Health testing - Tests sanitaires
It is our belief that health tests should be carried out. As a minimum, a dedicated breeder will carry out hip and elbow xrays as well as hold a valid yearly eye test and Optigen PRA results for each of the dogs he intends to breed from. Sadly, this is not yet a U.K. Kennel Club requirement. The DNA tests are numerous and, depending on his lines, a breeder should know what his dogs need testing for. It is important to stress that it is not the result of the test that is important but more what one does with the result. A carrier or an affected dog will produce healthy puppies when put to a clear. Some laboratories are not trust worthy so we recommend you test each condition that you need testing for, with the laboratory that discovered the test in the first place.
Nous croyons fermement à la nécessité de faire les contrôles sanitaires. Au minimum, un éleveur consciencieux aura fait faire les radios des hanches et des coudes, un test oculaire annuel ainsi que l'Optigen PRA pour chaque chien avec lequel il envisage de reproduire. Malheureusement ceci n'est toujours pas une exigence ni de la S.C.C. ni même du R.C.F. Les tests ADN sont nombreux mais seul l'éleveur qui connait ses lignées devrait savoir quels tests ses chiens devraient avoir. Il est important de souligner que ce n'est pas le résultat des tests qui compte mais ce que l'éleveur en fait. Un chien porteur ou affecté produira une portée de chiots sans problème s'il est accouplé à un chien sain. Certains laboratoires sont douteux et nous recommandons de faire les tests auprès du laboratoire qui a mis au point le test concerné.
Hips / Hanches
Hip scoring was introduced in the 70s when it was observed that dogs were crippled with poor hips. The various schemes were set up to reduce inherited hip problems in dogs. The British Veterinarian Association (B.V.A.) scores from 0 to 53 on each side. The final result is the sum of both sides. At present the BVA recommends that only dogs with a maximum total of 14 be bred from. The ANKC scores in a similar way to the BVA and is the Australian official scoring - the turnaround is much faster. The Fédération Cynologique Internationale (F.C.I.) system grades from A to E, A being the best. The worst side makes the overall grade. Hip dysplasia is a term which includes a number of specific developmental and other abnormalities involving the hip joint. The purpose of the hip scheme is to reduce the incidence of the disease in dogs used for breeding. A dog with both parents low hip scored is not guaranteed to have good hips himself. It is believed that hip dysplasia is poly-factorial. Hereditary factors, food, weight and exercise all play a part in the final result. www.bva.co.uk/public/documents/HD-client-leaflet.pdf
Elbows / Coudes
Elbows are a very important part of a Labrador. The impacts elbows get, throughout a dog's life, are numerous. Elbows are universally scored 0-1-2 or 3. The highest score determines the overall result so in the case of a dog being 1-3 his final result will be 3. The BVA and the UK Kennel Club recommend that only dogs scored 0 be bred from - this is now a requirement of the U.K. Kennel Club Accredited Breeders' Scheme (A.B.S.). It is saddening that neither the French Retriever Club (R.C.F.) nor the Société Centrale Canine (S.C.C.) require elbows to be scored. The ANKC scores in a similar way to the BVA and is the Australian official scoring - the turnaround is much faster. The fact that both parents are 0 does not guarantee a puppy to be clear of elbow dysplasia but it does give him a better start/chance.
Yearly eye test / Test des yeux
Labradors can be prone to Centralised Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Generalised Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Multi-focal Retinal Dysplasia, Total Retinal Dysplasia and Hereditary Cataracts. Hereditary Cataracts are an issue in that they are called this despite not knowing were thy come from and how they are transmitted. There is DNA research currently being done to find out more about HC. An annual test is required to ensure only healthy dogs are bred from (only every 18 months in France). Sadly at present there are only very few approved B.V.A. eye specialists who can deliver an official certificate. It would be beneficial if the B.V.A. would allow more eye specialists to join the panel. Alternatively, in the UK dogs can be screened by the ECVO (European College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists). More and more countries on the continent are deciding that there is no need for such frequent eye certificates; rightly or wrongly. For example France (amongst other countries) now accepts one final eye certificate at the age of 3 so long as there is an Optigen PRA certificate alongside.
