Health matters – how to buy a healthy puppy
Things to look out for when visiting and picking up your pup to take them home
- Bright eyes. No weeping or discharge.
- Clean nose. No discharge or sign of sores.
- Shiny and clean coat, with no sign of flea dirt. They shouldn’t smell bad.
- Clean teeth
- Clean ears. No redness, discharge or dirty, thick wax.
- Clean bottom. No sign of diarrhoea or worms.
- Neither skinny (though some breeds are slim), with the bones visible or easy to feel, nor too fat
All puppies, regardless of breed, should have their first vaccination between six and nine weeks of age, and their second at 10 to 12 weeks.
Puppies are vaccinated against:
- canine distemper
If your breeder has sorted the first vaccination, make sure you get the vaccination card (check that it’s been signed by the vet) so your own vet can give the second.
Did you know...?
All dogs in the UK must be microchipped by the age of eight weeks, by law, unless they have a certificate of exemption signed by a vet. The breeder is legally responsible for getting them microchipped. As soon as you take them home, make sure your correct contact details are listed with the database.
Buying a healthy pedigree pup or crossbreed
Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, and there are literally hundreds of breeds to choose from – even more if you count crossbreeds!
Years of refining breeds have inevitably led to dogs with pools of very similar genes. This means that some problems are inherent in some breeds. Unfortunately, some of these inherited conditions cause dogs discomfort and even real suffering. Some of these problems (but not all) are entirely preventable thanks to genetic tests being available to breeders; allowing them to screen breeding stock and select the healthiest mums- and dads-to-be.
Crossbreeds are often thought to be healthier because of ‘hybrid vigour’ and only the healthy genes winning the race. While there is some truth in this, there is also a risk that the bad genes from both parents could be passed on to their offspring. If you’re buying a cockapoo, for example, insist on a breeder who has screened both the cocker spaniel parent and poodle parent for the problems inherent in their respective gene pools.
If you want a puppy with the best chance of a healthy and happy life ahead of them, research the genetic problems within the breed and make sure you choose a breeder who health tests for hereditary problems diligently. If the breeder you have found doesn’t do this, then choose another breeder who does.
You will pay more upfront for a puppy from a health screened litter, but you will avoid the financial and emotional costs of your pup developing a preventable disease.
If you’re unsure what the results of a health test mean, give the dam and/or sire’s vet a call for advice.
Inherited problems with no health test
Unfortunately, genetic screening tests don’t exist for all conditions, and some problems are ingrained in some breeds. However, some problems can be detected from examining a dog physically, for example by looking at facial shape.
Fifty per cent of Cavalier King Charles spaniels have a heart murmur by the age of five, and brachycephalic dogs for example, including pugs, English bulldogs, French bulldogs, Boston terriers, have been bred to have flat faces, and as such suffer from breathing difficulties and other problems which can limit their ability to enjoy a happy doggy life. They are not the only ones to suffer. Even good breeders of dogs with such ingrained health problems will be unable to produce a truly healthy litter.
If you want a breed that suffers from genetic disease, be prepared for the high chance of costly vet bills, the fact that your dog could need one or more operations during their lifetime, and for additional care needed. We are seeing ever increasing numbers of flat-faced dogs for breed-related issues that require owners to take a lot of extra care of their pets, and we would seriously recommend reconsidering getting a puppy of these breeds.
Puppies that have been bred with no regard for their health are at risk of needing frequent trips to the vet and even operations throughout their lives.
Frank underwent an operation to widen his nostrils and airway before undergoing a 'face lift' to address his eye problems.
Read Frank's story.