You will often hear that you should have your beardie tested,
but which tests? Here I will attempt to explain which tests
should be done on beardies and when.
These tests should obviously
be run for all dogs that you are planning to breed, or breed
to, but there is a lot to be said for running them for pet
dogs to find out what your line is producing, so where there
is an *, I would consider this test essential for a
performance dog to ensure that you are not asking for physical
effort beyond the dog’s capacity.
Hips *: Hip dysplasia can be
crippling in some dogs and require early euthanasia or hip
replacement to resolve. While performance dogs may develop
sufficient muscling to allow them to perform with mild or
borderline dysplastic hips, the added stress may increase
their risk of arthritis and lameness later. Hip dysplasia is
not a single disease, and at least 10 different areas are
In the US, the Orthopedic
Foundation for Animals (OFA) is most commonly used.
Preliminary results can be obtained for animals under 2 years,
but all animals 2 years and older should have a permanent hip
score. Scores of Excellent, Good and Fair are issued for dogs
deemed to have acceptable hip conformation; mild, moderate and
severe for dysplastic hips, and borderline for hips that
should be re-evaluated in 6 months.
PennHIP ( University of
Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program) is another method for
evaluating hips. As well as the hip extended X-ray view, two
other views - distraction and compression – are evaluated.
The report issued measures joint laxity, congruity and
evidence of Degenerative Joint Disease. PennHIP X-rays taken
at 6 months are predictive of adult hip conformation; however,
few beardies have been evaluated by PennHIP, and heritability
has not been determined for the breed.
Other hip evaluations done
elsewhere in the world resemble those done by OFA. In Canada,
the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) deems hips pass or fail.
A comparison of scoring by the FCI ( Europe), BVA ( UK and
Australia) and SV ( Germany) will be found at the BCCA
Note: Bitches should not be
evaluated when they are in season or within 10 weeks of their
Elbows * Elbow dysplasia is
even more devastating for performance dogs than hip dysplasia.
Because there is limited musculature the body cannot
compensate for poor structure. Elbows are assessed by OFA.
X-rays should be taken in sedated dogs to ensure that the
elbow is fully flexed as, unlike with hip evaluation, poor
positioning (incomplete flexion of the joint due to muscular
resistance from the dog) will be mistaken for dysplasia by the
radiologist. Elbows are rated normal, or Grade I, II or III
dysplastic. Elbow dysplasia, like hip dysplasia, is a blanket
term and covers three distinct disease processes – ununited
anconeal process, osteochondrosis and fragmented medial
coronoid process –the last being the most common.
Eyes: In the United States,
the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) compiles data
gathered by board certified veterinary ophthalmologists. Even
if you do not choose to apply for a CERF certificate for your
dog, or your dog fails the CERF test, the data collected will
be submitted to CERF. Heritable eye problems can occur later
in life, and it is recommended that dog’s eyes be tested
annually until age 7 or as long as the dog is being used for
breeding. Cataracts of various kinds and retinal dysplasia are
the most common problems in beardies.
Thyroid *: Healthy thyroid
levels are essential for normal functioning of all body
tissues including the mind. Behavioral problems are often the
first indication there are thyroid problems. Autoimmune
thyroiditis is also predictive for other autoimmune diseases
developing. Like eye diseases, thyroid problems can occur at
any age, and testing annually or bi-annually for the life of
the dog is recommended. A simple Total T4 test will not give
sufficient information about your dog’s thyroid health.
Two-thirds of the thyroid will be afunctional before TT4 falls
below most lab’s normal. The OFA thyroid test measures free
T4 by equilibrium dialysis, canine thyroid stimulating hormone
and thyroglobulin autoantibodies. Also acceptable is a thyroid
panel including Total T4 and T3 levels, free T4 and T3 levels,
and levels of T4 and T3 autoantibodies. For reproductively
active dogs, performance dogs and especially young dogs, the
first 4 levels should be in the upper 75% of lab normals.
Von Willebrand’s Factor: Von
Willebrand’s disease is a bleeding disorder which has
occurred in the breed. It is only necessary to test the von
Willebrand’s factor once. This information is especially
useful if your dog ever has surgery, and some beardies have
bled to death on the operating table.
Before Breeding: Brucellosis
tests should be run on bitches several weeks prior to breeding
and on stud dogs at least twice a year. Fortunately, this
disease is rare in most of the United States, but it causes
infertility, abortions, as well as arthritis, disc disease,
fever, hind limb weakness, lethargy and swelling of the lymph
nodes. Once a dog has brucellosis it is infected for life and
can pass the disease to other dogs.
