Show Dog Health Resource Center

Health is one of the many important aspects of showing purebred dogs.

Health is one of the many important aspects of showing purebred dogs. Your champion show dogs will come in contact with thousands of other dogs and be exposed to many contagions.

Make sure your show dog is healthy in the first place, is regularly exercised, is provided with excellent nutrition and has brushed teeth. Also make sure that you and your professional dog handler are prepared in the event of an emergency and have a dog first-aid kit around at all times.

As your dog retires from the conformation ring and begins breeding, and as your show dog ages, make sure he or she is regularly seen by a veterinarian.



Safe Breeding and Newborn Puppies

If you purchased your show puppy from a reputable breeder, your show dog should be healthy with no disqualifying or life-threatening health problems. If you are a show dog breeder, you will need to produce litters according to the breed standard, practice safe breeding, produce healthy puppies and care for newborns. Thirty percent of all puppies die before reaching weaning age, but you can do all you can to increase the survival rate of your purebred puppies. Use the genetic tests at your disposal (contact your national breed club for more information about your dog breed) to test for any potential diseases that puppies may inherit from their sires and dams. Genetic tests can also let you know if your puppy will have problems with medications later on in life. Make sure to learn all you can about puppy and dam safety during pregnancy and whelping, such as umbilical hernias in newborn puppies, with articles and books about purebred dog breeding.


Nutrition and Exercise

Nutrition and exercise are important aspects in any living creature’s life, and your show dog is no different. Show dogs need to be in tip top shape so they can show off their conformation to the AKC judges and try to beat the top dogs in the country. Decide the best type of and brand of dog food to feed to your champions, and determine the correct portions. Ask your veterinarian before you consider extra vitamins and supplements, and take extra precaution if you decide to provide your show dogs with home-cooked meals.  Great nutrition helps give your show dogs a clean coat that radiates, which will tell the judge that the dog is healthy. Exercise wards off many health problems in dogs, as it does with people, so make sure you or your professional handler gives them regular exercise even while on the road traveling to conformation dog shows.


Brushing Teeth

One of the most common grooming mistakes that AKC judges complain about is a show dog’s dirty teeth. Not only are teeth important for your dog’s health, they also affect how they are placed in conformation dog shows. Brush your dog’s teeth often so that the judge can see and appreciate the dog’s bite, which is always evaluated during judging.

“Doggie breath” could be a sign of periodontal disease. The most common health problem for dogs, periodontal disease destroys the tissue and bone supporting his teeth. In fact, eight out of 10 dogs have it by age 3. Luckily dog dental disease is preventable. Check out this infographic for information on dog dental care. You or your professional handler can also bond with your show dog while brushing his teeth, which will undoubtedly help in the conformation ring. Read more about show dog grooming>>


First-Aid and Emergency Preparedness

You, your professional dog handler and anyone else who cares for your dog should be equipped and ready for emergencies. Whether you are simply heading out for the day to a show near you or packing for a long drive and a week’s stay at a national specialty, there are some emergency items you should have on hand for your dog. A first-aid kit intended for human use won’t cut it: Most first-aid kits treat cuts and scrapes, which are common injuries for people, not dogs. Hair coats, even short, tight coats, protect dogs from many of those minor problems.

Have a plan in case of emergencies, such as hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes, and make sure everyone who cares for the dogs reviews the plan and first-aid regularly. Make sure your professional handler practices safe travel, including adequately heating and cooling the RV that they travel in. Make sure that the dogs do not come in contact with any dog that has been exposed to sick dogs within the last 30 days. This is especially important when keeping dogs in a kennel, where dogs can come in and out and bring communicable diseases and parasites with them. Kennels and travel RVs should be safe and calm environments for the dogs, and they should get plenty of attention each day. Your show dogs are exposed to so many other dogs and must be healthy for each dog show competition, bring them in for regular veterinary checkups and have them properly vaccinated.


Canine Health Research

The AKC’s Canine Health Foundation (CHF) researches canine diseases and other health issues, and works toward cures and genetic tests to prevent future problems. The CHF does not fund research involving disease induction or injury, or research that involves euthanasia as part of experimental design. CHF-funded research is minimally invasive, protects dogs from unnecessary discomfort and uses only client-owned dogs. Many Canine Health Foundation studies only require samples, so the dogs are not present in the research setting. Even if your dog is disease-free, he can participate in canine research without even going to a research facility — the CHF has been present at many dog shows to take blood, cheek swabs and other samples. You can also make a difference by donating money or raising awareness for canine health causes.



Show Dog Owner Resource Center
If you already own a show dog or want to get into the sport of dog conformation, use this resource center to learn all you need to know. Read more>>

Umbilical Hernias in Dogs
By Deb Eldredge, DVM
An umbilical hernia is a common condition that is often overlooked. Read more>>

Show Dog First-Aid Kit
By Deb Eldredge, DVM
Whether you are simply heading out for the day to a show near you or packing for a long drive and a week’s stay at a national specialty, there are some emergency items you should have on hand for your dog. Read More>>

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