The Importance of Health Tested Dogs
Have you ever wondered what actually goes into a professional breeding program? That isn't a simple answer and each breeder runs their program slightly different from one another. Here at Golden Touch, we take health and well being of our dogs very seriously and strive to produce the healthiest, happy puppies that we possibly can! We invest a lot of time, money and research into our parent stock, as that is where the foundation of a strong breeding program lies.
Here are some of the major factors that we take into consideration:
Genetic/ Heritable Diseases
Each breed carries it's own list of hereditary diseases and Golden Retrievers are no different. We always do a full health screening through Animal Genetics to screen for the following seven heritable diseases:
Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis
Careful screening for these diseases helps us to make the best breeding choices that we can. We are very careful to ensure that the offspring are not affected by any of the above preventable genetic issues.
Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
Hip Dysplasia is, unfortunately, common in many large breeds, including Golden Retrievers. It has been a hot topic for over 50 years and yet there is no genetic link that scientists have been able to pinpoint. It is believed that the heritability is very low and only 15-40% of genetics contribute to dysplastic conditions. The Institute of Canine Biology has several studies on the subject.
We do have our dogs tested through OFA or PennHip to test for any underlying orthopedic conditions. You can find links to the results on the pedigree links for each of our dogs. Both methods are very different from each other. OFA is assessed subjectively (based on opinions of three veterinarians) and PennHip is assessed objectively, meaning that there is a very scientific approach to the assessment. Both methods have their pros and cons and the jury is still out on which method is the best approach. Their testing methods are completely different from one another and can't really be compared against each other. Regardless, we do not breed dogs that do not receive either a passing OFA score or who are considered high risk via PennHip.
Although genetics do play a small factor, it is certainly not entirely to blame, as many environmental factors are equally, if not more important. This would explain the reason the dogs with hip dysplasia can produce puppies that never develop it at all and, in contrast, have dogs with excellent OFA hips that can produce puppies with dysplasia. This is oftentimes very confusing to breeders and their clients. In addition to genetics, we have to monitor external factors as well. Diet, Exercise (too much or too little) and lifestyle are equally, if not more important. Aside from testing, we feed a high quality food and daily supplements as well as make sure the dogs get daily physical and mental activities. We always strive to maintain our dogs at a body condition score of 5.
With newborn puppies, in particular, we ensure that the puppies have excellent traction for the flooring in the whelping box and are kept clean and healthy. The babies are kept quarantined until 8 weeks of age and we do not allow visitors before then to ensure that they are not exposed to any external stressors or potentially life threatening illnesses. As they grow, we socialize them well but at the same time are very careful with the exercise and activities that we allow the puppies.
Breeding candidates can look physically the same but when you trace their genetics and family history, there are oftentimes very drastic differences that can be noted once you dig a little deeper. In addition to the genetic and health testing listed above, we feel that there are other critical factors that come into play when selecting our breeding dogs. For centuries, animal breeders of sheep, cattle, horses and dogs worldwide have considered the Estimated Breeding Value. What that basically translates to is the animals' family history, which we study back at least 3-4 generations, sometimes more when it is available. We evaluate any offspring, siblings, parents, grandparents, etc. to give us a broad picture. It's a lengthy, complicated process but we feel it is important information when considering which dogs to use for our breeding program.
Here are the factors we take into consideration when looking at estimated breeding values:
We take a look at not only the dog as an individual but also the families' strengths and weaknesses traced back several generations, including the coefficient of inbreeding. Cornell University has done extensive studies on the subject.