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Who Does Health Testing and Why?
Responsible breeders test their dogs for diseases that are known to be hereditary prior to arranging a mating. Each breed is
prone to a certain number of hereditary illnesses - but by ensuring only healthy, certified animals are bred, breeders can
reduce or eliminate hereditary problems, and greatly increase the odds that their puppies live long happy lives.
Interested puppy buyers should ensure that the breeders they select are performing all necessary health tests suitable for
their breed - this gives you the best possible chance for a healthy pup. This page contains information on testing and
clearances that all Labradors should have done prior to being bred.
Health Tests for Labrador Retrievers
According to the Canine Health Information Centre, all Labrador Retrievers being used in a breeding program should have their
hips and elbows tested for dysplasia and their eyes checked against genetic defect. Tests for CNM and EIC are also listed.
They are quite new tests, but they are considered mandatory among reputable breeders. Keep reading for detailed information
on each test, and at the bottom of this page you will find a chart that shows how diseases are prevented with testing.
Hip Dysplasia is found in every breed or combination of breeds. There are several genes involved in the makeup of hip
dysplasia, and there are also environmental factors that can contribute. These include poor nutrition, injury, and obesity.
Breeders can help to reduce hip dysplasia in Labrador Retrievers by performing X-rays on adult dogs prior to breeding, and
having those x-rays evaluated by a professional. Certifying bodies include the Orthopedic Foundation For Animals -OFA (this is
the most common), PennHip, Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) or Western College of Veterinary Medicine. Dogs who have been
certified will receive a certificate and an identifying number. Only dogs rated Excellent, Good or Fair should be bred. Ask to see
the certificate or check online to confirm that the parent dogs of your litter have been certified. *** While a regular veterinarian
can take the X-rays, the actual evaluation is done by certified specialists listed above. A general vet checkup is not sufficient to
determine hip status since many dogs are dysplastic without showing any symptoms. ***
See example for Bit of Shine Engl: rated OFA "Good" LR-176469G61F-VPI online
Elbow Dyplasia is similar to Hip Dysplasia in that it is caused by several genes and environmental factors. If elbow dyslpasia is
present in a dog, they may present lameness in either one or both elbows of the front leg and can be severely hampered by
arthritis as they age. The odds of producing a puppy with elbow dysplasia can be reduced by breeding only dogs with certified
Normal elbows. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals evaluates x-rays of each elbow and will grade them either Normal or
Dysplastic. This can also be done, as with hips, by OVC or WCVM. Ask your breeder to see certification or check the
certificate's number online to verify that parent dogs have been tested for this disease.
See example for Bit of Shine Engl: rated OFA "Normal" LR-EL40216F61-VPI online
There are several types of genetic eye diseases in Labs. In fact, most breeds have some sort of genetic eye disease such as
Progressive Retinal Atrophy. Eye problems can vary in nature but in the worst cases dogs will end up permanently blind.
Breeding dogs should have their eyes examined by a board-certified optomologist for signs of eye problems prior to breeding.
Dogs whose eyes are free from signs of genetic disease will be issued a clearance certificate and number by the Canine Eye
Registry Foundation (CERF). These certificates indicate that at the time of exam, the dog did not have any symptoms of genetic
eye irregularities - however, because here are so many different types of eye problems, puppies could still inherit a rare defect.
Regular (annual) re-examination is recommended. Dogs can have their eyes examined at any time after 7 weeks and the
certificate issued is considered valid for one year. Ensure your puppy's parents have both had a CERF exam and you will
increase the likelihood that your puppy will have healthy eyes.
See example for Eromit's Cops Got My Gun rated CERF "Normal" online (search name)
Besides CERF testing, there are also specific DNA tests for certain eye problems, such as the prcd form of PRA. DNA tests for
prcd-PRA, and RD/OSD (retinal dysplasia, which is linked to dwarfism aka ocular skeletal disorder) are done by Optigen and
there is currently no online verification for these reports. Be sure to ask to see a copy of the test results. Please see copy's of
Ruger's certificates below for examples. ***pcrd-PRA and RD/OSD are 100% preventable with testing. At least one parent must
be certified clear of these diseases.***
|Centro Nuclear Myopathy (CNM)
|CNM is a devastating disease that causes the affected puppy to lose muscle mass, coordination, and it is terminal. It is heart
breaking to watch a CNM puppy struggle to survive. CNM is a disease that is caused by the mutation of one gene. In order to be
affected, a dog needs two copies of the gene (one inherited from each parent.) Dogs who have one copy of the gene will not
show symptoms of the disease but may pass a 'bad gene' onto their offspring, which off course is dangerous if the other
parent dog does the same. Only combinations of dogs who will not create affected puppies should be bred. That means that at
least one parent dog should be tested as 'clear'.
CNM testing is done ONLY at a laboratory in France. (Click HERE to be directed to their site). Cheek swabs are taken by your vet
and sent to the testing lab. Dogs who are not affected and can NOT pass the disease along are listed here on their CNM
white-list and are issued a certificate with a clearance number (note: all dogs listed on our website have tested CLEAR).
