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THE SCHNAUZER
Frequently Asked Questions
Brought to you by Remporter Schnauzers, Australia

Following are some of the questions typically asked about the Standard Schnauzer. These questions and answers are meant as guides and must not be relied upon as being applicable in every circumstance. Each dog is an individual. Each will be slightly different. This is very much a factor of environment and up-bringing as of any thing else. The way your puppy turns out as an adult depends on the contribution you as its owner makes while it grows up.

Are three Schnauzer breeds the same except for size?

No. They are not the same. No two dogs are the same, they are all individuals. However, we can generalise and say that the three breeds can be described in a general sense with a set of characteristics that are fairly well common. These commonalities are slightly different between the breeds. If we look at their history, that will tell us a bit more. The Schnauzer was a general purpose dog. It was expected to be small enough and agile enough to work around the house chasing vermin or to fit in and guard a wagon. It was also expected to do some herding work and watch over property and raise the alarm if necessary, this included "minding" children. The Giant was bred to undertake a different role requiring a larger dog while the Miniatures' role was also slightly different. Both the Giant and the Miniature were a little less utilitarian and a bit more specilaised. To me, and others may choose to disagree, the differences, while slight, are most noticeable in temperamant with the Schnauzer the most "laid back" of the three.

Are Schnauzers suitable pets for families with children?

Again, I make the point that each dog is an individual and that the suitability of an individual dog for any purpose can only be assessed by looking at that individual. This needs to take into account environmental as well as genetic factors. While there is no universal answer, my experience has been that the vast majority of Schnauzers have fitted in well with families and adore and willingly accept children. Having said that, I very strongly advise all parents, not to leave children unattended with any animal be it a Schnauzer, a cat or a rabbit.

How long do Schnauzers live?

Again, this depends on the individual, its genetic make up and most importantly its environment. The greatest determinant in the age that a dog reaches is how it is cared for. The correct diet, proper exercise (physical and mental) and appropriate veterinary attention are all very important factors. A well cared for healthy Schnauzer should on average, live to be about 12 to 14 years. Schnauzers have lived to be 18 years (and probably older). Of course, there is no guarantee, just as there is no guarantee how long an individual man or woman will live.

Can I keep a Schnauzer as a yard dog, giving it food and water but otherwise only attending to it occasionally?

NO!!!! A Schnauzer is a dog that needs human attention and interaction. They need to be part of a family, they are very intelligent and need to be stimulated and kept active physically and mentally. Besides that, they need very regular grooming.

Do Schnauzers suffer from cancer?

Yes, unfortunately most living things can suffer from cancer.  Cancer is a malignant tumor that spreads indefinitely and can recur if removed.  The common explanation is that cancer is a tumour that is created by cells that is corrupted and begins change itself or to attack cells around it, usually leading to a swelling (tumour).  Standard Schnauzers are considered to be low cancer risks compared to other breeds, nevertheless Schnauzers can suffer from a particularly aggressive form of melanoma that spreads very, very quickly and can be difficult to treat.  Fortunately, it is rare but when it does occur can often start in the mouth.  Not all of the swellings that a dog accumulates as it ages are cancers, many are cysts or other growths and are quite common in older dogs.  If you are concerned about a swelling on your Schnauzer, talk to your vet to make sure it is not malignant.  Cancers in dogs are like cancers in people, they can be caused by many things.  Take the same precautions with your dog as you would take for your childre, especially make sure that any commercial food you use is of good quality.  Poor quality dog food has been blamed for the growing incidence of some cancers in dogs, but it is not the only cause. 

Can Schnazuers sniff out Cancer?

It would seem so.  One of the best known cancer sniffing Schnauzers was George, owned by Tallahasse Florida dog trainer and former Police Officer, Duane Pickel.  George was the subject of a documentary seen around the world and something of a celebrity.  He is not alone, the medical journal Lancet has recorded dogs being trained to sniff out cancers and one of our friends was diagnosed with cancer following one of her Schnauzers showing great and unusual concern over a particular spot.

Can I feed a Schnauzer anything?

No. Schnauzers, as with most dogs, do not thrive on a single diet. The dogs have different requirements as they pass through different stages of life and what they are feed will have an impact on how long they live and how healthy they are. We have found that Schnauzers do very well on the Billinghurst or B.A.R.F. (bones and raw food) diets. We have also found that, in general terms, they do not do as well on diets based around highly processed foods. For example, dry dog foods (kibbles)with very high protein levels, high in red food dye or high in cane sugar do not deliver as good an outcome as the Billinghurst natural diet. As far as processed food goes, there is a marked difference in quality and efficacy. While on a general basis, the more expensive foods are better, this is not universally so as some cheaper brands out perform more expensive rivals. How do you tell which is best? Talk to the breeder, talk to your vet and read up on the subject. I recommend Dr Ian Billinghurt's book "Give Your Dog A Bone" as a good staring point.

