheme. Read on to learn more.
In order for any puppy or litter to be classed as a Kennel Club registered pedigree, the following factors must be present:
Pedigree registration doesn’t tell you anything about the health or quality of the pups – only that they were born from two pedigree parents, and were themselves registered.
Some pups born from two registered pedigree parents are not eligible for registration themselves, due to endorsements or limitations placed on them.
A breeder can themselves place an endorsement on their litters to prevent them being registered, and this may be because the breeder doesn’t consider the pups to be a good example of the breed, doesn’t wish the pups to be bred from, or for any other reason they choose.
Additionally, The Kennel Club itself makes the results of certain matings ineligible for registration, for reasons such as mating matches between closely related dogs, litters produced from dams that were too young or old, that had already had too many litters within a certain timeframe, and for various other reasons intended to protect the breed’s health.
This includes forbidding registration of certain colours of pups that include the merle gene in certain breeds, which can cause problems with hearing and vision.
Full details of The Kennel Club’s general breeding restrictions for litters can be found here.
As we’ve outlined above, pedigree registration for a puppy in and of itself does not indicate that the pup or its parents were health tested for known breed issues. Health testing protocols for breeders are recommended but not mandatory, although some breed clubs themselves mandate health tests before they will consider the pups for registration within their own club.
Category Three breeds are breeds that The Kennel Club classes as being of most concern when it comes to hereditary health issues, to the point that health testing of parent stock is strongly advised prior to breeding.
Even across these high-profile breeds, mandatory health tests for all breeders are not in place, and so again the onus falls on the potential puppy buyer to check with the breeder what health tests have been performed. A full list of Category Three breeds and more information on their health can be found here.
Dog breeders who are members of The Kennel Club’s Assured Breeders Scheme do, however, have to undertake health tests on their dogs of certain breeds before they can be registered, in order to maintain recognition as a member of the scheme.
The complete list of breeds for which Assured Breeders must perform health tests – including which tests are mandatory and which are recommended – can be found here.
This means that if you buy a puppy from a breeder who is registered as an Assured Breeder, they must have undertaken certain breed-specific mandatory health tests on their dogs before they are registered. Buying from an Assured Breeder – particularly if you are considering buying a Category Three dog like a pug or a German shepherd – means that the parent stock will have been tested for certain conditions prior to mating.
However, even within the Assured Breeder scheme, most breeds that have certain mandatory health testing protocols also have other “recommended” tests too, but these are just recommendations, and Assured Breeder registered pups won’t necessarily have had these tests performed too – and this is something you should ask about, rather than just assuming that an Assured Breeder will have performed the recommended tests as well as the required ones.
As we’ve outlined above, pedigree registration alone doesn’t indicate in and of itself that any pup’s parents have been health tested for the relevant hereditary health conditions. If a pup has endorsements placed on their registration or if they are ineligible for registration – or if a breeder is offering puppies for sale that they describe as pedigrees that are not registered – this might indicate a potential health issue, so you should find out why the pups aren’t registered and proceed with caution.
Even if a pup is registered as a pedigree, this doesn’t guarantee good health and freedom from potential hereditary problems that could have been identified with pre-breeding health screening.
There is a greater level of security when buying from an Assured Breeder for breeds that mandate certain tests for Assured Breeders – but remember that there are also recommended tests for Assured Breeders too that are optional and not mandatory.
Again, it is up to you as the potential buyer to find out about the available and recommended health tests for the breed in question, and ask the breeder (and ask to see proof) about their testing protocols, and find out exactly what their pups have been tested for.
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