AKC and health

What if I don’t want to adopt from a rescue group? What does AKC mean and will my puppy be healthy? 

You see it all the time – you open the classifieds, Craigslist, or see a posting on a website: “AKC puppies for sale”.

There is a widely held belief that “AKC” or “AKC papers” are a guarantee of the health of a dog.

That is not the case.

AKC is a registration certificate that identifies the dog as the offspring of a known sire and dam and born on a known date.  The AKC registration itself is solely dependent on the breeder’s integrity in reporting the data; the AKC organization does not verify the number of puppies in the litter nor do they ever see the puppies.  

In an effort to maintain the integrity of the AKC database, random inspections are done by the AKC personnel, to ensure that breeders are adhering to the regulations regarding paperwork and the identification of dogs.  The inspections are done primarily on kennels that produce larger number of litters.  Backyard breeders, or the occasional breeder, are not monitored.

At best, the AKC registration only guarantees the purity of the breed of the puppy you are getting.  

AKC does not guarantee that you are getting a puppy that will be free of hip or elbow dysplasia; eye issues such as progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) or pigmentary uveitis (PU); and heart issues such as Subarterial Aortic Stenosis (SAS) or Mitral Value Dysplasia (MVD). 

We all know, unfortunately, that the Golden Retriever breed is predisposed to all of the above.   Indiscriminate breeding of dogs that have not been cleared of all of the above health issues has, over decades, played a large part in increased incidence of seeing these health issues in litters.

Many of the health issues are life-threatening, and depending on their severity, can greatly shorten the quality and duration of life.

How do you know then, if the Golden Retriever puppy you are hoping to bring home from a breeder will have a greater likelihood of being healthy?  Note that there is no way to have a 100% guarantee of health. 

By asking the breeder if the dam and sire have the following certifications, you can feel more assured that you are bringing home a puppy that has been bred with health in mind:

OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) certification:  have their hips and elbows been x-rayed at or after 24 months of age and have those x-rays been checked for genetic issues such as hip and elbow dysplasia.  OFA certifications of “excellent”, “very good” or “good” of the sire and dam offer a better chance that their puppies will not have genetic joint disorders. 

CERF (Canine Eye Registration Foundation) certification:  have they had an eye examination by a canine ophthalmologist and certified to be free of heritable eye diseases.

Heart clearance: have they been cleared by a board-certified veterinary cardiologist of all genetic heart diseases. 


Most puppies that come into any rescue come from shelters; as Good Samaritan foundlings; or from surrendering owners; none of whom have AKC registration papers, nor known clearances of their sire and dam. 

As a rescue group, GRR does its utmost to ensure we know as much as possible about any existing health conditions while our dogs are in foster care and before adoption.

But we can’t offer AKC papers.  And we can’t offer the certifications listed above. 

But you may end up adopting a gem of a Golden, without all the above.

If, after reading this, you would much rather adopt from a breeder than go through rescue, we urge you to ask about the certifications listed above.


Bringing home a puppy is a wonderful thing and a great joy.

Bringing home a puppy that has a greater chance of living a full, healthy and happy life with you is priceless.

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