Health testing a dog for genetic diseases prior to breeding is an important step to ensure the health of the puppies. Unfortunately, not all breeders do this. This is especially a problem for breeders in the Philippines, where many of the tests are not available.
For serious breeders, though, distance is not a deterrent. Labs are offering their services internationally, and you can send over your dog’s DNA samples through mail. This was how I got my breeding stock cleared for MAC and myotonia. I usually handcarry a sample when I travel to the US, but have also sent swabs straight from Manila through Fedex. The results were then sent to me through email. (There is also a DNA test offered in Europe for PRA-B but I’ll discuss this in a future blog on eye testing, which you should do regularly if you own a mini schnauzer).
For non breeders and dog owners, going through these DNA tests is not necessary for as long as you have no plans to breed your dog. However, you would still want to know that your dog is clear from known genetic problems, at least by parentage.
This is why pedigrees are important. For those in the Philippines, those will be papers issued by the Philippine Canine Club (PCCI). I’ve seen so many social media posts questioning the importance of these papers. While I agree that papers are no guarantee of a dog’s health, temperament, and dog show potential, they can also be a treasure trove of information regarding your dog, especially if you make an effort to find out about each ancestor of your dog.
Don’t think that this is limited to imported dogs. Let me use our locally acquired dogs Neptune and Kasper as examples. I was able to personally check out many of their relatives going back five generations, allowing me to know the illnesses they had and how long they lived (in addition to their structure and dispositions). Their lines went back to popular lines in North America, and the breeders of these ancestors were very honest with me. This allowed me to anticipate possible diseases in my dogs.
One caveat though. DNA tests will let you know about diseases that are known. However, there are many diseases that do not have tests. While my dogs are DNA clear for MAC and myotonia, I have no guarantees they won’t get cancer, stones, pancreatitis, and other diseases which may or may not have a genetic component.
While there are no real guarantees when it comes to health, being knowledgeable about your dog’s family history will definitely be helpful. Just as your family doctor asks about your parents’ health and illnesses, so should you know as much as you can about your dog’s family tree so that you can anticipate his health needs, especially as he ages.
I also cannot overemphasize the importance of wellness checks at least twice a year. This would allow you to act quickly on brewing health issues before they cause any further damage to your dog’s health.