Taking your beardie to the vet
once a year is no longer about getting vaccines, it is about
thoroughly checking him out for other problems. As beardies
age - they do this at different rates, but I would say by the
time most beardies reach age 12 or 13 - wellness visits should
increase to twice a year. Let your vet know of any changes in
energy, mental ability, behavior, vision, hearing, eating,
drinking, peeing and pooping that you have seen since the
previous visit. Obviously, if these changes are sudden or
severe you will take your beardie to the veterinarian
CBC, biochemistry profile,
urinalysis: The big three give you so much information about
your dog’s health. The Complete Blood Count measures red and
white blood cell and platelet numbers, looks for abnormal
types of blood cells, parasites, etc. The biochemistry profile
looks at the health of kidneys, liver, pancreas and muscle. It
also looks at electrolyte levels, glucose, protein, fats and
acid-base levels. The urinalysis tells you a whole lot more
about kidney function as well as the general health of the
animal. Baseline values for these from a healthy animal can
also help your vet evaluate the meaning of values when your
dog is sick.
Other tests: These will be
more regional, and include testing for heartworm, infection
with the local tick borne diseases, etc. A fecal exam is
usually part of the wellness check. Be sure to bring enough,
and ask how the sample will be examined. Centrifugation is
best. However, because eggs are not always shed, or there are
too few intestinal parasites, infestation may be missed. You
may also choose to titer your beardie for protection against a
variety of diseases for which vaccines are available; to make
sure he is well-protected still. Of course, if your beardie
isn’t well, or something shows up on the wellness check,
your vet may order more tests to determine exactly what is
going on. Don’t under-estimate the physical exam. A good
veterinarian can tell so much by feeling, looking, listening
and smelling. Finally, make sure you know how to take your
beardie’s temperature, respiratory rate and pulse (heart
rate), and know what is normal for your dog at rest and when
he is excited or has been exercising. You are your beardie’s
closest observer, and knowing when something isn’t right,
you can make sure he gets the help he needs as soon as
Reprinted with permission from
the author, this article first appeared as a message on BD-L.
Educated Owner, Lucky
Yesterday morning a client called the clinic because her dog
seemed to be in distress and its gums were pale. We had her
come in immediately. By the time she arrived, the dog was
becoming "shocky" and was definitely in discomfort.
Within an hour and a half, we examined, x-rayed, stabilized,
and had him in surgery to remove a burst tumor and his spleen.
When I left work late last night, it was still touch and go,
but definitely better than when he came in the door.
This is not a "yaaay, me" or "yaaaay my
clinic" post. This is a "YAAAAAY, OWNER" post.
She knew that pale gums were not a good sign, although she
didn't remember why, so she called us immediately. If she
hadn't called or had decided to wait to see if he got better,
the dog would have died within a few hours.
So, here's a little primer on gum color.
Pink is normal. (If your dog's gums are black or brown
normally, find another area to check. It can be a nonpigmented
area of the lips, the vulva, or the prepuce).
Pale to white: Anemia, blood loss, shock, cardiac arrest, and
anaphylaxis. Call the vet immediately.
Blue: Suffocation, poor circulation (seen prior to cardiac
arrest), smoke inhalation. Call the vet immediately.
Bright cherry-red: Carbon monoxide poisoning or heatstroke.
Call the vet immediately.
Yellow: Liver problems. Call the vet the same day. (I would
call sooner rather than later).
Get to know the normal color of your Beardie's gums as soon as
possible. Along with taking the temperature (normal is 100 to
102.5F), gum color is one of the key factors that an owner can
easily assess at home. Other factors such as capillary refill
time, hydration, heart rate, respiration and responsiveness
are discussed in "The First Aid Companion for Dogs &
Cats" by Amy D. Shojai. You can find it at
www.rodalebooks.com or 1-800-848-4735. One of the best
paragraphs in the book states that the book is designed to
help you help your pet until you can get it to the vet. It's
not a self-help book. It's a help your pet and educate
yourself so you can get the right help at the right time book.
(And no, I receive no remuneration for telling you about it).
Our patient? I'm pleased to say that he was doing quite well
today and went home to his family. Obviously we don't have the
results of the biopsy (and unfortunately, it's very likely to
be malignant), but the other organs looked good and there were
no signs of tumors in the x-rays other than the one on the
spleen). He ate and drank well today, enjoyed his walks
outside, and was almost as ecstatic to see his mom this
afternoon as she was to see him. :-) Whatever the results of
the biopsy, they have some good days ahead of them... and it's
all because she knew that his gums were not normal.
We are very happy to report that six months later this dog
continues to do well.
- Cindy Mendonca, LVT