Daynakin Great Danes LLC 
Est. 1974

Championship Quality AKC Fawn & Brindle Great Danes 
For Show, Performance and Companionship


Not a week goes by that I don’t spend several hours talking to a new Great Dane owner who has had a bad experience with their “breeder.”[1]  Problems range from lack of breeder support (as in, “Your check has cleared, good-bye.”) to misinformation, to serious health, training and/or temperament issues the breeder will not assist with – or even acknowledge.  The frequency of these calls has prompted me to do a “primer” for the potential Dane purchaser so they can be informed and make knowledgeable decisions  in choosing a breeder.



Recently I spent about two hours of my time speaking to a distraught gentleman whose seven-month-old Dane “just dropped dead.”  A necropsy revealed an enlarged aorta.  He had purchased from a breeder who touted “great health” in her dogs and claimed this exceptional health was because her dogs were from European lines. The claim was European Danes were, in the long run, healthier[2] than American Danes. However, these claims could not be supported with any health testing certifications or other data.  Additionally, the breeder had no health history knowledge of the dogs in her pedigree beyond the second generation.  Furthermore, when this breeder was informed about the tragic and unexpected demise of the loved family pet, she was unsympathetic, offered no emotional support, and claimed the death must somehow have been the owner’s fault. (More about “Breeder Support” elsewhere in this article.)


Certainly, even the best breeder can have health issues. In fact, any breeder who has been breeding for any length of time will run into health issues of one type or another.[3] The difference is what the good breeder does to hopefully prevent them in the future.  Appropriate health testing prior to breeding the sire and dam, providing support to purchasers in the event of problems, and removing dogs from breeding programs when they have,  or have produced, serious health, temperament or soundness issues, are extremely important for the welfare of the breed.  Good breeders do not make health claims they cannot substantiate, are knowledgeable about the health history of the dogs in their pedigrees and lines—and are willing to share that information.


Just saying “health testing is important” is not much help.  So next I’ll discuss:

-What is “health testing”?

-Why is it important? (What can, or cannot, it determine?)

-How can an individual verify whether the parents of a litter have indeed  had health testing and certifications done? 

Defining “Health Testing”

The term “health testing” is tossed around quite a bit. I strongly recommend the potential purchaser ask exactly what the breeder means by “health testing.”  Some breeders use the term to simply mean the sire and/or dam has walked into a veterinarian’s office, had a quick exam, and was termed “healthy.”    Bingo—for less than $40.00 the dog is pronounced “health tested.” While a pre-breeding veterinary exam is important, it should not be considered valid “health testing” in terms of determining the existence of certain health conditions that can affect Great Danes.


To serious and responsible breeders, the term “health testing” means the dog has had all the pre-breeding health testing done as recommended by the Great Dane Club of America (GDCA).


The GDCA recommends the following health testing be done prior to breeding:
-Hip Dysplasia: Results accepted from OFA, PennHip, GDC, or OVC
-Eyes:  Results accepts from CERF
-Congentital Cardiac Disease:  Results accepted from OFA
-Autoimmune Thyroid Disease:  Results accepted from OFA

The cost to a breeder for doing the above testing properly can range from $500.00 to $1000.00.  Testing should be done on both parents. Tests must fulfill certain criteria, and be submitted to the proper organization for review and certification: The “OFA”  (Orthopedic Foundation For Animals) and “CERF”  (Canine Eye Registry Foundation) A Dane can have his/her hips checked before two years of age, but in that case the OFA will issue only a “preliminary” certification.  The Dane should be x-rayed again at the age of two to be properly rated by the OFA. A Dane can have cardiac, thyroid and CERF testing at one year of age for OFA certification. 

Once testing has been completed, submitted, reviewed by the appropriate committee and certified, the results can be viewed online at the OFA’s website. (See “verifying” below.) OFA is a hybrid of a semi-open and open database.  Normal results that are submitted are automatically entered into the open database and are viewable by the public through the search function on OFA’s Web site.  Abnormal results that are submitted are not automatically posted to the open database. To have abnormal results published in the open database, the owner of the dog must specifically authorize this on the OFA submission form for the test.  OFA also has an Open Database Authorization form available on their website that will allow you to make abnormal results public after the results have been submitted. Great Danes who have all four tests done receive a CHIC number. A CHIC number does not mean the dog has passed all four tests—but it does mean all results will be published on the CHIC Web site at: and the OFA’s Web site at

 Why Testing Matters

What does testing accomplish?  At this point, there are no genetic tests available to determine if a Great Dane carries hip dysplasia, cardiac or thyroid disease, or eye problems.  However, what the tests do is to identify dogs that might be afflicted with these problems and enables breeders to remove them from a breeding program.  Additionally, health certifications on individuals allow breeders to view and track, through the OFA site, health history on assorted family members, such as grandparents, siblings, and prior offspring of a dog being considered for breeding.  This tracking of health testing can be a valuable tool for breeders when planning a breeding program.


