There is a lot of talk about health testing. As a Veterinary Technician and prior to creating a breeding program, specifically for service dogs, I did a lot of research on this subject. What I have found is with all of the talk, there is very little really being done. I try to stay current as new information comes available as well.
The first thing I want to point out, if you go to the OFA website and look specifically under poodles, is the number or lack of numbers actually tested for each of the conditions listed. https://www.ofa.org/diseases/breed-statistics#detail <https://www.ofa.org/diseases/breed-statistics> In AKC alone, there are approximately 9,000 Poodle litters registered each year. Then multiply that by 8, the average litter size, that comes to about 56,000 poodles born every year just under the AKC registry. The hip test has the largest representation. It appears this number of 27,040 poodle hips tested, includes dogs from 1990 to 2015. That comes to just over 1,000 dogs a year. This is a very poor representation of the breed. Other tests are even less representative, Cardiac 3,112, Neonatal Encephalopathy 1,131, NEWS 878, Progressive Retinal Atrophy 1,286, Sebaceous Adenitis 5,883, Thyroid 4,243, vonWillebrands 1,671. Other tests may only include 1 or 2 dogs. These test results are then used by the Poodle Health Registry.
“Poodles” include Toys, Miniatures and Standards. This does not give a proper representation of Standard Poodle health. Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease for example, according to PetMed, is commonly seen in miniature, toy, and small-breed dogs. So this condition is not likely to include any standard poodles. With the increased popularity of a breed comes a flood of poor breeding practices for profit. Fortunately the Standard Poodles are not as easy to house. They do not fit well into little cages. Because of their size and grooming needs, they have not had the surge of popularity as the Toy and Miniature Poodles for pet breeding programs.
Standard Poodles amazing characteristics have pretty much gone unnoticed through the years. Most people still see them as a foofy, prancy and a good for nothing dog. Anyone that has been around or owned a Standard Poodle knows better. They are nothing like their little cousins. They are hard-working, intelligent, trainable, athletic and very intuitive dogs. The dedicated people that have kept the Standard Poodle breed alive, have done it with diligent care and consideration. My foundation dogs came from long time breeders with decades of experience and very long lines of healthy dogs.
As I stated earlier, the numbers are not a fair representation. As a vet tech I am aware of the rules regarding OFA. They charge a fee for reading the radiographs, but if you don’t like the results, you don’t have to list them. That means that mostly positive results show up. On the other side, people with dogs that have medical problems are very likely to post that with OFA to get back at the breeder, regardless of the cause. So Many medical conditions, even those with a genetic component often have other potential causes as well.
The SV in Germany (the German Shepherd Dog Club of Germany) has proven that genetics is only responsible for about 25% of the bad hips in dogs. This means that 70% to 75% of the bad hips are caused by environmental issues. Puppies starting out with good hips may become malnourished or overweight, exercised too young or not exercised enough, injury can also cause bad hips. It is not uncommon to have difficulty finding a Veterinary clinic that knows how to correctly X-ray poodle hips. You may find it interesting that bad radiographs can make good hips look bad, good radiographs cannot make bad hips look good. <http://leerburg.com/hipart.htm>
Even though there may be a genetic component, conditions like Sebaceous Adenitis have no pre-test. Some breeders claim to test with a punch biopsy once a year. Unless there is at least a pimple you are simply cutting holes and leaving scars in healthy skin. Thyroid conditions only show up on tests after the dog is symptomatic as well. Addison's can be caused by an autoimmune disorder or stopping corticosteroids suddenly. Cushing's is the opposite of Addison's, an excess of hormones from the adrenal glands. Tumors can cause either of these diseases and there is no pre-test.
Also, people commonly misuse the information that is available. An example would be a healthy stud that has sired literally hundreds to thousands of puppies, obviously with a multitude of females over the years, if he has one listing for an offspring with any health problems, suddenly he is a bad risk. I would say he is a pretty good risk, maybe mom was the bad risk.
Heritage Service Dogs was created to help people raise and train their own service dog for a fraction of the cost of a typical service dog program. We breed Standard Poodles specifically for service work. It is our goal to provide consistent health, temperament, structure and intuitive nature to better serve those with disabilities.
Our dogs came from long lines of physically, structurally and emotionally sound Standard Poodles. All of our lines are genetically tested and cleared of conditions that are testable. Once the line is cleared, it is not necessary to test the offspring, ever. Our breeding dogs receive appropriate exams and health care.
I do not apologize for using cost effective methods to keeps the price down for our clients. Just as providing unhealthy dogs would be a disservice to them. Having to raise our prices to meet the whims of a few would only make it more difficult for our clients to receive the services we provide.
Unlike typical breeders, we work closely with our clients for the first year and maintain contact as long as possible. We maintain records of temperament, size, health and longevity. It is an exciting research opportunity as well as helping guide our breeding program.
I have been very pleased with the decision to use Standard Poodles for this work. They have far exceeded my expectations in every aspect of Service dog work.
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