How to select a Healthy Puppy?
The best time to acquire a puppy – is between the ages of 8 to 12 weeks. By this age, a puppy has already received the first experience of socialization, his first series of vaccinations, should be weaned from the mother and accustomed to solid food. The breeder, by this time is commonly able to conclude whether the puppy is more suitable for show or for further breeding. But keep in mind that selecting a future champion after 8 weeks of age is a big problem, even for breeders with substantial experience.
Most puppies have a healthy look at first glance, but upon closer inspection, some puppies make more attractive than others. Take your time and examine each puppy from head to tail until the final decision.
Start with the head inspection. The nose should be cool and moist. Runny nose or frequent sneezing - are the signs of poor health. Brachycephalic breeds (with a short snout), such as Pekingese or Pugs, often have nostrils that are getting closed when the dogs inhale. This is inappropriate trend.
Check the puppy for occlusion. The correct occlusion for most breeds is of scissor type when the upper incisors slightly overlapping the lower ones. An even occlusion, when the incisors meet each other edge to edge, is equally acceptable for most breeds.
The gums should be pink with a healthy appearance. Pale gums may involve anemia, the possible result of intestinal parasites.
Palpate a soft spot in the frontal part of the skull. If it is present, then the fontanel is open. This is not desirable. The toy breeds open fontanel may be associated with hydrocephalus.
The eyes must be clear and bright. If you see clumps of tear on the face, examine eyelids (they may be bent inward or outward), for the presence of additional eyelids eyelashes, or conjunctivitis. The pupils should be dark, without any visible lines or white spots, which may characterize a congenital cataract or saved fetal membranes. The nictitating membrane (third eyelid) can sometimes be visible. This should not be interpreted as a sign of disease, if it is not swollen or inflamed.
The ears should stand right for the breed, though in some breeds such as German Shepherds, their ears may not stand fully upright until 4 - 6 months of age. The tips of the ears should be healthy and well-haired. Crusty tips with bare areas indicate skin diseases, similar to sarcoptic mange. The ear canals should be clean and nice smelling. Accumulation of ear wax with a rancid odor can be caused by ear mites. Constant head shaking and increased sensitivity of the ear zone indicates an infection of the auditory meatus.
Feel the chest with your hand’s palm, to determine whether the heart is beating strong. This could indicate a congenital heart disease. The puppy should breathe in and out effortlessly. A flat chest that, seems, does not rise, accompanied by heavy breathing indicates an airway obstruction. This is the most typical in the brachycephalic breeds - Pugs, Boston Terriers, and Pekingeses.
A healthy coat is always bright and shiny, has the right shade and coloration for the breed. In long-haired breeds, their fur may be fluffy and soft, without any shine. Excessive scratching and inflamed skin area suggest the presence of fleas, mites, or other skin parasites. Areas of hair loss, like moth-eaten are typical for scabies and ringworm.
Further, let’s check the puppy for soundness and the correct structure. The legs should be straight, well-formed. Disadvantages of structure include legs, curved inwards or outwards, weak pastern bones (the region between the wrist and the foot), flat feet with stretched toes, and feet of the hind legs with toes, turned inside. Inherited diseases of bones and joints that may be present in puppies younger than 4 months (but usually poorly discernible during the puppies inspection) are canine hip dysplasia and patella dislocation. Certification of the puppy’s parents by such organizations as the OFA (Orthopedic Foundation of Animals), PennHIP (method of estimating of the Hip Integrity in Dogs) or GDC (Institute of Genetic Control of Animal Diseases) is highly desirable in the breeds with a high incidence of such diseases.
Puppy’s gait should be loose and smooth. A lameness or faltering gait may simply be the result of stretching or wounded paw. However hip dysplasia or patella dislocation should be identified and eliminated. Dislocations can be studied in this age, but this should be done only by experienced breeder or veterinarian.
Some breeds of dogs (and hybrids) can be susceptible to hereditary diseases. Of course, you want to make sure that your chosen dog has not inherited any unwanted disease-causing genes from its parents.
There are DNA tests to identify diseases in purebred dogs that are available under certain conditions for some breeds. There are also a number of clinical veterinary screening schemes for dog owners to increase the likelihood of healthy puppies’ production.