Boston Terrier Health Testing
Although Boston Terriers are the BEST breed around (of course I may be just a tiny bit partial to them...), they, like all dogs, have health issues that are inherent in the breed or in the case of the designer mixed breeds a combination of inherited issues. The most prominent health concerns include deafness, eye disease, hemivertebrae, and luxating patella. Testing is imperative to make intelligent, informed breeding decisions. Testing will not guarantee that affected puppies will not be produced, but it will increase the chances for a healthy, sound puppy. It also gives the breeder accurate health information about their breeding dogs, so they are better equipped when deciding which dog to breed to which bitch and vice versa or perhaps to eliminate from a breeding program all together.
Reputable breeders not only test, but submit the results to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for certification and to be included in the associated databases so that statistics can be maintained and possible research instituted to reduce the chance of inheritance or develop better and new testing methods. You can search the OFFA database for most of the information, although the Spine Database is currently closed and not available for searches to the public. If a breeder says he/she tests, do not be shy about asking to see the test results, especially if you cannot locate the information online in the OFA database www.offa.org. Breed specific tests are more than just a "Health Check or Vet Check". Please do not fall prey to "breeders" using these terms to try and evaluate their puppies health or fitness. OFFA testing is done by specialist trained in each particular test and often requires extensive travel to have done.
BAER TESTING FOR DEAFNESS
Every dog should be tested for deafness by means of the Brain Auditory Evoked Response, or BAER, test. This test is best administered by a board certified neurologist or audiologist. A "regular" vet can perform the test, but I can speak from personal experience that many of these well-meaning vets have misread the results, which does no good to the breeder or new puppy owner, so I always use a specialist who has been specifically trained to use and read the results produced by the special equipment. This test need only be performed once in a lifetime as a dog is either hearing, bilaterally deaf (deaf in both ears), or unilaterally deaf (deaf in one ear) however dogs can lose their hearing from various types of medications and high fevers if your dog has displayed odd behaviour after an illness retesting may desired. All puppies should be tested prior to leaving for its new home and should be tested no earlier than 7 weeks of age. This is one of the relatively more expensive tests preformed $175-$200 per dog and travel is often required to find a testing facility we in Canada have a total of 5 testing sites.
CERF TESTING FOR GENETIC EYE DISEASE
In addition to the above testing, all breeding dogs and puppies produced should be Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) tested for numerous genetic eye diseases, and in particular, juvenile cataracts. Cataracts affect many Boston’s and can occur as early in life as just weeks of age, resulting in early blindness, to being clear until old age sets in and slow growing cataracts begin. Other genetic eye defects that seem to be fairly common in Boston’s include Persistent Papillary Membrane (PPM) and Distichiasis. The CERF test should be performed by a board certified veterinarian ophthalmologist EVERY YEAR for all Boston’s in order to establish a history of existing carriers and affected dogs. If you are able to find a club ran "clinic" typically held at local shows, CERF testing is also a very affordable test ranging from $40-$60 per dog.
DNA TESTING FOR JUVENILE CATARACTS
In addition to CERF testing, there is also a DNA test that can identify if your Boston is clear of the early onset Juvenile Cataract genes, is a carrier (has one of the two genes) or if he/she is affected (has both genes and WILL develop Juvenile Cataracts). This type of cataract is a "fast acting" cataract and if affected, the dog will likely be completely blind by two years of age. DNA swabs can be taken as early as 8 weeks of age on puppies and only needs to be done once in the dog's lifetime. DNA Testing is another very affordable test, $45.00 per test with the DNA clinics providing free swabs.
TESTING FOR PATELLAR LUXATION ("SLIPPING KNEES")
Luxating patellae, simply put, are knee caps that slip in and out of the socket area. There are grades of luxation, depending upon the severity. Puppies can be tested as early as 12 weeks, but the results cannot be "certified" by the OFA until they are at least one year of age, but breeders should still have a "pre-lim" performed before sending puppies to their new homes. This test can be performed by any experienced veterinarian and should be performed BI-ANNUALLY for all Boston’s in order to establish a history of which dogs have or produce dogs with this problem. Luxating patella is generally inherited unless it is due specifically to an injury, in which case, it will likely occur in only one knee rather than both. $50.00
X-RAYING FOR HIP DYSPLASIA
Hip dysplasia is not considered a problem in Boston’s at this time; however, I wonder if this is because very few breeders have x-rays taken and submitted to see if there are any problems. The reason I wonder this is that OFA has identified Legg-Calve-Perthese, another hip defect, as an issue in Boston’s. Also, I can't help but wonder if hips are negatively impacted when we continually breed for short backs. Based on the few Boston’s that have been x-rayed with results submitted to OFA for public access (less than 110 since 1976), only 5 have been given an "excellent" rating, with the majority of Boston’s obtaining "good" results, so perhaps it is not an issue. The x-rays can be taken by any experienced veterinarian and submitted to OFA for certification at 2 years of age or older, but preliminary x-rays can be taken as early as 12 months of age: however these will not be "certified". This is also a fairly expensive test to do ranging from $175-$325 depending on what area of the country you live in, insuring you find an experienced vet is of the utmost importance as exam placement can affect result reading abilities.
X-RAY FOR SPINE ADORMALITIES
This test is a new Pilot Project for OFFA meaning results are not currently being posted for the general public to see. The OFFA is currently studying 3 breeds, English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, and Boston Terriers. They are looking for such issues as Butterfly Disks, Fused Disks, Disk Degeneration, and hemivertebra. All these things can cause early arthritis, restricted movement, paralyse individuals, etc. We are happy to announce that we have tested all of our adult dogs over the age of 2 for the OFFA Pilot project database. $175-$200
With tracheal hypoplasia the trachea has a decreased luminal diameter resulting in breathing difficulties. The condition is common in Bulldog and non-Bulldog brachycephalic breeds.
The radiographic evaluation is performed on a lateral view of the cervical and thoracic trachea obtained with the patient awake and at peak inspiration. The evaluation consists of a subjective evaluation of tracheal size and uniformity by a board certified veterinary radiologist, and an objective evaluation based on the ratio (TLR) of the tracheal lumen diameter at the thoracic inlet to the width of the proximal third rib. $175-$200
Congenital Cardiac Disease
Congenital heart diseases in dogs are malformations of the heart or great vessels. The lesions characterizing congenital heart defects are present at birth and may develop more fully during perinatal and growth periods. Many congenital heart defects are thought to be genetically transmitted from parents to offspring; however, the exact modes of inheritance have not been precisely determined for all cardiovascular malformations. $50
Breeders should be submitting all results to the OFFA http://www.offa.org/index.html