When purchasing a puppy, most working/performance dog people know to make sure the pup's parents have passed health clearances that depend on the breed. But what if you have your eye on an adult dog to purchase? The dog appears like they can do the work and they have a nice pedigree. But are they a sound investment? Horse owners are used to do pre purchase exams on their prospective performance animals. Working dog owners should do the same. Here are some pre purchase examination recommendations. While these may cost you several hundred dollars up front, they may save you the same amount or more in headache and vet bills later on.
-Full physical exam: Your veterinarian will examine the dog head to tail to make sure something is not obviously wrong
-Radiographs (x-rays): Somewhat dependent on the breed, but all dogs should have their hips and elbows radiographed to make sure there are no issues. 50% of dogs with radiographic evidence of hip dysplasia show no obvious signs. This one is a biggie! What if the dog already had them done with a previous owner? It is not a bad idea to recheck to make sure there is not some other reason the dog might be unscrupulously being put up for sale
-Heartworm test: Heartworms are a major medical problem to fix and an expensive one. Dogs can also die from the treatment, so a simple test before will be very helpful. Many heartworm tests also test for tick borne diseases that can cause serious systemic disease, such as Lyme disease and Ehrlichia.
-Fecal test: Internal parasites such as roundworms can easily be spread into your home or kennel by a new introduction. They are also extremely difficult to remove from the environment once they establish themselves. It will also look for common causes of diarrhea, such as giardia and coccidia. Getting the prospective dog a fecal floation test as well as on monthly heartworm preventative (which also treats intestinal worms) is important not only for the dog, but your other dogs and even other people in the household since roundworms and hookworms can be transmitted to people.
These are some guidelines of things to ask your vet to investigate before agreeing to a sale. With certain breeds, other genetic testing or examination may need to be done. For example, German shepherds should be testing for degenerative myelopathy (a cheek swab test) and collie breeds should be given an opthalmic exam to look for diseases like progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). If a male dog is going to be purchased as a potential stud dog, make sure to also schedule a breeding soundness exam to ensure his semen is of good quality. While these tests involve more cost up front, they will save you money on a dud dog in the long run.