What should a puppy health guarantee cover?
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What should a puppy health guarantee cover?

Dogs
Health & Safety

A puppy health guarantee is a type of contract that is often offered by professional breeders to the buyers of their puppies, which is designed to provide protection and reassurance to both parties regarding the future health and wellness of the pups. While not all breeders offer a formal health guarantee with their dogs, many do offer this alongside of the standard sale contract and other agreements on the sale and future life of the pup, and this is a good sign to look for when you are searching for the right breeder from whom to buy your new pup.

While all health guarantees, where offered, will differ from seller to seller, there are several common elements that effective, fit for purpose documents of this type should contain. We will look at these things in more detail below.

Read on to learn more about what a puppy health guarantee should cover.

Vaccinations

When you collect your new pup from the breeder, they should be aged twelve weeks or older, and should have had both of their two-stage initial vaccinations by this time. The guarantee should reflect this fact, and contain the serial numbers and certification of the vaccines.

If the puppy is under twelve weeks old, or for any reason has not been able to have either one or both of their initial vaccinations, the buyer may be required to have the puppy vaccinated at the earliest available opportunity, and provide proof of this to the seller once this has been done.

If the puppy has not been vaccinated at the time of sale, it is important to remember that until this has been achieved, the pup should not be housed with any unvaccinated dogs, nor taken outside where other dogs may be present.

Health checks

Most breeders will have a veterinary surgeon perform a health check on their pups at the time of vaccination, but many breeders also require the buyer of the pup to have the pup checked independently by the vet of their choice within a week of the sale, in order to provide protection for both parties, and every opportunity for both the buyer and the seller of the pup to find out about any potential problems that the puppy might have.

The health guarantee should also outline in detail what the buyer’s right to return the pup is in cases of problems, and what the seller’s obligations to the buyer are.

Often, the seller of a puppy will not offer a guarantee if this buyer-led health check is not performed within the allotted timescale.

Breed-specific issues

The vast majority of pedigree dog breeds have a slightly or significantly elevated predisposition to certain hereditary health or conformation issues, which all potential puppy buyers should be aware of before committing to a purchase.

Many of these conditions can be tested for in the parents dogs prior to breeding, and if your breeder has done this and as a result, used this information to breed from only dogs that are good, healthy examples of their breed, they may well offer some form of guarantee or certificate that shows the puppies bloodlines to be free of risk of those conditions.

This will usually only apply to a small range of very specific conditions that can both be tested for, and for which testing is conclusive rather than offering a big-picture result for guidance only, but if you are considering buying a dog from a breed that is known to suffer from specific health issues that can be tested for and your breeder has not had the tests performed prior to breeding, you may be better off shopping around for a breeder that tests.

Should you need to contact the seller as a result of a pup becoming ill with a condition that they have been certified as clear of, the breeder may well ask that their own vet tests and examines the dog themselves, before they will engage with you in terms of making restitution.

It is important to note that some hereditary conditions cannot be tested for prior to breeding, and also that a good bloodline is no guarantee of general future good health.

Some hereditary problems may only become apparent after months or even years have passed, such as hip dysplasia, which breeds such as the Labrador retriever and German shepherd can be prone to, and which usually takes up to two years of age to become apparent. However, hip score testing of the parent dogs prior to breeding can give a very good indication of the likely hip health of the potential pups.

The buyer’s obligations

Puppy health guarantees are not just about assurances provided by the breeder to the buyer; they also cover the obligations of the buyer to care for the puppy appropriately, both for the breeder’s peace of mind, and to protect them in law against claims and comeback that could have reasonably have been foreseen and prevented by the buyer.

Such obligations will commonly include providing appropriate food, enough exercise, ensuring good training and socialisation, having the dog vaccinated and health-checked each year, and calling the vet promptly in the case of any problems.

Many breeders will also include a spay or neuter clause in the contracts, requiring the pups to be de-sexed when they are old enough, and not used for breeding.

The exact details of the contract should be agreed upon jointly by the buyer and the seller, and designed to represent the interests of both parties, and of course, the puppy itself.

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