Lots of breeders offer a puppy health guarantee but what does actually mean and what happens when your puppy gets sick?
Usually, a puppy health guarantee only covers genetic diseases and even then most of the time you’ll have to sign a detailed document that highlights which genetic diseases are covered (up until what severity) and which are not.
Now, let’s look at an example of a health guarantee to better understand the health guarantee.
How Can They Even Guarantee anything?
The “trick” is that they don’t guarantee that your puppy will never get sick. Breeders that have a health guarantee test all their parent dogs for genetic diseases.
The parent dogs will then be categorized. They can either be clear, a carrier or a double carrier. Clear means that they don’t have any signs of the genetic markers, a carrier means that they have the genetic marker but they are not affected by the disease and a double carrier means that they are affected by the disease.
Most breeders test their adult dogs with Pawprint genetics and don’t use a double carrier dog (that will be affected) to make puppies, regardless of the results of the other dog.
This is the way genetic defects could be passed on to the puppies:
|Mum||Dad||Genetics of Puppy|
|Genetic Results 1||Clear||Clear||Clear|
|Genetic Results 2||Carrier||Clear||1/2 the Puppies will be a |
|Genetic Results 3||Carrier||Carrier||1/4 of the puppies will |
|Genetic Results 4||Affected||Clear||1/2 of the puppies will be|
|Genetic Results 5||Affected||Carrier||3/4 of the puppies will be |
|Genetic Results 6||Affected||Affected||All of them will be affected.|
Most breeders will only use dogs that are tested clear and ones that are only a carrier but will never be affected by the disease.
Dogs that are carriers will and should never be crossed with other carriers but they can be crossed with clear tested dogs, as some of the resulting pups can be carriers but they will never develop the disease.
What Could They Test For?
They have hundreds of diseases that they can test for, some specific to a breed and others that are tested on all dogs.
For example, for poodles, this could be Degenerative Myelopathy, GM2 Gangliosidosis (Poodle Type), Osteochondrodysplasia, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Progressive Rod-Cone Degeneration, Von Willebrand Disease I.
Yes, I know that’s super confusing so here the understandable version of the above.
- Degenerative Myelopathy– Disease that affects the spinal cord of older dogs and can lead to paralysis. Typically seen at ages 8-14 years.
- GM2 Gangliosidosis– A group of three different genetic diseases that all have the same outcome, accumulation of fat cells (and others) in the brain that can lead to death.
- Osteochondrodysplasia– Different developmental disorders affecting the skeletal system and can lead to disproportionate dwarfism (for example really short legs on a golden retriever)
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy– Loss of vision that can result in blindness.
- Progressive Rod-Cone Degeneration– Disease of the eye where dogs will see worse at night and be sensitive to bright light during the day.
- Von Willebrand Disease I– A bleeding disorder where the dog is missing or has defective blood clotting and can theoretically bleed on forever as the wound wouldn’t close on its own. It’s very dangerous if your dog needs to undergo an operation.
These are of course just a few examples of what they could test for but breeders can also decide which diseases they want tested for.
The Advantages Of The Guarantee
You really shouldn’t buy from a breeder that hasn’t undergone DNA tests for their parent dogs to check for these genetic diseases because even if they are cheaper, you could (and often will) have to pay way more expensive medical bills later on.
Not only will that cost a small fortune, but it also means countless doctor visits and you’re constantly going to worry about your dog.
Better to know in advance what all the things are that the breeder tested for!
Now, you may think that some of these diseases only show up when your dog is 8 years old and by then the health guarantee won’t be valid anymore, what should I do?
The breeder has tested their parent dogs for these diseases meaning that even when the guarantee isn’t valid anymore, your dog is still going to be in the clear.
The Tiny(!) Downside
The only tiny bit annoying thing about health guarantees like this is that some breeders don’t just have a “whatever genetic disease the puppy develops within the first two years of his life” kind of guarantee.
They can have very specific guidelines where they state that the puppy needs to have developed one of these following genetic disease (ex. Von Willebrand Disease I), that needs to have shown in this timeframe (ex. first two years), needs to have a specific severity (ex. the clotting protein is defective) and lastly needs to be proven by a vet.
Now, your pup might have a genetic disease that was also tested for but not have a high enough severity for the Health Guarantee to take effect which can be frustrating but let’s hope that that’s not going to happen.
What If My Puppy Is Affected?
If it turns out that your puppy has a genetic disease that is listed on the health guarantee and is within the time frame, then they are a few things most breeders will offer you.
You can either get a full (or partial) refund, get a replacement puppy of equal value or give the puppy back to them but honestly, the only real option is a refund, right?
Who would give their little monster away after a year of bonding together? (If your answer is yes, are you a monster?!)
I personally could never give my puppy away but I understand if you would need to for financial reasons. Your puppy might need expensive surgery that you can’t afford but even then you could ask the breeder to cover those costs because if they took the puppy back they’d have to pay for the surgery themselves anyway.
When you sign the health guarantee contract it’s not only about the responsibilities that the breeder has but it’s also about your obligations to take care of the puppy.
These things could include but are not limited to:
- Going on regular vet check-ups for your puppy
- Getting all the current vaccinations in the right timeframes
- Giving enough food (and the right food)
- To call/go to the vet when your puppy is sick or acting differently
- Getting your puppy enough daily exercise and socialization
Often the contract can also include a spay/neuter clause which says that you have to de-sex your dog at the appropriate time or never have puppies with him/her.
Of course, there will and can be special cases and you can discuss this clause with the breeder if you’re planning to breed yourself or maybe just have one litter for the experience.
You should definitely make sure that your breeder of choice has a health guarantee because that means that they also do genetic testing on their parent dogs.
This will save you a lot of money and time later on because you can be sure that your puppy is free of these genetic diseases.