Health Screening Info

What do we test for?

Degenerative Myelopathy

Degenerative Myelopathy (Degeneration of the spinal cord)- is a hereditary genetic disease that is not completely understood by professionals. What we do know is that with Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) the immune system attacks the dogs central nervous system. When this attack takes place it leads to a loss of insulation around the nerve fibers (myelin). Once the nerves and spinal cord are destroyed the dog can no longer walk. The control pathways that make muscles work are all located through the spinal cord and without the nerve connections, communication to the muscles for movement cannot make it through.

DM is an insidious disease that rarely shows up before the age of 5. It is important to note that while a stressful thing for both dog and owner, DM is not painful. The nerve cells have died and as such the dog no longer feels its legs.

“For those that need to know, the first signs of Degenerative Myelopathy are: Dragging/scraping of either one or both rear feet. This followed by “cross over” where the nerves scramble the signals to the rear legs, and the dog thinks that he is moving one leg when actually it’s the other. This leads to “tripping,” when one leg catches behind the other, as it moves forward. Finally “toe down” where the foot or feet are curled under, and the dog rests his weight on the top of that foot. An easy test is to manually curl the foot under, and place the upper surface on the ground. If the dog resets that foot, to immediately place it down correctly, no current problem. However, if it remains standing, just as you placed the foot, without resetting; then Degenerative Myelopathyis entering it’s obstructive phase.”

Hip Dysplasia

Hip Dysplasia (HD)- is a terribly frustrating condition that affects all types of animals (including humans!). It is a condition described as the conformation of the ball and socket failing to fit together properly. The most severe cases can be revealed on dogs who are a-symptomatic, and the most minor cases revealed on a dog who is showing severe pain. Unfortunately scientists haven’t been able to pinpoint where this comes from. What we do know is that any dog, of any breed, can produce it despite they themselves showing absolutely no signs of it. Reputable breeders attempt to reduce the chance of HD occurring in their dogs by breeding only from HD free adult dogs. This does not eliminate all chances of HD in the resulting offspring, but it does help stack the deck in your favor. We are all about stacking the deck in our favor. The more generations of HD free dogs in the pedigree, the lower the incidence of HD. Just because the breeder gives a “Hip Dysplasia Guarantee” does NOT mean your puppy can not get Hip Dysplasia, it just outlines what the breeder is willing to do if your puppy does develop Hip Dysplasia. As long as the breeder is using dogs of functional to good hip structure dogs that consistently produce better hip %  they are doing good for the breed.

There is no AKC or German Shepherd Dog Club of America requirement to have breeding stock x-rayed for Hip Dysplasia, It is done on a voluntary basis. The Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (SV) DOES require the breeding stock to be x-rayed before accepted for breeding. The resulting dogs of a litter from parents without the appropriate health testing and titles will not receive registration. Germany instituted  MANDATORY Hip Dysplasia x-ray submission for German Shepherds before they can ever breed or show for a Championship, beginning back in 1966. All German Shepherds in Germany must be tattooed by an official of the SV before the puppies can leave the breeder at 8 weeks of age. This tattoo must be checked, and recorded on the hip x-ray to eliminate ‘swapping’ of hip x-rays on dogs. One of the many requirements in Germany that must be met BEFORE you can breed your German Shepherd is that it must be hip certified. This is the breeding practices we at Bauerhof try to adhere as closely as possible to. Unfortunately being in America with smaller amounts of clubs and shows, it can be hard to accomplish all of the requirements before the dog is of breeding age. This is easily done in Germany where the German Shepherd is extremely popular and there are clubs in everyone’s back yard basically.

In 1984 there were 60,445 German Shepherds of age to be eligible for hip certification x-rays in the USA. Only 2,151 hip x-rays were submitted according the the report in the JAVMA October 1985 report. While the ratio has improve a bit over the years, it has not changed significantly. Due to this, the current ratio of SUBMITTED hip x-rays to the OFA on our American German Shepherds is still 19.4% Hip Dysplasia…not a significant improvement over the 20.7% ratio of SUBMITTED hip x-rays in 1974!

Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow Dysplasia (ED)- Obviously quite similar to Hip Dysplasia in that it is characterized by varying degrees of elbow incongruity, bony fragments (bone chips), and ultimately, severe arthritic change. The term was introduced to describe generalized osteoarthritis (arthritis) of the elbow joint in which the anconeal process may be ununited, the medial coronoid of the ulna may be fragmented, and osteochondrosis of the humeral condyle may be present. Clinically, the symptoms range from an intermittent lameness in some affected dogs to severe, crippling disease in others.

Renal Cystadenocarcinoma

Renal Cystadenocarcinoma (RCND)-A rare hereditary “Kindey Cancer” that has been found in German Shepherd dogs. While remaining quite rare, we still felt it was a valuable thing to test for in our dogs. A $65 health test to give us peace of mind is worth it. Unfortunately not much is known about it yet. But it can be tested for, and as such avoided.

Why do we health screen?

If you could save someone from a terribly tragic circumstance of a family pet turning up with a severe genetic issue, would you? Preventing that dog from euthanasia, preventing the owners from dishing out thousands of dollars to keep the dog alive, etc. Our answer, to should we test, is a no brainer.

We absolutely want to prevent our dogs from carrying these things in our lines. Why? Quite honestly it’s because we are pouring our hearts into these dogs. All of our dogs are our pets first and foremost. If your puppy is sick, we want to know in case there is anything we could or should be doing. We want to, and need to know from our puppy buyers when anything goes wrong, so we can do our research to prevent this issue further in our lines. We want to make sure the only thing we are reproducing is healthy, good temperament dogs!

We want to make sure our dogs are in tip top shape, in good if not excellent health, and that we have no recessive genetic issues lying dormant that we cannot see. If one of our puppies from our breeding turns up sick, we suffer with you. We raised those puppies from birth, we planned their birth months if not years in advance after countless hours of research to try and create the best we can. So when plans go wrong, our puppies and their family are suffering, we are right there with you. What do we do IF we find something out? We can only do as much as our scientific advancements will allow us to. That could mean anything from testing the adults for additional genetic tests that come out, or even donating our dogs DNA to collect data and help further the studies of that disease. We want to do our part to help improve our breed not only in temperament, working ability, & conformation, but most importantly in health!

If we have the ability to test for these genetic illnesses in our dogs with our advancements in science and technology, and can prevent our puppy buyers and our puppies from the pain and suffering associated with it, we absolutely will! Unfortunately no matter how many things we test for, we collectively as breeders of any breed, will always run into things that leave us scratching our heads at where they came from. The best thing breeders can do for themselves and everyone around them is to be honest about it. Finding something in your lines is not the end of the world, simply an eye opener that you now have a chance to try and breed away from that genetic disease and steer your line in a healthier direction. But careful breeding can help move in the right direction, instead of going in blind. Breeding practices, beliefs, opinions etc. will vary depending on breed and the individuals involved. Confirmation biases will have effects on how people handle situations. We at Zwinger Von Dem Bauernhof try to look at our dogs objectively when it comes to breeding to make logical decisions in our breeding program to move in a good direction for the breed and our dogs.

What does it mean?


Clear means the findings indicate your dog does not have the gene associated with the disease you tested for.


This finding indicates that one copy of the disease gene is present in your dog, but that it will not exhibit disease symptoms. Carriers will not have medical problems as a result. Dogs with Carrier status can be enjoyed without the fear of developing medical problems but will pass on the disease gene 50% of the time.


This finding indicates that two copies of the disease gene are present in the dog. Unfortunately, the dog will be medically affected by the disease. Appropriate treatment should be pursued by consulting a veterinarian.

You can read more about breeding strategies with genetics here:


Health Testing Organizations

Orthopedic Foundation for Animals  vetGen  SV