Health testing: a guide for Norwich puppy buyers

Many breeders say that they health test their breeding stock. As a puppy buyer, you should feel free to ask about health tests performed on both parents, plus ask to see verification that the tests were performed.

Here we list the health tests routinely performed on breeding stock in (and used by) the Shaksper Norwich kennel.

1. CHIC number

The Norwich Terrier Club of America (NTCA) - the AKC parent club with responsibility for all things related to Norwich terriers - recommends several health tests (hips, eye exam, patellas) for Norwich used for breeding. Norwich that have had all these tests done are assigned a Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) number. The easiest way to see if a dog has a CHIC number is to go to the web site of the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), look up the dog, and see if the initials "CHIC" appears next to the dog's name.

Even if the puppy comes from a big show-winning kennel, make sure that both parents have a CHIC number. At the 2016 Norwich national specialty, only 57 percent of the dogs entered had parents both of whom had a CHIC number (or the dog itself had a CHIC number).

Some breeders claim that they test for hips, eyes, and patellas, but do not send in the results to be recorded. Verification that the tests were actually done on both parents becomes even more important in such situations. It is unfortunate that some breeders do not care enough about the breed to share and record such test results.

The latest statistics (as of Dec 2016) from OFA are:

2. PLL DNA test

PLL stands for "primary lens luxation" - a hereditary eye disease for which there exists a simple (cheek swab), inexpensive DNA test. PLL can cause a dog to go blind; more information is available here. Responsible breeders perform genetic tests on their breeding stock. Currently the NTCA health committee lists PLL testing as an "optional" recommended test.

You can verify the PLL status of a dog by going to the web site of the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and looking up the dog. Alternately (especially if the dog is "PPL-clear by descent") you can verify PLL-status by going to this Norwich Pedigree Database and clicking on "Show PLL status". (To be "PLL-clear by descent" means that both parents are PLL-clear, and so the puppy is PLL-clear.)

At the 2016 Norwich national specialty, the PLL status was known for only 26 percent of the Norwich entered.

3. DM DNA test

DM stands for "degenerative myelopathy" - a genetic disease causing paralysis in older dogs beginning in the hind legs and progressing to the inability to walk. A simple, inexpensive DNA test exists for DM. Responsible breeders perform genetic tests on their breeding stock. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) recommends DNA testing for DM for all breeds. More information about degenerative myelopathy is available here.

4. Brucellosis blood test

Brucellosis is a bacterial disease that is transmissible to humans. It should be tested for prior to every breeding.

5. von Willebrands blood test

Von Willebrand disease (vWD) is an inherited bleeding (coagulation) disorder that exists in the Norwich terrier genome. Unfortunately none of the currently available DNA tests for vWD identify the mutation that causes vWD in Norwich.

6. Bile acid test

Liver shunt is a known problem in Norwich terriers (actually in all terriers). A bile acid test is the only known way to diagnose a liver shunt. While most liver shunt dogs are identified as puppies, some grow up and are bred. Performing the bile acid test on breeding stock eliminates the possibility that a parent has a liver shunt, thus reducing the probability that puppies will have a liver shunt.

Last updated 20170310.