What questions should I ask the breeder? What health considerations are important?

It can be daunting to find a bichon puppy from a reputable breeder on short notice.

A reputable breeder will have references  and should be happy to tell  you all about their line, sharing their pedigrees with you. Bichon fanciers often show their dogs in conformation competition (Judged by their national breed club for excellence such as , the C.K.C. or the A.K.C.) They may do rally, obedience or agility shows or all of the above. They will be very knowledgeable about the breed and happy to answer questions and share their expertise with you.  

They should offer to show you the health testing done on their breeding lines. Commonly tested are the dogs eyes -- for genetically transmitted diseases, such as juvenile cataracts and other eye problems. The breeding stock will have a" C.E.R.F." certificate (Canine Eye Registration Foundation) showing a clear bill of eye health. Eyes of breeding dogs should be tested yearly until at least the age of 7 years or preferably until age 10 or when breeding ceases.(Note: Males can be used for breeding into their teens if they are healthy)

The other important considerations are the condition of the dogs major joints, specifically the knee joints or patella's and the hip joints. There is the Orthopedic Foundation of Animals (OFA) in the United States, which offers certifications or canines on various tests.   A board of certified radiologists evaluate the x-rays and grade them. Hips are given a rating of excellent all the way down to poor. The knee exam is a manual exam done by a qualified veterinarian. It is a "normal" or "abnormal," with the result being recorded by the O.F.A.  Canadian breeders use this foundation. The breeding dogs need to be mature 2 years old before these tests are done. 

You breeder should be able to show you the certificates from C.E.R.F. and O.F.A. for the parents of the litter.

Some breeders do as much testing as they can, such as a heart exam, elbow certification and thyroid testing and get a special health clearance called a CHIC rating. While this is desirable, the main tests for a healthy bichon remain the eyes, knees and hips. 

The breed as a whole is extremely healthy. The dogs have a slight predisposition to liver issues due to their livers being small for breed size. Fatty diets may cause pancreatitis more easily in this breed. A healthy well balanced diet is essential.