For as long as I can remember, when someone was purchasing a purebred puppy from a pet store (as my family did when I was a kid) or from a breeder, that puppy came with a "health guarantee". If anything was wrong with the puppy you could return that puppy for a "full refund". For some, offering the health guarantee is a "get out of jail free card" because of the "catch". The catch being that the person who purchased the puppy had to return the puppy/dog in order to get their money back. Of course the vast majority of people will have fallen in love with the puppy by then and will not give them up for any amount of money.
Some people will see that a "health guarantee" is offered and say "oh-that means this is a reputable seller/breeder". The presence of a health guarantee certainly does not ensure that the puppy was well bred or that the breeder is ethical. It partially depends on the "fine print" of the health guarantee. Nevertheless--a "health guarantee" is a standard practice among dog breeding, selling and purchasing. People purchasing a puppy should have an ability to look at a health guarantee, understand its significance and its value. Breeders and sellers who are truly attempting to do the "right" things should also give consideration to their "health guarantees" and what they entail.
When researching breeders and trying to purchase a healthy puppy, the buyer should be most concerned about finding someone who is health testing their dogs, knows their lines and who can speak intelligently about the risks associated with the breed. They should look for a breeder that is scrutinizing any issues that their breed or particular family of dogs is at risk for and articulate measures they take to limit the risk for problems. The key is looking for a breeder who is looking for the common and the uncommon health and genetic risks and doing what they can to eliminate the chance for problems related to these in their puppies. The goal as a buyer is a healthy puppy, not getting money back when or if the puppy is not healthy. If a breeder implies that they can assure that your puppy will be healthy---or if they say something like "I have been breeding these dogs for 20 years and they have never had a problem"---then the wise choice would be to politely bow out of the purchase of a puppy from this individual or, in other words, run!
I have often thought long and hard about the notion that anyone could imply that they, in some way, could actually "guarantee health" as the term "health guarantee" emotionally may seem to imply for some. I have also thought a great deal about what a "health guarantee" should cover and what the term "health guarantee" should actually imply? As a medical genetic health care professional - I know every well that there is no guarantee of good health. Many human couples have no family history of a problem and do everything in their power to be certain that their baby is healthy: from taking prenatal vitamins, to eating organic to meditation to ensure that their stress levels are low - and yet their children still have a risk for genetic disease. Based on the population structure of purebred dogs---this is especially true for dogs of specific breeds have an increased risks for certain conditions and a decreased risk for others.
I have personally found that new buyers often do not want to discuss at great length what occurs if something turns out to be wrong with their puppy. I am not certain if this is because they don't want to think about it, if they just do not think that anything will happen or if they are just too busy with their excitement about their new puppy. From the buyer's and breeder's perspective, it is advisable to discuss these things before the buyer comes to pick up their new puppy. Health issues and contracts are the last people want to think about when they are holding their bouncing hairy bundle of puppy breath. I imagine that disreputable breeders count on people being too caught up to read the fine print.
So what should health guarantees entail? There are two aspects of the health guarantee. The first is that the breeder is actually selling a puppy that is currently healthy. Many states require health certificates issued by a veterinarian prior to the sale of any puppy. Most breeders/sellers offer a guarantee that the puppy is healthy and free of serious infectious disease and require that the buyer take the puppy to their own veterinarian to be examined within a specified amount of time (most commonly from 48-72 hours). This is for the protection of both the buyer and the breeder. Protection for the buyer as any purchase of a puppy should involve this type of guarantee. The buyer should take their puppy to their veterinarian and make certain everything looks good, that the appropriate vaccinations have been given for the puppy's age and have the opportunity to return the puppy in that time for a full refund should anything be amiss or not up to their expectations. A new owner in love with a new sweet puppy may find it extremely difficult to return a puppy with problems but it could allow them to avoid a long-term heartache. This exam is protection for the breeder as the buyer and their vet must document the puppy's health - this is to ensure that the buyer does not take poor care of the puppy, create health issues and then try to get their money back for a puppy who is sick due to poor care provided by the new owner.
The second aspect of the "health guarantee" is that the breeder/seller is to "guarantee" the puppy against health, congenital and/or genetic defects for some amount of time. This aspect of a health guarantee is far more dicey and complex--again for both the potential buyer and the responsible breeder/seller. This second aspect of the health guarantee could offer a guarantee against the development of any health and/or genetic defects for anything from a year to the notion that the breeder should offer a "complete lifetime health guarantee”.
Again-the best guarantee is a puppy from healthy and health tested parents. As we hope we have made clear, we at Paw Print GeneticsTM are all about the breeding of the healthiest dogs possible. We are committed to providing testing and education about the things that breeders can do in reaching their goals of producing healthy puppies. A key aspect of a responsible health guarantee is that the breeder can speak intelligently about the health and genetic risks for the puppy related to their breed and their particular family of dogs. Such a breeder will be able to provide documentation of health clearances such as hip, elbow, patella, cardiac, eye certification or other health clearance from organization like the OFA, CERF for eyes, or PennHip for hips and genetic testing that has been completed on the puppy's parents such as the Canine Genetic Health Certificate© provided by Paw Print GeneticsTM. Some experienced breeders will be able to provide health information on other family members. Many will guarantee the dog for a period of time against the development of genetic disease or the presence of congenital defects. This guarantee may be against specific debilitating issues or defects that compromise the health and happiness of the dog or things create extensive medical bills. It is wise for the buyer to have done their research and know what health issues are a concern based on the breed they are purchasing and discuss these issues with the breeders they are potentially interested in purchasing a puppy from. Buyers should not take the term "heath guarantee" at face value but understand what a specific guarantee covers and what consideration will be given should issues occur.