Q. I am considering adopting an ex-breeding dog. What are some of the common health problems seen in them? What should the vet be checking during the first vet examination?
It’s great that you are considering welcoming an ex-breeding dog into your home. I have seen many pet owners form lasting bonds with these deserving dogs.
Generally, ex-breeding dogs are not more prone to specific medical conditions than other dogs.
Your dog should receive a thorough veterinary examination to assess her health status. It will also be a good time to discuss any specific concerns with your vet.
Due to their past environmental history and likely senior age, you should take note of the following:
Generally, the examination should also include assessment of the:
- teeth and gums for calculus and infection (periodontal disease)
- eyes for cataract
- heart for murmurs
- abdominal and external palpation for tumours or lumps
- joints for signs of arthritis
Unsterilised or sterilised late dog health problems
Female unsterilised dogs are at significant risk of developing a womb/uterine infection (pyometra). That’s when the womb fills with pus causing life-threatening infections throughout the body.
Besides that, the vet should check for breast tumours through a physical examination. They are more common in dogs that are not sterilised or sterilised later in life.
Male unsterilised dogs are at higher risk of developing certain prostate-related diseases. For example, prostate enlargement, inflammation, or infection, which may result in pain and difficulty with urination.
Those are some reasons why you should have your dog, regardless of gender, sterilised as soon as possible.
Senior dog health problems
If your dog is about 7 years or older, a thorough health assessment should include at least a complete:
- diagnostic blood panel to assess kidney and liver function
- blood count to check red and white blood cells and platelets
- urine analysis
If your dog is about 10 years or older, I also recommend diagnostic imaging (abdominal ultrasound and chest x-rays). That is to check for any changes in internal organ structure, such as tumours or lumps that may not be big enough to be detectable during a physical examination.
Gastrointestinal parasites and heartworm
Your dog should also undergo routine faecal or stool test for gastrointestinal parasites, and a blood test for heartworm.
Heartworm spreads via mosquitoes, and ex-breeding dogs that were living in high-density dog areas may be more prone to infection.
Even after your vet confirms your dog to be heartworm negative, it’s crucial for you to take prevention steps.
Dogs with even early signs of periodontal disease should undergo a dental comprehensive oral health and therapy (COHAT).
- full mouth physical examination and dental x-rays to fully assess the health of teeth and gums
- dental scaling and polishing
- treatment of any abnormal teeth that need further attention
This procedure should be done under general anaesthesia. To ensure the safety of your dog, be sure your vet conducts dedicated and intensive anaesthesia monitoring.
Dental health is important (but often neglected) because leaving tartar and calculus on the teeth only results in an infection that can spread via the bloodstream to other organs, such as the heart, kidneys, and liver.
It also leads to tooth decay, which results in pain that may not be noticeable until it is severe.
Do discuss your dog’s vaccination status with your vet.
You may be able to consider an antibody titer blood test to assess your dog’s immunity against core infectious diseases, such as parvovirus, hepatitis virus, and distemper viruses.
Dogs that still have immunity against these viruses do not need a vaccination booster.
However, your vet will still need to do a risk assessment to decide whether your dog requires vaccinations for other diseases, such as kennel cough and leptospirosis.