Health Testing:
What It Means to the Owner and Breeder of Great Danes

Health testing, more accurately referred to as “disease screening,” is a relatively new tool for breeders and owners, and there is still a lot of confusion about its relevance and how to properly use it.

First, let’s address some of the myths associated with health testing:

1.    “My dog was tested once and is proven clear of ‘X’ disease:” With rare exception, no single test can “prove” a dog healthy, and most important tests (like for heart or thyroid) need to be repeated even into the veteran years. Results on older dogs prove much more than those done on youngsters.
2.    “Testing is only good for that day:” arguing a dog may still fall ill after having been screened is missing the point. Following recommended disease screening protocols is the best way to both insure and document a dog’s health status.
3.    “The test isn’t always right!” That can be true (less often than is claimed), but that’s why there are established protocols for what to do when the results are in doubt. Again, this isn’t a good reason not to use health testing.
4.    “I know my dogs,” and variations on this theme such as “I can see that he’s got good hips, he moves fine,” are often stated as reasons not to “waste money” on health testing. There simply is no substitute for what disease screenings can offer a breeder.


Consider your own family and health practices as a practical model?

No one expects a mammogram or a PAP smear on a 20 year old woman to guarantee she will never get cancer, but at the same time, no one seriously would suggest their mother, daughter, sister NOT get regular screenings, as it’s well established that such routine screenings can detect disease early. This is exactly the same situation with thyroid profiles & heart exams in the Great Dane.

Each test may be “only a snapshot” but a series of such make up an album of established health.

No one gives up on recommended screening tests because the testing isn’t yet perfected. The results may be complicated, require some education or need an expert’s help to understand. That’s why there are FAQs sheets for patients, and why we consult with our doctors about how to interpret results, when to do follow-ups, etc. The same applies to your dogs. No smart breeder throws away such a valuable tool. We simply learn how to properly add in these new ways to screen for disease to what we already use, such as knowledge of pedigree, clinical health history of dogs involved, and so on.

Disease screenings offer both breeder and buyer a new set of tools to understanding what they eye alone cannot see.

And a final note? Health testing is not a kind of title put on a dog, it does not in itself prove a dog is healthy, nor is it a substitute for other important traits, such as temperament and type: so breeders shouldn’t use it as a substitute for producing kind, correct, healthy Danes. That said, insuring the health of breeding individuals is an important aspect for the Great Dane, and forgoing documented health testing leaves both the breed and the buyer with less information that they should have. 


Please see the  CHIC linkfor more detailed information on health testing in general and information on specific disease screening tests currently recommended for the Great Dane.

Note that recognized disease screenings are done by unbiased experts and specialists and recorded in a public data bank like OFA. A breeder's claim their personal veterinarian declared the dog healthy does not qualify as documented health/genetic testing.