The Health of Our Breed

The Standard Schnauzer is a relatively healthy breed. Occasionally, you will have a dog develop a health problem. The majority of breeders do testing on breeding stock to keep this breed as free from genetic problems as possible. I test to help understand and prevent any unforeseen problems. However, with that said, there are NO 100% guarantees. I can only speak for myself, but I do not want to breed unhealthy dogs for myself, or for you, the buyer.

The Standard Schnauzer is the original Schnauzer. The Miniature and Giant Schnauzers are totally separate breeds. Therefore, you do not want to compare health issues from one breed to the other, as they could be very different. It is my personal observation that the Standard Schnauzer has the fewest health issues as a result of responsible breeders selling their pups on a spay or neuter agreement. This prevents those motivated to breed for profit (rather than to advance the health of the breed) from breeding without first performing costly health testing that conscious breeders like myself do on all breeding stock. This, combined with the fact that Standards are not as popular as Miniature and Giant Schnauzers, contributes to a healthier breed.

Really loving this breed and knowing its history is a big part of breeding. I believe if someone wants to breed, they need to study the breed standard that the mother club, SSCA (Standard Schnauzer Club of America), and AKC (American Kennel Club) provide for the breed. Find a reputable breeder, buy a good quality puppy, and show this dog to its championship. The breed standard is what the mother club and AKC say the dog should look and act like. It's like a blueprint to follow. When someone experiences that, and works with their breeder, then they may be ready to become a breeder. There is much more to being a responsible breeder than just putting two dogs together. I believe it is important to prove your dog to be of quality, and then obtain a championship and all health clearances before proceeding with breeding. When you are established as a reputable breeder, your reputation will precede you, and your puppies will be sold before they are born. Word of mouth and happy tails are the best kind of advertising!

I've been breeding Standard Schnauzers for 37 years. I am proud to say that most of our dogs have lived long, healthy lives, and have died of old age. Of course, I also have experienced health problems that I continually work on with my veterinarians to understand and explain. We take a number of precautions in an effort to advance the health of the breed.

Our Health Testing

First, we use OFA (Orthopedic Foundation of Animals) to certify our dogs' hips are free from hip dysplasia. All our dogs have been prelimed or certified. The ratings are from fair to excellent. This certification is done at the age of 2, and a prelim is done if you have a dog to breed before it is 2 years old. Although we test all the dogs in our breeding program, it is very hard for breeders to know what results each dog produced out of our lines would have, as testing is usually only done on breeding stock, and/or performance dogs (e.g., those training and competing in agility, herding, flyball, etc.). Most dogs sold solely as companions are never certified.

Second, we CERF (Canine Eye Registration Foundation) our dogs' eyes. This is a certification done annually by a qualified Ophthalmologist to ensure eyes are free from early cataracts. This is not the same as PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy) that is found in Miniature Schnauzers. These cataracts are also not to be confused with what a dog develops from old age. All older dogs get that "cloudy" look to their eyes when they are considered seniors.

Third, in the last few years, we have been doing heart testing with Dr. Dan Hall in Columbia, SC. These tests include BNP (B-type natriuretic peptide) blood test, echocardiogram, radiograph, and ultrasound of the heart. Each dog in our breeding program is tested annually, and our cardiologist, Dr. Hall, compares annual tests to monitor changes. Dr. Hall has been very helpful in compiling a database for our dogs. This is the most effective way to identify any problems. Since implementing these tests, we have not identified any heart problems in our breeding stock.

We started doing heart testing because in 2010, 3 of our dogs died from a heart condition called DCM (Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy). These pups were all from the same breeding, and were just under the age of 3 years old. Out of 20 puppies from this breeding, 17 are wonderful, healthy dogs. They are now 5 years old. Over the years, we have also produced an additional 65+ dogs with different combinations of the dogs in this line, and have not had any problems. Thus, in consultation with our cardiologist, we have concluded that the causes of DCM in our affected puppies are unknown. Regardless, we care deeply about the health of our line, and are taking every precaution we can to ensure the heart health of our breeding stock.

DCM is a disease of the cardiac muscle that decreases the heart's ability to generate adequate pressure to pump blood through the vascular system. The veterinary research literature illustrates that there are often no clear causes of DCM. Many factors can contribute to this condition, including nutritional deficiencies and absorption problems (e.g., taurine), infections and viruses, and in rare cases, genetic predisposition. As with our three cases, causes of the majority of DCM cases are unknown.

According to health surveys conducted by the Standard Schnauzer Club of America, DCM is rare in the breed, and thus, is not considered a health issue of major concern. There are genetic predispositions in some breeds (e.g., Doberman Pinscher, the Great Dane, the Boxer, and the Cocker Spaniel). Thus, to ensure there are no heart problems in our breeding stock, we conduct extensive testing annually.

As a breeder, I am aware that there are some diseases that appear occasionally in our breed. We continue making efforts to learn about our dogs and share information to ensure that we breed the healthiest of dogs.

Cancer seems to take most of our dogs in old age. As in humans, cancer is the number one killer. Additionally, in Standards, just like other breeds, you will find the occasional dog with one or both testicles that have not descended, or that have malocclusions with their teeth (bad bites). Further, some low thyroid problems have been reported.

As potential buyers, you should be as informed as possible. For the most part, our breed is one of the healthiest you will find. In all likelihood, you won't experience any of these problems with your puppy.

Breeding, testing, and being honest about what we have learned is the only way we can help our great dogs stay healthy. Keep in mind that things happen in life that cannot be explained or controlled, but as a reputable breeder, we stand behind our dogs.

Work with your breeder, do your part as owners, and enjoy our wonderful dogs!

— These are strictly the thoughts and beliefs of Shana Standard Schnauzers.


For further information on the Health of our Breed, please visit our Health Information Resources.