Updated: 12 June 2006
I've heard people say, "I don't have to health test, there's nothing wrong with MY dogs" and "my vet has checked over my dog and it's healthy". Neither of the people saying these things ought to be breeding. In some respects, it's clever: who would think a puppy buyer would go out and educate themselves? Most puppy purchases are impulse! It's the impulse a puppy buyer ends up paying for a lifetime--and it helps fund those breeders that aren't entirely ethical or knowledgeable into making more pups from parents of unknown health.
The health of a dog is very important to responsible breeders. It directly affects our relationship with those who purchase puppies from us, because it means we can direct our energies at making the puppy we produce into a total dog, rather than having to continuously diagnose health issues that debilitate the pup and quite possibly mean an early end to its life. In this instance, the relationship of the puppy buyer to the breeder will become strained and non-existent over time--and where does this leave the puppy? I can guarantee you a pet store pup will not have this degree of testing, nor will back-yard breeders. Why purchase a pup who will potentially spend its life in pain? How is that fair to the pup? Pet stores and back yard breeders do not have the best interests of the pups in mind at all. For them, it's making a quick buck.
This page is dedicated to the health of the American Staffordshire Terrier and those people who wish to have one in their lives--for a LONG healthy pain free life for the dog!
From the OFA website:
How great is this? More Excellent dogs out there and less dysplastic ones in 21 years! All due to the commitment of serious breeders to health testing and breeding based upon the results.
But we can't rest on our laurels. Above is a snapshot of 1974 to 2005. We are still 22nd in ranking of having a dysplasia problem. Even though it looks like % dysplastic has increased, this time range is greater than the previous one, so it is hard to tell if it is bad news or good.
This information relates to the strides responsible breeders are making to ensuring their dogs can move without problems. Sure, the am staff is a muscular breed, and sure, it is difficult to ascertain hip dysplasia in this breed, just by watching them move. But, years down the road when your pet is 7, and it can barely walk, this is a tragic thing. Am Staffs live to 12-16 years. Ruffie was one month shy of 15 when she passed away and Essi is now 14 (I'm writing this in Dec, 2004 [she passed away within 3 weeks of me writing this on Dec 28, 2004]). How fair is it to us, and our dogs, to see their lives ended early?
The information above means that the number of dogs achieving the highest rating on their hips is steadily increasing. Slowly, but surely. More and more am staffs are achieving OFA Excellent and it is a wonderful thing to see. Roemeo, my foundation sire, has produced three OFA Excellents from three different litters. He also now has an OFA Excellent granddaughter.
Still we cannot rest on our laurels (snapshot below is from 1974-2004):
One out of every four dogs submitted to the OFA for evaluation still FAILS. How many dogs were xrayed and not submitted because the vet xraying felt that the dog wouldn't pass--so save yourself the $35 fee to have it evaluated by the OFA? How many dogs weren't xrayed at all? We may have dropped one ranking point, but we are also producing less excellents!
All the xrays I have I have placed for public viewing on this page: Xrays I've collected It is a good resource for those people who are wanting to learn how to read xrays. Other bully owners have kindly submitted their dog's xrays so there is a good variation there to learn from. Most important is for the dog being xrayed to be AWAKE and not sedated; secondly it is of equal importance for the dog to be POSITIONED PROPERLY.
Once you narrow down the list of people you wish to select your puppy from, you should go to the main OFA page at www.offa.org and put in the breeder's kennel name and look at their dedication to health testing. Do not take their word that their vet said their dog was healthy. I can't tell you how many times I have diagnosed things a vet has missed--living with a breed of dog, day in, day out, makes one a breed specialist. Vets are humans too and do make mistakes. I have caught three vets agreeing a dog needed a TPLO--complete hip replacement--on a dog who was OFA Good by a consultation with a radiologist. Another vet felt the same on another dog but instead the dog had partially injured a ligament in its knee--crate rest fixed this. Another vet had to be convinced a dog was hypothyroid when ALL of the symptoms were there. We must never stop learning...we must find a vet who feels the same. My vet now is someone I have total faith in. If she does not know the answer, she will find it out, very tenacious and hard working.
Am Staffs face other issues. There are two huge ones. One is cardiac, mainly sub-aortic stenosis. According to OFA (2004):
We are number ONE. It is imperative to make sure cardiac testing is done on the parents of your pup. Cardiac testing is not infallible. Clears get marked as affecteds and vice versa. What to do? Until we have a better definitive answer than necropsy of determining no sub-aortic stenosis in the breed, dogs with murmurs should not be bred.
Here is today's snapshot (2006)--looks like dedication is working!
However, other areas need work!
Elbows (2006) -- definite improvement needed.
Thyroid (2006) -- definite improvement needed
Patellas (2006) -- looking good
Overall statistics (2006)
The more insidious and deadly issue is ataxia.
http://www.amstaff-ataxie.com/indexen.htm (English version, there is also a French one if you prefer)
STCA Health/ataxia (STCA's website on Ataxia)
There are identified known carriers and breeders also know of others that have produced this. Ask your breeder what they know of ataxia, and if it has been produced in their line.
OFA Ca denotes the dog has been found to be free of heart murmurs and have no evidence of congenital heart disease.
OFA Pa is done by a practitioner and checks for patellar (knee) laxity.
OFA El denotes the dog has been found to be free of Elbow Dysplasia. This test currently only results as NORMAL/Grades of failure.
OFA thy means clear of Autoimmune thyroiditis.
CERF is Canine Eye Registration Foundation and is an involved test to determine that a dog is free from Canine Cataracts. CERF recommends the test be done yearly--however, since cataracts are not a problem in the breed I prefer to do the dogs every other year.
DNA is a patterning of the genes and can be used to determine parentage. There are two types of DNA, DNA-V and DNA-VIP (the VIP signifies both parents are DNA'd)