If you are in the process of selecting a breeder, this article should help arm you with information about various Great Dane health tests performed by good breeders.
NOTE: Some kennels do not test or screen their dogs, this does not necessarily mean they are bad breeders.
Take for example a kennel that has been breeding Danes for 30-years, is confident in its stock, and has a reputation of producing healthy litters with great longevity.
With such experience, and great results, this particular kennel may not feel the need to health screen its dogs.
This article is meant to better your understanding in the event you ask your breeder about the health tests used in their breeding program.
Common Great Dane Health Tests & Certifications
OFA - The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, is a group of radiologists who examine x-rays of dogs hips taken when screening for hip dysplasia. The x-rays are reviewed to confirm the condition and its progression, or rate the hips either good/fair, excellent, or normal (no dysplasia). The dog's hips then receive an OFA certification as judged by the x-rays.
TIP: OFA-Hip testing can be used at any age however the hips can't be OFA certified until the dog is 2-years or older.
Penn-Hip is also used to screen for dysplasia. With Penn-Hip testing, x-rays are scanned electronically, unlike OFA testing where there is a chance of human error or oversight. Penn-Hip screening can be performed at any age and a puppy can be Penn-Hip certified as early as 6-months old. In addition to hip testing, some breeders will go a step further with elbow and knee testing.
Von Willebrands Disease (VWD)
Similar to human Hemophilia is a Great Dane health problem that some breeders may screen for.
CERF-Eye (Canine Eye Registration Foundation).
CERF-Eye certification requires annual Veterinary eye exams. Eyes are examined to assure they are free of congenital problems or diseases. Again, this is a yearly test, eyes must be examined annually to maintain the certification.
Some breeders will have a Veterinary Cardiologist screen for problems such as Cardiomyopathy and other heart disease that are common to Great Danes.
Thyroid testing is a relatively inexpensive test where blood is drawn and screened for proper thyroid levels.
CHIC - Canine Health Information Center
Some breeders promote CHIC level certification. CHIC is a centralized canine health database jointly sponsored by the AKC/Canine Health Foundation (AKC/CHF), and the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA).
TIP: When required test results are entered into CHIC's database, a number is issued to a breeder for that particular dog.
The CHIC number itself does not imply normal test results, only that all the required breed specific tests were performed and the results made publicly available. A CHIC report is issued at the same time as the CHIC number. The CHIC report is a consolidated listing of the tests performed, the age of the dog when the tests were performed, and the corresponding test results. CHIC reports are updated any time new test results are recorded such as annual CERF-Eye, subsequent Penn-Hip, and other breed specific test results.
Many breeders use DNA testing to confirm and record the genetic history of their lines for many generations.