Conclusions about testing

There are important problems for which there are NO meaningful tests.

The ACTH test, like the SA skin punch, shows whether a dog has already developed Addison's disease, a common autoimmune disease in poodles in which the adrenal glands are destroyed. Like the thyroid test, this test says nothing about a dog's likelihood of developing Addison's if it has not, nor about the genetics involved. One negative ACTH test only means the dog's adrenal glands are working on that day.

Bloat and Epilepsy: Notably, there are no tests for these two big problems common among standard poodles. 


Health testing, therefore, is NOT an easy, obvious thing, and making a laundry list of them mandatory - either formally or using peer pressure - is not in fact helpful, and may eliminate candidates unnecessarily. Ironically, because puppies from tested dogs tend to be sold for much more than others, even though most tests do not offer much, if any, protection from disease for each puppy, they are in a way a sort of marketing ploy. Certainly they aren't meant that way, and they have been invested in by all the best and most sincere breeders, but they are also a part of the huge and growing pet-related industry, companies make millions from them, scientists and universities profit from them, and there are more and more tests "required" all the time of serious breeders and more and more reasons to limit our already depleted gene pools.

Are they better than nothing? Only if used properly to eliminate only the more significantly affected breeding candidates, and only if they don't convey a false sense of security to breeders or puppy buyers.

Certainly, not doing tests, even though they don't mean much, can hurt a breeder's reputation among other breeders. More importantly however, we should use our heads and do the tests we feel are most necessary for our line of dogs, since some are a Godsend for those struggling with an issue, all the while remembering how little some of the tests actually tell us about the likely health of the dogs we will breed.

For de Grenier, the biggest health problem we encountered to date is the autoimmune disease myositis, and it is rare, can be late onset and there is no test available till the dog is clinically affected. We've had some hips tested as loose, though to date that has not affected quality of life, and last year  we learned that several females from one litter became hypothyroid at about age 6, also late onset. We wish there were a genetic test for that. If there were a test for epilepsy, we'd do that as well, since one dog we produced is epileptic, though no sibling has had it to date.

Ironically, we've had no bloat, SA or Addison's - yet. It seems sometimes that keen observation, pedigree research and openness of breeders is the most reliable breeding tool we have, along with understanding the possible diseases, followed by DNA tests, and finally phenotypical tests.

A fully tested dog definitely denotes a sincere and serious owner/breeder, but in fact most tests offer limited information about what a dog will actually produce. Implying otherwise seems dishonest. We don't say that because we don't want to test, or to upset anyone, but because despite all available testing options, breeding is still a huge crap shoot. Breeding is risky, and there is no real way to eliminate that risk, no matter what we wish to believe.