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What Health Tests Should I Look For?

Updated: Nov 30, 2023

RightPaw encourages all our breeders to conduct health testing and to conduct as many tests as possible. As a potential puppy owner considering different breeders, we recommend you compare the different health tests they conduct to help you choose the right match for you.

We separate out health tests into ‘Core Tests’ and ‘Additional Tests’. Core tests are the most important test for that breed and we strongly encourage breeders to do these. They may be selected as core tests because the disease is a common problem in the breed, or because the disease is particularly dangerous, even if it is rare. Additional tests include all the other tests available for this breed currently and breeders will vary in how many of these they conduct.

Ideally, pick a breeder who conducts most of the health tests for their breed. If you have a breeder you like but they don’t do any health tests, you can discuss this with them and ask for their thoughts on testing in their breed. There are a few rare breeds that don’t currently have any core tests listed. This is because there is currently no consensus in the veterinary and breeding community about which tests are prudent for these dogs. All breeders listed on RightPaw are high quality, ethical breeders, but we hope that over time every one of them will start to conduct an increasing number of health tests to safeguard the health of their puppies even more.

sample vials on a tray

Why are some tests more important than others?

Some of the ‘Additional Tests’ include diseases that are less severe, or less likely to occur, than others.

  • ‘Low penetrance genes’ are genes which sometimes cause the animal who has inherited them to show signs of the disease. Sometimes animals might have two copies of an affected gene but still never develop the disease itself. The cause of diseases like this are complex, and whilst a genetic test is useful, having an ‘affected’ animal genetically does not guarantee they will be condemned to the disease.

  • Some diseases are simply not as severe as others. Some diseases, such as Degenerative Myelopathy, only affect older animals, with signs that start out mild, and tend to progress slowly. Where affected animals can still enjoy a good quality of life the tests are generally listed as ‘Additional Tests’.

  • Some diseases are very rare and may not even be present in Australian breeding lines. It is best practice for breeders to screen their dogs for these anyway, especially if they breed using imported dogs from other countries, but they are not an essential test so will be listed as ‘Additional Tests’.

  • Most genetic diseases in dogs are caused by recessive genes, which means both parents must be carrying a copy of the affected gene in order to pass the disease on to the offspring. Since many recessive genes are specific to certain breeds, this means many diseases are far less likely to occur in cross-bred puppies who are a mix of two different breeds. We still recommend breeders test their parent dogs for all the diseases found in the parent breed, but most tests will be listed as ‘Additional Tests’ if the puppies are cross-bred.

To learn more about the most common core test, hip dysplasia, click here.

To learn a bit more about genetics and understand the difference between a ‘carrier’ parent and an ‘affected’ puppy, click here.


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