MDDanes Logo

Health Testing


We feel strongly that health testing should be done on all dogs that are going to be used for breeding.  If we are going to improve the breed and do what is best for Great Danes, we need to make sure they are sound.  What good does a dog with perfect conformation do someone if he dies from cardiomypathy at 3 years old or is crippled with hip dysplasia?  That is why we test our danes for these genetic abnormalities. The advantage, if you can call it that, of purebred dogs is there tends to be a select group of concerns that may arise.  Breeders can take some action to prevent those genetic problems from occurring.

Below is a summary of some of the testing and some terms common in the health testing field.


CHIC - Canine Health Information Center -
In short, CHIC is a database of consolidated health screening results from multiple sources.  Co-sponsored by the OFA and the AKC Canine Health Foundation, CHIC works with parent clubs to identify health screening protocols appropriate for individual breeds.  Dogs tested in accordance with the parent club established requirements, that have their results registered and made available in the public domain are issued CHIC numbers.

Great Danes receive a CHIC number when they have completed testing for Hip Dysplasia, Eye Clearance, Autoimmune Thyroiditis, Congenital Cardiac Database.

KEEP IN MIND: Just because a dog has a CHIC number does NOT mean it PASSED the testing, but simply completed and submitted the testing results.  Make sure and check the individual test results!


OFA or OFFA - Orthopedic Foundation For Animals -
The traditional screening and database for various maladies that affect the dog world.  The OFA will post the resuts of health screenings for the public with the owner's permission.

The OFA utilizes a descriptive grading system when assessing the quality of the hips in dogs. The ratings are, from best to worst, Excellent, Good, Fair, Borderline, Mild, Moderate, Severe.


CERF - Canine Eye Registration Foundation -
The Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) is an organization that was founded by a group of concerned, purebred owner/breeders who recognized that the quality of their dog's lives were being affected by heritable eye disease. CERF was then established in conjunction with cooperating, board certified, veterinary ophthalmologists, as a means to accomplish the goal of elimination of heritable eye disease in all purebred dogs by forming a centralized, national registry.


PennHIP - University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program -
PennHIP is a multifaceted radiographic technology (x-ray) for hip evaluation. The technique assesses the quality of the canine hip and quantitatively measures canine hip joint laxity. The PennHIP method of evaluation is more accurate than the current standard in its ability to predict the onset of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease (DJD), is the hallmark of canine hip dysplasia (CHD).

PennHIP uses a system to assign a value, or number, to the quality of the hips.  In our readings and experience, we would say a PennHIP score of 0.30 or lower on both hips equates to an Excellent/Good rating from the OFA.


GDV: Bloat - is the number one killer of Great Danes & Great Danes are the #1 breed at risk for bloat. For reasons not fully understood, in certain deep-chested breeds in particular, the stomach distends, then has a tendency to rotate, which cuts off the blood supply to various parts of the body, as well as effectively shutting down digestion. This condition is extremely painful as well as a true emergency that is rapidly life-threatening. A dog with a bloated, twisted stomach (technically called "Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus") will die in great pain in a matter of hours unless drastic steps are taken: surgery is normally necessary. The reasons for GDV are currently not understood, however most would agree that multiple small meals per day and preventing vigorous exercise around mealtimes can help reduce the chances of bloat. Many breeders and owners of Great Danes consider a surgery called a prophylactic gastropexy ("preventative tack") which can help  prevent some of the more serious aspects of GDV. Discuss this with your veterinarian and your Dane's breeder.


K9HD: Hip Dysplasia - Dysplasia comes from the Greek words dys, meaning "disordered" or "abnormal", and plassein meaning "to form". The expression hip dysplasia can be interpreted as the abnormal or faulty development of the hip. Abnormal development of the hip causes excessive wear of the joint cartilage during weight bearing, eventually leading to the development of arthritis, often called degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis. The terms DJD, arthritis and osteoarthritis are used interchangeably.

Hip Dysplasia can affect all breeds of dogs but large/giant breeds are more susceptible due to the amount of growing involved in such a short amount of time.


Cataracts - although not common, cataracts have been described in the Great Dane and can be blinding. Eyelid abnormalies (e.g. entropion) are also not unheard of in the breed. For breeding stock a CERF exam can insure that the eyes are normal in all aspects


Hypothyroidism - in dogs is generally the result of a heritable disorder of the immune system. This condition results when the thyroid gland is not producing enough hormone to adequately maintain the dog's metabolism. Happily, it is easily treated with thyroid replacement pills. Thyroid testing (T4, TSH and autoantibodies) on breeding stock should be performed on a routine basis. Finding autoantibodies to thyroglobulin is normally an indication that the dog has autoimmune thyroiditis. Low thyroid dogs, manifested by a high TSH and a low T4, should be treated and monitored on a regular basis. Dogs with confirmed thyroid abnormalities should not be bred.


DCM: Cardiomyopathy - is suspected to be an inherited disease in the Great Dane and current (preliminary) research indicates that this disease may be sex-linked in our breed. Research is ongoing. An echocardiogram of the heart will confirm the disease but will not guarantee that the disease will not develop in the future. Regular exams on breeding stock are recommended. There are some congenital heart defects also occasionally found in the breed


CANCER: Danes can suffer from a variety of cancers as do many other breeds of dogs as well as many mixed breed dogs. Bone cancer (osteosarcoma) and lymphoma appear to be the two forms of cancer most commonly seen in the Great Dane, and along with heart disease and bloat (GDV), cancer is a leading cause of death in Great Danes. Research into both types of cancer is ongoing and treatment options are improving every day. See The Genetics of Cancer


CVI: Wobblers - is a result of pressure on the spinal cord in the neck region and results in a "drunken" gait & increasing instability. It it thought to result from a combination of nutritional effects and inherited traits and is considered a form of DOD (Developmental Osteodystrophy) along with such as OCD. Great Danes are considered at risk for Wobblers. CVI stands for Cervical Vertebral Instability.


HOD and Pano - these are painful conditions of the bones that occur during the rapid growth phase of puppyhood causing lameness and general malaise. By far HOD is the more serious one and can be deadly. Pano is usually self-limiting and may not need treatment. HOD stands for Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy. Pano is short for Panosteitis


Recommended health certifications - see the AKC-CHF's recommended health certifications.

Top of Page |home