Why is testing important?  Well, if you don’t test, you don’t know.  How well a dog looks or acts, or what someone says, are no indication they will pass health testing.  I’ve personally known two dogs that were very active, ran, jumped, played and had no lameness or other symptoms—yet the tests showed they had hip dysplasia.  If hip x-rays had not been done, the disease would never have been found, as those dogs showed no symptoms. But if bred, they would pass the genes carrying that defect to their offspring.  Breeding a dog affected with a health issue significantly increases the likelihood that their offspring will also be affected.  In this case, breeding these dogs would likely produce  hip dysplasia in the litter. Eye problems—cataracts—can be another problem not easy to see without the appropriate health testing.  Breeders who claim their dogs “don’t have any problems” may simply not know because they have not done the appropriate testing.  Health testing breeding stock is important to the breeder so they can make wise breeding decisions.  Health testing is important to the pet purchaser so they can be assured their breeder has done all they can to produce a puppy without health issues.


How To Verify Health Tests
Any dog that has had health testing done and passed receives a certificate (see sample).  Years ago, purchasers were advised to ask to see copies of the certificates.  However, some clever (and unethical) people became very skilled using photo software and simply made their own certificates!  The best way to check to see if a dog has received testing and certifications is to go to the OFA site.  Once there, you will find an area to put in the dog’s registered name or registration number.  Once you’ve done that, the results will show up and you can review them.  From there, you can also see the health history of any family members who have also received certifications. Note that in the case of cardiac testing, there are different methods for the test that are accepted for OFA submission.  Auscultation is an acceptable method of testing a dog for cardiac issues and completing the OFA submission for cardiac clearance.  There are many reasons for this, but in Great Danes, an auscultation is NOT an effective means of determining if a dog has congenital heart defects.  The only way this can be determined with certainty is through an echocardiogram.  OFA records showing the cardiac results will indicate if the test was done via “echo” and if it was done by a practitioner or a cardiologist.


Another point that needs to be covered here is when the testing was completed.  OFA recommends that cardiac, CERF and thyroid testing be done annually.  Once the hips are x-rayed at age 2, they are not going to change from normal to dysplastic, so those results are good once they are done.  But the condition of the heart can change over time.  A cardiac clearance on a one year old dog, even using an echocardiogram, is not a guarantee that the dog is not going to develop a genetic form of heart disease.  The same is true for auto-immune thyroiditis.  This often does not show up early in life and if testing is not done regularly, it can be missed.  If the dog should develop thyroid disease later in life, but only had thyroid testing done very early in life, it will be very difficult to know if the thyroid problem is idiopathic (not genetic) or if the dog actually had auto-immune thyroiditis and now has so little thyroid tissue left that the autoantibodies no longer exist.


Eye certification follows these rules as well.  Cataracts and other abnormalities can show up later in life, so it is best to test regularly.  When reviewing the results on the OFA site, pay attention to the date of the test results and the date they were submitted to OFA.


Try It! 
If you wish to see how the OFA site works, use the following AKC number of a real Great Dane:

This number will pull up the information for “BricarloDaynakin Shut Up N’ Kiss Me.”  From there, you can click on her name and get information on Danes related to her.  This will give you information on a specific dog and also the “big picture” of more of her line.  When you find a sire or dam or other dog you are interested in, put in his or her AKC number and check out the dog and the family.  Not only will this help you determine if the breeders you’ve been talking to has been accurate in their claims, it may help you avoid future health problems with your puppy.

Article written with the assistance of Laura Munro and Edie Lind








[1] AKC and decades of custom define a “breeder” as the person who owns the dam of a litter of puppies at time of whelping.  Anyone who produces a litter is a breeder, including the negligent owner who allows his in-season bitch to roam the streets and get bred.

[2] The purpose of this article is not to determine whether dogs from one continent are healthier than others, but to point out that health claims need to be substantiated.

[3] A breeder who claims they have never had any health problems either (a) has not been breeding long enough to know;  (b) has not been tracking the health history of the puppies they produce,; or (c) is not being forthright.












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