Crufts 2024: Vets reveal top questions to ask when buying a puppy to avoid unwanted health issues

Ahead of international dog show Crufts, the British Veterinary Association issues advice to prospective dog owners on how to buy a healthy puppy.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is encouraging anyone considering buying a puppy to always ask five important questions first to make sure they get a healthy, happy puppy from a responsible breeder. The warning comes as vets report seeing puppies with serious health and welfare issues directly linked to the poor conditions and irresponsible way they are bred, reared or sold.

BVA’s recent Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey shows that irresponsible breeding or sourcing of animals is the top animal health and welfare concern for vets in the UK, with over half (55%) vets in clinical practice citing it as the most pressing issue.

Responsible breeders will always be happy to answer any questions and will also ask prospective owners questions in turn to make sure the puppy is going to a suitable home.

BVA recommends asking these five key questions of any puppy breeder or seller:

  1. Did you breed the puppies yourself? If the answer is ‘no’, walk away regardless of the answers to the other questions. By law, a breeder can only sell puppies they have bred themselves and from the location where they were bred and reared.
  2. Have you started to house train and socialise the puppy? Ask to see the puppy socialise with its mother and brothers and sisters. It is also a good idea to visit the puppy more than once in the time before you take them home to spot any potential problems more easily. 
  3. Were both the puppy’s parents screened for testable inherited diseases? Health testing and screening, such as the BVA/ Kennel Club Canine Health Schemes, allow responsible breeders to screen dogs for certain inherited diseases to help lower the risk of health conditions being passed on to puppies. Ask for health screening certificates and run the results past a vet. This is especially important given a recent rise in unregulated dog fertility services working without proper veterinary oversight, many of which are focused on in-demand breeds that often have serious health and welfare issues.
  4. Will the puppy be microchipped and given their first vaccinations before homing? Puppies must be microchipped by the time they are eight weeks old, and before they go to their new home. The breeder should supply you with microchip paperwork which includes your puppy’s individual identification number and database they are registered with. Puppies over 6 weeks old may have started their vaccination courses. Vaccination records should be stamped by a veterinary practice and signed by a veterinary surgeon.
  5. Has the puppy or its parents had any health problems? It’s important to be aware of any health problems the puppy or its parents have had as they could have been passed on to your puppy. If your puppy has received any treatment, the breeder should provide details of anything abnormal that the vet noted.

British Veterinary Association Junior Vice President Dr. Elizabeth Mullineaux said:

“While there are lots of responsible breeders, there are many unscrupulous individuals cashing in and not prioritising the welfare of the animals above making money. Sadly, vets frequently see puppies that have been bred in poor conditions or bought without a proper understanding of their welfare needs, leading to health or behavioural issues. That is why anyone looking to get a dog should find out how the puppies have been reared and cared for in the first few weeks of their lives. Use The Puppy Contract to help ensure you are buying a healthy, happy and well-socialised puppy from a responsible breeder. If a breeder is not willing to provide answers to your questions, then you should walk away to avoid getting a puppy that might have a poor quality of life and perpetuating irresponsible dog breeding.”

The Puppy Contract is a free, one-stop guide developed by the RSPCA and BVA’s charity the Animal Welfare Foundation. It gives prospective puppy owners all the information they need at their fingertips, including all the right questions to ask the breeder about important aspects of the puppy’s care, such as socialisation, vaccination, microchipping and health tests. It also provides a legally binding contract of sale between buyer and breeder.

The Puppy Contract is available at:

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