Some people would have you believe that if you purchase a puppy from a retailer, there is a greater chance that it will become ill. The following study reveals that the health of puppies from pet retailers is equal to and in many ways superior to those from other sources. Further assurance comes from the fact the report was published in 1994 and since then many retailers are providing pets that have been raised under the Gold Label Pets standards and vaccines for contagion like kennel cough and parvo have greatly improved in their ability to stimulate the immune system and provide protection when the puppy faces a challenge.

Source of acquisition as a risk factor for disease and death in pups

Janet M. Scarlett, DVM, PhD; John Saidla, DVM; Roy V.H. Pollock, DVM, PhD

Summary: Data was obtained and analyzed for 2,144 pups examined at 65 veterinary hospitals in the northeastern United States to determine whether there were significant differences in the frequency of disease and death among pups acquired from private owners, Societies from the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals/ pounds, breeders, or pet stores. All health problems reported by owners and veterinarians in the first 2 weeks of ownership were tabulated.

The prevalence of serious disease among pups (resulting in death euthanasia, return, or extensive treatment) was <4% for all sources. Pups from pet stores had more respiratory tract disease, but fewer fleas and parasites of the intestinal tract. Data supplied by the veterinarians indicated that the risk of intestinal tract diseases was not significantly (P< 0.01) higher among pups from Societies from the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals/ pounds, compared with those from private owners. The prevalence of reported behavior and congenital problems did not differ among the four sources.

Numerous articles in newspapers and trade journal and special segments on television shows have implied that a high percentage of pups purchased from pet stores are seriously ill. Most of those reports are based on anecdotal accounts of people who have purchased sick or congenitally afflicted pups from pet stores. There are few population-based data to support such claims. Scientific studies have included descriptions specific problems identified in pups, a survey of intestinal tract parasitism among pups from 14 pet stores in Atlanta, a description of the health of pups from 3 northern California pet stores, and an evaluation of congenital defect in pups from a single California pet store. Most of the studies lacked comparative data regarding pups from other sources (eg, breeders, private owners), were based on a small number of pups, or were confined to a small sample of stores or to only one aspect of health (eg, intestinal tract parasitism).

Several states are considering or have already enacted legislation to address a perceived higher-than-expected incidence and severity of disease among pups purchased from pet stores. Members of the pet industry, however, have disputed the need for further control, pointing out that few data exist regarding the frequency and severity of illness in pups purchased from any source. In the absence of comparative data, the benefit of control programs directed at only one source is impossible to ascertain.

The purpose of the study reported here were to compare the frequency of various signs of disease (eg, cough, diarrhea) in pups acquired from pet stores, breeders, private owners, and Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA)/ pounds during the first 2 weeks after their acquisition, and to determine the cumulative incidence of serious disease (eg, requiring euthanasia, return, or extensive treatment), death, and returns for these pups.

Vol. 204, No. 12 pages 1906-1913. ©American Veterinary Medical Association, 1994 All Rights Reserved.

The complete article can be obtained from the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association,

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