Health Screening: Essential Tests for Breeding Dogs

Jun 04, 2024By Forrest and Christa Helt
Forrest and Christa Helt

Introduction to Health Screening for Breeding Dogs

Breeding dogs is a serious responsibility that requires careful consideration of health and genetics. Ensuring that your breeding dogs undergo essential health screenings can help prevent the transmission of genetic disorders and promote the overall well-being of future generations. This blog post will guide you through the critical tests and procedures necessary for responsible dog breeding.

Genetic Testing

Genetic testing is one of the most crucial steps in health screening for breeding dogs. These tests can identify potential hereditary diseases and conditions that could be passed on to puppies. Common genetic tests include screenings for hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), and von Willebrand's disease. By identifying these conditions early, breeders can make informed decisions about breeding pairs.

genetic testing

Hip Dysplasia Screening

Hip dysplasia is a common genetic disorder that affects many dog breeds. It occurs when the hip joint doesn't develop properly, leading to arthritis and mobility issues. Screening for hip dysplasia typically involves X-rays evaluated by a veterinary radiologist. The results can help determine whether a dog is suitable for breeding.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) Testing

Progressive Retinal Atrophy is a group of genetic diseases that cause the retina to degenerate, leading to vision loss and eventual blindness. PRA testing involves a simple DNA test that can identify carriers of the disease. Breeding dogs that test positive for PRA can be excluded from breeding programs to prevent the spread of this condition.

Heart Health Evaluations

Heart health is another critical aspect of breeding dog health screenings. Certain breeds are prone to congenital heart defects, which can be inherited by their offspring. Cardiologists can perform various tests, such as echocardiograms and electrocardiograms (ECGs), to assess a dog's heart function and detect any abnormalities.

heart health


An echocardiogram is an ultrasound of the heart that provides detailed images of its structure and function. This test can help identify issues such as valve defects, heart murmurs, and other congenital abnormalities. Ensuring that breeding dogs have healthy hearts can significantly reduce the risk of passing on heart conditions to their puppies.

Electrocardiograms (ECGs)

ECGs measure the electrical activity of the heart and can detect irregular heartbeats or arrhythmias. This test is particularly important for breeds predisposed to heart conditions. Regular heart health evaluations can help maintain the overall health of breeding dogs and their offspring.

Orthopedic Evaluations

Orthopedic evaluations are essential for detecting skeletal and joint issues that could affect a dog's mobility and quality of life. In addition to hip dysplasia, other common orthopedic conditions include elbow dysplasia and patellar luxation. These evaluations often involve physical examinations and imaging tests such as X-rays and MRIs.

orthopedic evaluation

Elbow Dysplasia Screening

Elbow dysplasia is a genetic condition that affects the elbow joint, leading to pain and lameness. Screening for elbow dysplasia typically involves X-rays to assess the joint's structure. Identifying and excluding dogs with elbow dysplasia from breeding programs can help reduce the prevalence of this condition in future generations.

Patellar Luxation Testing

Patellar luxation occurs when the kneecap dislocates from its normal position, causing discomfort and mobility issues. This condition is common in small and toy breeds. Veterinary examinations and imaging tests can diagnose patellar luxation and determine its severity. Responsible breeders should ensure that dogs with this condition are not bred.


Health screening for breeding dogs is an essential practice that promotes the well-being of both the breeding dogs and their offspring. By conducting thorough genetic, heart, and orthopedic evaluations, breeders can make informed decisions that contribute to the overall health and longevity of future generations. Remember, responsible breeding starts with comprehensive health screenings.