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How Often Should I Take My Show Dog to the Vet?


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While purebred dogs are "pawfect" for strutting their stuff at a dog show, they usually require more veterinary care than your average mutt. Due to the narrowing of their breed's gene pool, pedigree and purebred dogs suffer from more congenital and hereditary medical conditions.

Show dogs are also costly, so ensuring they stay in the best possible health is important to their pet parents. Plus, just because they're show dogs doesn't mean they can't injure themselves while roughhousing with their favorite furry friends. So how often should show dogs go to the vet? Let's take a look.

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How often should show dogs go to the vet?

While there's no specific number of times you should take your dog to the vet annually, pedigrees may need additional check-ups to monitor potential hereditary and congenital conditions. Show dogs also travel more, and some require health checks before going on the road. 

A dog with no pre-existing conditions should visit the vet once a year. A pet parent with a pedigree dog will likely take their dog to the vet for a check-up every 6 months. The frequency of check-ups will vary depending on your dog's breed, age, and overall health. 

Wellness exams are essential as they catch health problems that aren't immediately obvious. A wellness exam usually involves:

  • Weighing your dog
  • Inspecting your dog's stance
  • Reviewing your dog's medical records
  • Examining your dog's teeth and gums
  • Inspecting your dog's mouth, eyes, and ears
  • Checking your dog's responsiveness
  • Checking for signs of muscle waste
  • Listening to your dog's heart and lungs
  • Feeling your dog's abdomen for swelling

Since your dog is purebred, your vet will be interested in reviewing their medical history while checking for signs of hereditary conditions. For example, purebred German Shepherds have sloped backs, making them prone to dysplasia.

Common health conditions in show dogs

As mentioned, the shorting of a breed's gene pool due to selective breeding means purebreds suffer from numerous hereditary and congenital conditions. Let's review 5 of the most common.

black and white boston terrier dog lying in grass

Brachycephalic syndrome

Brachycephalic syndrome is a congenital condition resulting from selective breeding. Brachycephalic breeds have flat faces that restrict airways, making it difficult to breathe. Brachycephalic breeds struggle to stay cool and exercise. They also are predisposed to skin, eye, and oral conditions due to the extra folds in their face. 

Twenty-four dog breeds can suffer from this congenital condition, including French Bulldogs, Pugs, Shih Tzus, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and Boxers. Symptoms of brachycephalic syndrome include:

  • Difficulty breathing (dyspnea)
  • Gagging
  • Difficulty eating
  • Cleft palate and/or lip

Hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is the most common orthopedic condition among large and medium dogs. Hip dysplasia occurs when the hip joint doesn't form properly. The joint then rubs, causing pain and even small fractures. 

Hip dysplasia is especially common among purebreds, affecting 70% of dogs in some breeds. German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, and Great Danes are just a few of the breeds commonly associated with hip dysplasia. Symptoms of hip dysplasia include: 

  • Reluctance to stand from sitting/lying down
  • Lameness
  • Bunny hopping
  • Chewing or biting at the affected area

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)

Heart disease is more common among purebred dogs, especially dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). Also known as an enlarged heart, DCM occurs due to a thinning of the muscle around the heart. Due to the weakening of the heart's walls, the pressure of the blood inside begins to stretch the heart, causing enlargement. 

DCM is prevalent among large purebred male dogs, especially Saint Bernards, Great Danes, Labradors, and Newfoundlands. It's also common among Spaniel breeds. Common symptoms of DCM include:

  • Lethargy
  • Rapid breathing when resting
  • Coughing
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased appetite

Atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is an allergic reaction characterized by red and itchy patches of skin. Atopy is caused by exposure to an environmental allergen. Atopy is an inherited condition that affects approximately 10% of the dog population. 

Because it's an inherited condition, atopy is most common in purebred dogs. Many breeds are predisposed to atopy, including Shar-Peis, Labradors, Lhaso Apsos, and several Terrier breeds. Symptoms of atopic dermatitis include: 

  • Red patches of skin
  • Itching of affected areas 
  • Raised pimples and swelling in affected areas

Patellar luxation

Patellar luxation is an orthopedic disorder that causes the kneecap to dislocate from the femoral groove, resulting in sudden lameness. Approximately 7% of puppies have patellar luxation, making it one of the most common orthopedic conditions in dogs. It can be both congenital and developmental. 

Purebreds and certain breeds are slightly more likely to suffer from patellar luxation. The condition is common among small breeds like Boston Terriers, Toy Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, and Chihuahuas. Patellar luxation is also becoming more prevalent among larger breeds, such as Flat-Coated Retrievers, Akita Inus, and Great Pyrenees. Common symptoms of patellar luxation include:

  • Limping
  • Sudden lameness
  • Hopping 
  • Refusal to exercise
  • Crying in pain

german shepherd puppy lying on white table

Average vet care costs for show dogs

The average vet care costs for show dogs vary significantly depending on your dog's age, breed, and health. In general, there's no reason why vet treatment for a show dog would be more expensive; however, you may have higher pet insurance premiums. Below is a rough breakdown of veterinary costs for a show dog:

  • Standard check-up: $50–$200
  • Vaccinations: $10–$100
  • Spaying and neutering: $50–$200
  • Allergy blood test: $80–$200
  • Heartworm test: $45–$50
  • Treatment for ear infection: $40–$150
  • Chemotherapy for cancer: ~$4,000

These costs are estimates and may vary depending on your location and recommended treatment.

Pet care considerations for show dogs

Looking after a show dog is among the most difficult jobs in the world of pet parenthood. Here are a few things to consider when caring for a show dog.

Speak to the breeder before adopting

Show dogs inherit most health concerns from their parents. If you're worried about your new puppy developing a condition like DCM, talk to the breeder. 

Ask plenty of questions about the parents' health to see if your dog may be predisposed to a serious medical condition. Most breeders with show-quality puppies require you to sign a contract, which may affect your dog's vet care, so double-check before going ahead with the adoption or sale. 

Pick the highest quality diet possible

Choosing the best-quality diet for a show dog may seem obvious, but your dog's dinner has more of an effect on their health than you might think. 

For example, if your dog's breed is predisposed to hip dysplasia, then you'll want to look for a food high in glucosamine and chondroitin. Picking the right food will help your dog have a long and successful show career. 

Get your dog used to grooming from an early age

Keeping your dog's coat in top condition is key to caring for a show dog. You should get your pup used to grooming, even if your dog doesn't need grooming during their first few months. 

Consider putting your puppy on a counter once a day and brush their coat, touch their feet, and handle them the way a groomer would. This interaction should prepare your show dog for future grooming sessions. 

Keep up with your dog's dental hygiene

Dental hygiene is essential regardless of whether you have a mutt or a pedigree. Periodontitis affects 65% of dogs over the age of 3. Gum disease is especially common in small dogs that suffer from severe overcrowding due to the size of their heads. Therefore, you should book your show dog in for professional cleaning once a year and brush their teeth once a day.

Caring for a show dog is expensive, and vet bills can crop up out of nowhere due to congenital and hereditary conditions. Secure pet health insurance today to avoid high veterinary care costs. Our pet insurance tool lets you compare plans from leading companies like Figo and Spot. Find the “pawfect” plan for your pet in just a few clicks!

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