Tuesday, May 28, 2013

How to Verify a Mastiff Comes From Health Tested Lines

The Mastiff breed as a whole is prone to numerous genetic health issues, the following of which can be tested for in breeding dogs to help ensure that these genetic problems are not passes on to the next generation:
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Elbow Dysplasia
  • Patella
  • Cardiac
  • Thyroid
  • vonWillebrands
  • Degenerative Melopathy
  • Cystinuria
  • Canine Multi-focal Retinopathy (CMR)
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
  • CERF 
Of these tests some are DNA tests, meaning that if both parents of a litter are DNA clear then there is a 0% chance that any off the offspring between this pairing will have the gene for the disorder.  These DNA testable issues are; PRA, CMR and Degenerative Melopathy.  Recently a DNA marker for Cystinuria has been located and there is now a DNA test for the marker, but even if your Mastiff tests clear for the marker there is a slim chance they can express the disease.  Hopefully research in the next few years will isolate the genes for the other types of Cystinuria so we can have a 100% yes or no answer on the disease. 

Some disorders are polygenic, meaning that they are a mix of genetics, environment, diet, etc. While the genetic factor in these issues is a huge part of the determination of whether a puppy will be affected by the issue, other factors do play a part.  These testable issues include hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, patella’s (knees), cardiac or heart, eyes and thyroid.   

So how do you verify if a Mastiff has had the appropriate health testing?  There is a wonderful little thing called the OFA (orthopedic foundation for animals).  Every test can be traced through the OFA if the breeder elected to do so when the test was performed.  If they elected not to make sure that the breeder provides proof that the test was completed and what the result was. 

Here is an example of the paper proof that a breeder might provide to prove the testing was done on a specific dog:

To look up a dog on OFA’s website direct your browser to www.offa.org.  On the left hand side of the screen there is a quick lookup bar.  Type the dogs AKC # or part of the name into the bar and hit search.

The dogs in the OFA database matching your search entry will show up. Click the dog you are interested in health testing information on.
You will be directed to the page for this specific dog.  You can also see relatives of the dogs listed below and their relationship.  This makes it easy to verify multiple generations of health testing.
While every breeders contract will be just a little bit different, it is important to make sure that a health guarantee is in place.  I recommend a guarantee on genetic issues that lasts for a minimum of 26 months, this gives 2 full months after the puppy turns 2 years to complete the health testing. Here is an excerpt of the health guarantee in my puppy contract.
“The following conditions apply unless the Mastiff becomes dysplastic due to an injury, incorrect diet, or obesity. Gryphon Mastiffs guarantees this puppy against genetic hip and or elbow dysplasia for 26 months.  At 24 months he/she can have his/her hips and elbows rated by OFA to clear them of dysplasia.  As part of this guarantee, Buyer agrees to have OFA hip and elbow rating done on the stated Mastiff no later than two years and two months of age.”

In closing, it is important to remember that regardless of written guarantees, no breeder can 100% guarantee you won’t have some issue pop up with your puppy, nutrition and environment play just as important a role in the puppy's health as genetics do. A reputable breeder will be there to offer guidance and suggestions as well as an empathetic ear for the life of the puppy.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Mastiff Breeder Lists - Locating a Mastiff Breeder

One of the biggest things I get asked and I see asked on message boards and facebook groups is “Where can I find a list of reputable Mastiff breeders.”  I’ll tell you that there is no magic list of these breeders, it is going to take a little time on your part in finding what you are comfortable with in a breeder and lifelong support line.  There are a few places to start though.

1.      Devine Farm (http://devinefarm.net/): This webpage was put together by a long time Mastiff breeder.  It contains tons of articles and info on Mastiffs, health, breeding, training and so much more.  All the information was provided by those involved in the Mastiff fancy, many being long time, experienced Mastiff breeders.  There is  a specific page that lists upcoming litter announcements as well as a stud dog listing.  I always recommend that people start their search on this webpage.

2.      Mastiffs.org (http://mastiffs.org/): This webpage and database was put together by Goldleaf Mastiffs, who have been in the Mastiff breed for a very long time.  They maintain a message board and forum where you can ask questions, a stud dog listing, there is a litter announcement section on their forum, and last but certainly not least there is a very nice listing of Mastiff breeders, some of which it even indicates whether or not the specific breeder does testing on their breeding stock.  Last time I was on this site some of the links to the breeder webpages were broken, but a fair number are still active and it’s a great resource.

3.      The MCOA breeder referral list: The Mastiff Club of America will send you a listing of their member breeders to begin your search.  The list does cost a few dollars to mail, and I have heard from some that it is not that great of a resource, but if you are wanting all the options available to choose the best possible puppy it is an option to research into.

4.      Finally, there are several Mastiff forums I recommend checking out.  All have a plethora of information regarding everything Mastiff.  These places are great to network with other Mastiff owners and breeders and ask for advice and referrals onto breeders.  Several of the forums I am active in are The World Mastiff Forum (http://www.worldmastiffforum.com/), Mastiff Forum (http://www.mastiff-forum.com/), Mastiff Online Community (http://www.mastiffonlinecommunity.net/), and Mastiff Chat (http://www.mastiffchat.com/). 

One tip I have when contacting a breeder is to call them.  So many people what to email or contact through a webpage, but in all honesty a lot of breeders have webpages, but don’t update them regularly and sometimes those email links get broken or emails don’t get checked.  If you really are interested in a puppy from someone pick up the phone and talk directly to the person. 
In closing, remember that you as a puppy buyer retain the sole responsibility of verifying all health testing has been completed on the breeding stock of a breeder.  These lists and resources are simply a jumping off point to begin your search.