Optigen Progressive Retinal Atrophy
The genetic disorder, prcd-PRA , causes cells in the retina at the back of the eye to degenerate and die, even though the cells seem to develop normally early in life. The “rod” cells operate in low light levels and are the first to lose normal function. Night blindness results. Then the “cone” cells gradually lose their normal function in full light situations. Most affected dogs will eventually be blind. Typically, the clinical disease is recognized first in early adolescence or early adulthood. Diagnosis of retinal disease can be difficult. Conditions that seem to be prcd-PRA might instead be another disease and might not be inherited. OptiGen’s genetic test assists in making the diagnosis. It’s important to remember that not all retinal disease is PRA and not all PRA is the prcd form of PRA. Annual eye exams by a veterinary ophthalmologist will build a history of eye health that will help to diagnose disease. Unfortunately, at this time there is no treatment or cure for PRA.
CNM appears to affect more working lines than show lines. At birth, affected puppies are indistinguishable from their control litter mates but as from two weeks of age, a progressive weight loss is observed. At one month of age, the absence of tendon reflexes is noticed and used as an early and reliable diagnosis. The age of onset of the disabling phenotype varies between 2 to 5 months, with an awkward gait and a decreased exercise tolerance, associated with a generalized muscle weakness. The puppy will never recover from this disabling disease. Clinical signs are progressively accentuated and generally stabilized at one year of age. In adults, the most striking macroscopic feature of the disease progression is the atrophy of temporal, cervical and leg muscles. No significant premature death in the colony could be observed. Nevertheless, dogs require medical care, essentially because they suffer from respiratory complications due to megaœsophagus.
Excercice Induced Collapse
Exercise-induced collapse (E.I.C.) is a fairly recently recognized disorder of increasing significance in Labrador Retrievers. We believe that, in Europe, it does mostly affect show lines. In the worst cases dogs affected with E.I.C. develop muscle weakness, incoordination and life-threatening collapse after just five to fifteen minutes of field exercise. These worse case scenarios are not so frequent. The more common expression of E.I.C. presents itself when dogs are asked a sudden burst of energy, reach a trigger point and this is when owners see the back end wobble. Owners usually recall their dog and keep him on the lead until the moment passes. If not recalled these dogs would collapse as their hind legs are unable to support them. It takes a few minutes for the dog to recuperate and start walking normally again. These dogs may live good lives as family pets.
Hereditary Nasal ParaKeratosis
Labradors may suffer from hereditary nasal parakeratosis (H.N.P.K.). Affected dogs develop crusts and fissuring of the nose pad at a young age (as young as 6 months old) but are otherwise healthy. This is due to the nose drying out. H.N.P.K. is inherited as a monogenic autosomal recessive trait. Affected dogs develop first symptoms at the age of six month to one year. H.N.P.K. currently cannot be cured, but the symptoms can be alleviated with symptomatic therapy. The nose can be treated with Vaseline, propylene glycol or salicylic acid containing products to ease the symptoms. The worst (but rare) known cases develop extra growth in the pads making walking very uncomfortable for the dog. These dogs will then require surgery.
Macular Corneal Dystrophy
Macular corneal dystrophy (MCD) is an inherited eye disease that causes problems with a dog’s sight. In affected dogs, a build-up of carbohydrate causes the surface of the eye (the cornea) to become cloudy. As the condition progresses, affected dogs' eyes become cloudier and it affects their vision.
Skeletal Dysplasia 2
SD2 is a condition that appears to affect more working lines than show lines. Some people pretend they are breeding this condition on purpose to facilitate some type of retrieving work but this is a deception. Skeletal dysplasias are inherited defects of bone and cartilage growth leading to disproportionate dwarfism in Labradors. The long bones of the forelimbs are most severely affected, whereas the length and depth of the body is normal. Adult dogs with disproportionate dwarfism are overbuilt and stand on too short legs. Affected dogs have slightly shorter legs but no other health problems such as e.g. secondary arthrosis.
Stargardt disease (STGD) is an inherited eye condition that gets worse as a dog gets older. This disease affects the parts of the eye that sense light, causing them to deteriorate and cause loss of vision, dilated pupils and a reduced response to light. Dogs that are affected by Stargardt disease don’t usually go completely blind, but retain some degree of vision.
By Kira Leith-Ross
Updated February 2024
Updated February 2024