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When I wrote in past columns about the seven health clearance standards (four primary and three secondary) set by the Newfoundland Club of America and publicly available on the website of the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), I naively thought that this heralded a new era for adopters of Newfoundland dogs. However the feedback that I have received supports the old adage about “too much information”.

However there is another database that I had originally dismissed out of hand that may be more helpful to the novice Newfie person seeking a pup. At first I didn’t think much of this data bank because it seemed like a duplication of the OFA data and because it didn’t indicate whether a dog had passed or failed a particular test.

The Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) supports a health database that works with parent breed clubs like the Newfoundland Club of America to identify the appropriate health clearances and standards to merit including a particular dog. Such dogs are given an unique CHIC number and a certificate outlining the currently required health tests as well as any other publicly available tests. For a Newfoundland dog to get on the CHIC database, he must have undergone the four health tests that the NCA considers crucial (hips, elbows, heart and cystinuria) and the results of these tests must have the permission of the dog’s owner to be made public. While the results of the tests are not shown on the CHIC database, it is directly linked to the OFA database which shows the detailed information. In addition the certificate issued for each CHIC dog has the test results. Some critics have argued that a Newf could have failed all four of these tests and still be listed. That is technically true; however in practice this never been the case and should it ever be so, I would give the breeder credit for honesty and genuine desire to aid in the genetic studies of the breed.

So far there are 219 Newfs on the CHIC website, eight of whom are from Canadian breeders – six males and two females. The likelihood of finding a Canadian litter currently with both parents having CHIC numbers is extremely slim at best. There are some technical hurdles since many Canadian breeders use the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) for hip and elbow clearances and these, unlike the OFA clearances used by most American breeders, are not automatically registered with CHIC. In addition, only heart clearances from a board certified cardiologist are eligible for the CHIC database and many Canadian breeders are disadvantaged by not residing within easy driving distance of such expertise. However in the next five to ten years this will hopefully change for the better and enable an easy check on the most crucial health clearances.

Peter Maniate has been writing columns for the Newf News, the magazine of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada, since 1979.  In 1996 he started writing a Newfoundland dog column in the Breedlines section of Dogs in Canada magazine on behalf of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada.  When Dogs in Canada ceased publication at the end of 2011 he continued the Breedlines column in the Newf Newfs.

Permission is granted for re-publication of the preceding article or excerpts from it as long as the author is credited and the name of the original publication and date of first publication is included.

Dogs in Canada

December 2005