Can I keep a Schnauzer in an apartment?

The answer is yes with some quite strong provisos. You need to be able to give your dog plenty of exercise. Depending on where you live and the local customs and laws, your dog will need to be taken out and given the opportunity to run regularly as well as walked every day. A regular run at a sports field, on a beach, in a park or at a friend's property is necessary. While walking on the lead every day (preferably twice a day) is a must, your dog will need to excercise its mind as well as its legs. Generally, a Schnauzer can achieve this with a game in the yard, chasing and fetching a ball. However, this is not possible in an apartment and it is the owners responsibility to provide this another way.

What is “hip dysplasia” and how does it relate to OFA and Penn-hip?

This is an answer provided by a very experienced breeder of Standard Schnauzers who is not a veterinarian. It is an attempt to explain the issue in layman’s terms. Should you wish to seek an opinion that you can rely upon, please speak to your vet.

Hip dysplasia is what is called a multi-factorial disease. In layman's terms both genetics and environment contribute to the disease.

The term OFA refers to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. The OFA was founded in 1966 as a not-for-profit organisation assisting breeders deal with hip dysplasia. It established a standard method for taking x-rays of dogs hips and scoring those x-rays to indicate the incidence of dysplasia. This is held in databases enabling comparison. See www.offa.org for information.

If it was genetics alone that controlled hip dysplasia, the attempt of using an OFA clearance to direct breeding decisions should and would have decreased the incidence of the problem to a very low percentage. Unfortunately this has not been the case.

In every breed that has instituted OFA testing as a measure of the breed’s hip dysplasia, there has been a decrease in the occurrence of the disease but not to the zero or minimal level desired. Environmental factors that seem to be associated with dysplasia include but not limited to rapid growth, too rich a diet (stimulating growth), excessive supplements, and restricted exercise. Also hip dysplasia is probably polygenic, which means that it involves more than one pair of genes.

Genes also express themselves at different rates (the term is penetrance) and at different times of life. You can have a horrible family history for a disease like diabetes and have no expression of the disease. Why? We don't know. Diseases like hypertension and celiac sprue (gluten intolerance) don't show up usually until we are older but are also genetically based.

With regard to OFA, these x-rays show changes of the hip joint from abnormal positioning of the top of the thigh bone-the femur-this area looks like a ball at the top of a stick that angles in toward the body after looking straight-in the hip socket -which looks like you are cupping your hand around that ball. Instead of that ball sitting tight in that cup it slides around and it very severe cases actually slip out. That slippage motion causes irritation of the bone which causes bony changes like arthritis changes that you see on x-rays. With regard to OFA evaluation, these x-rays are supposed to show if there are changes in the joint where the hip and the leg connect. In a normal join the thigh bone or femur, which is shaped like a straight stick except for the top where it angles in towards the body at about 45 degrees and has a ball at the top. This ball fits into the hip socket which looks like your hand held in the shape of a cup, but angled so that the femur fits in fairly snugly. With hip dysplasia the ball, instead of sitting tightly in that cup, slides around and in very severe cases can actually slip out. That slippage motion causes irritation of the edges of the cup like hip socket causing erosion and bony changes similar to arthritis changes that you see on x-rays. . Penn Hip is an alternative (to OFA) methodology. It measures laxity of the joint. The premise is that if it is lax and movable you can get the bony changes that are described above. Penn Hip is supposed to be predictive of future dysplasia and that you can do it at 6 or 8 months as opposed to 2 years for OFA. The argument is that before spending a ton of money showing a dog or bitch prior to breeding it would be great to know.

One of the other problems with either test is that you can have a dog with horrible x-rays and never take a lame step. Does that mean that the bony changes are there because of genetics but the ligaments and tendons are so tight that there is no distortion to his gait?

Does it mean that the dog has such a high pain threshold that he isn't going to react?

Another issue is that, genetically speaking, you really would want to know the OFA or Penn Hip on the entire litter, not just one animal. You are better off breeding an OFA fair or even failure from a litter where everyone else is good or excellent, than an OFA good from a litter where everyone else fails.

Also remember the way OFA is done. Three different vets examine the films submitted separately and render an independent verdict. The lowest score becomes the rating. So if two say good and one says fair, the fair is the rating.

Edited from information provided Dr Kathleen Fitzgerald


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