Health should always be a primary concern of responsible Great Dane breeders and buyers. Ensuring that proper health screening practices are provided by the breeder for your new Great Dane puppy is paramount, not only for the health and long life on your dog, but for the eradication of certain health conditions and genetic flaws that contribute to a lessened breeding stock for the future.
Like most purebreds, Great Danes are susceptible to over 68 known diseases - some can be quite threatening, while others are tolerable and the dog can still lead a happy and healthy life. The key to being able to combat any disease is in early detection.
Your chosen breeder should be able to provide proof of certain health screening tests in their puppies prior to their sale, helping to alleviate concerns and promote confidence in the buyer that the dog will live the healthiest and longest life possible.
If your breeder responds to your health screening questions with responses like: ‘I’d know if my dogs have hip dysplasia by now,’ or ‘I don’t need to helath check, my dogs are perfectly healthy,’ you should walk away. A reputable breeder will happily divulge the details of a comprehensive health screening process for each litter and adult breeding stock should you ask for them.
A few crucial health tests that your breeder should be able to prove are as follows:
A hip dysplasia screening process conducted by a group of radiologists known as the Orthopedic Foundation of Animals. These are reviews to confirm the condition and its potential progression, and to rate the dog’s hips as either normal (no dysplasia detected), good/fair, or excellent.
If successful, the OFA will certify these x-rays. Typically, these tests are completed on breeding stock, not puppies, as the test only certifies the hips of dogs that are 2-years or older.
An alternative to screen for hip dysplasia that are scanned electronically to compensate for the potential for human error or oversight. Penn-Hip certifications can be conducted on puppies as young as 6-months old, and some breeders will go the extra mile and have the dog’s elbows and knees tested as well.
Von Willebrands Disease
Similar to the human condition of Hemophilia, Von Willebrands disease is a blood disorder that increases the likelihood of blood clotting time. Common in Doberman Pinschers, it’s been diagnosed in Great Danes as well. A simple blood test will confirm the presence of the disease.
The Canine Eye Registration Foundation requires annual vet eye exams, and ensures that the dogs yes are free of disease and congenital problems. Some of the more common eye disorders and diseases in Great Danes are juvenile cataracts, which can appear before two years of age and can lead to eventual blindness.
Eyelid abnormalities like ectropion and entropion (inward and outward turning of the eyelids which causes discomfort and a reduction in ocular function), cherry eye - a visible cherry-sized red lump that sits on the inside of the eyelid, and glaucoma should also be screened for in dogs as young as 6-24 months.
Cardiac Screening / Cardiomyopathy
Dilated Cardiomyopathy, otherwise known as an Enlarged Heart, is difficult to screen for, but is a disease commonly found in some Great Danes. It causes progressive loss of heart muscle function and irregular beating, causing the heart to become thin-walled and dilated. Because of irregular heart pumping, complications can include inadequate blood circulation and a buildup of fluid in the lungs.
There is no genetic test for cardiomyopathy, but the disease can be detected through electrocardiographic monitoring. A murmur can be a sign of early detection. This is important to check for in breeding stock, as the disease can be perpetuated by breeding from affected dogs.
Typically inherited, hypothyroidism affects the dog’s immune system as a result of the thyroid gland not producing enough hormones to keep up to the metabolism of such a large dog breed. Detectable by a simple blood test, it’s a manageable disease through thyroid replacement therapy that usually remains a constant throughout your dog’s lifespan.
A canine disease caused by pressure to the dog’s neck and spinal cord, this is caused by a combination of nutrition and genetics. Symptoms can occur within the first 18 months of life, and can often manifest as coordination problems in the rear legs.
Health Screening Documentation
Like anything, anyone can say that they’ve completed a slew of health screening tests and their dogs have passed with flying colours. If a breeder shows hesitation in showing you proof of these tests, or outright cannot provide proof, proceed with great caution.
It’s important as a buyer to insist on these tests to ensure that your particular puppy lives a long and happy life, in turn alleviating you from the added emotional stress and financial constraints of dealing with complicated genetic diseases, but also for the success of the breed as a whole. Perpetuating and overbreeding of less-than-perfect stock only demeans the majesty of the Great Dane breed, weakening the stock and increasing the likelihood of more diseases becoming issues in the future.
Responsible pet ownership begins with the communication and mutual respect of both breeder and buyer to ensure that ethical practices are followed.
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