See example for Eromit's Cops Got My Gun: CLEAR LR-CNM09-766-M-PI online (search by name)
|Exercise Induced Collapse (EIC)
Exercise-Induced Collapse is a disease of retrievers that causes them to collapse when they are over excited. Occasionally
these collapses can lead to death. EIC is inherited in the exact same way that CNM is passed along -the puppy needs to get one
'bad gene' from each parent in order to be affected with this disease. It is important to note that in the case of both EIC and
CNM, parent dogs who are carriers (with only one bad gene) will NOT show symptoms of the disease - but if bred to another
carrier dog, they can produced diseased puppies. Therefore, even dogs with no symptoms should be tested to be on the safe
Breedings where at least one of the parents are Clear of the disease will have 0% chance of producing diseased puppies. Do
not buy a puppy from a breeder who hasn't done this clearance - this disease is completely preventable! (NOTE: "Carrier"
puppies are considered healthy because they can not show symptoms of the disease, and it is safe to purchase a known
EIC testing is done at a laboratory in Minnesota (Click HERE to be directed to their site). Cheek swabs are taken by your vet and
sent to the testing lab. Dogs who are "Clear" of the disease are rated as 'normal' and are issued a certificate and clearance
number by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals.
See example for Eromit's Cops Got My Gun: CLEAR LR-EIC796/14M-VPI online
Currently, the ability to prevent genetic issues is limited to the above tests. In the case of hip and elbow dypslasia, and some
types of eye diseases, environmental and nutritional factors play a role so occurrences of these diseases is not 100%
preventable. It is certainly possible that there are other inheritable diseases in Labrador Retrievers as well, although the above
are considered to be the most commonly occurring. As more tests become available, responsible breeders will add them to
their pre-breeding checklist to ensure only the healthiest puppies are born.
A health guarantee (or, more accurately - a warranty) is a service to the puppy buyer. No one can really 'guarantee' that a
puppy will be completely healthy, but a breeder can use a written guarantee as a way of saying "I stand behind the dogs I
breed." For this reason, guarantees will vary in length and coverage. If the parent dogs have been screened for the major
health concerns discussed above (hips, elbows, eyes, prcd-PRA, RD/OSD, EIC and CNM) that is the REAL guarantee that the
breeder is doing their best to provide healthy puppies to their buyers.
A health guarantee from a breeder who does not actually do health testing described above is NOT WORTH THE PAPER IT IS
WRITTEN ON. You should expect that any type of health guarantee issued will be presented in writing along with the purchase
contract at the time of sale. A GUARANTEE DOES NOT MEAN THAT THE PARENTS HAVE BEEN TESTED, and a LACK OF
GUARANTEE DOES NOT MEAN THAT TESTING HASN'T BEEN DONE.
Our breeding stock are completely health tested before a breeding is planned. We also provide a 30 month health guarantee
spelling out what is covered and what you should do to keep your dog healthy.
|Autosomal Recessive Diseases
Autosomal Recessive diseases are those genetic diseases which require 'bad' genes from both parents in order
to produce a sick (affected) puppy. In Labradors, these diseases are EIC, CNM, prcd-PRA, and RD/OSD. These
diseases are COMPLETELY preventable in Labs with pre-breeding screening. All you need to do to ensure the
puppy your buying is healthy is to make sure that at least one parent has been screened and tested "CLEAR" of
these diseases. If one parent is "Clear", then no puppies will show symptoms. Here's how we know that.
Each parent dog has two alleles for each gene. For example, lets take the disease of prcd- PRA. There are two
different possible alleles - capital "P" represents the dominant gene- this is the "good gene". Little 'p' represents
the recessive gene - the bad gene. Because prcd-PRA is a recessive eye disease, a puppy needs two little p's -
two bad genes - in order to show symptoms. Any other combination of genes will produce a healthy puppy,
because the good gene is dominant. A dog who is tested "Clear" of the prcd-PRA disease will have two good
alleles - PP. Because each puppy will inherit one allele from each parent, we know that each puppy will be getting
one P from this clear tested parent. And because P is dominant over p, each puppy will be free of symptoms.
Let's look at an example. Parent 1 is a "Clear" tested dog. He has two copies of the good gene. Parent 2 is
'affected' by prcd-PRA - they are blind. (Note that most people would not breed a blind dog, but this is just an
Parent 1 - CLEAR (PP)
Now, as you can see, all of the puppies inherited one
good copy of the gene from Parent 1 and one bad
copy of the gene from Parent 2. This means that all
puppies are 'carriers' of the disease - carrier status is
only significant if the puppy will be bred in the future.
Carriers are always healthy, because they have a
copy of the good gene, which is dominant.
What happens if you breed two dogs who have not been tested? Well, anything could happen! In the example
above, all of the puppies are healthy and show no symptoms.... yet they all carry one copy of the bad gene which
could be passed on to the next generation. Here we will show what happens if two seemingly normal, carrier dogs
Parent 1 - Carrier (Pp)
When you breed two carriers together, 25% of the
puppies will be clear of the disease (PP), 50% will be
carriers (Pp), and 25% will be affected (pp). This is
exactly the kind of scenario we want to prevent with
testing, because affected puppies will go blind, in the
case of prcd-PRA. In other diseases, such as CNM,
affected puppies will die or need to be euthanized.
Autosomal Recessive Diseases are 100% preventable with testing. When you are shopping for a Lab puppy,
you should ensure that at least one parent is tested clear for the following diseases.
1) Exercise Induced Collapse
2) Centronuclear Myopathy
3) prcd form of Progressive Retinal Atrophy
4) Retinal Dysplasia/ Oculo Skeletal Dysplasia
IF ONE PARENT IS TESTED CLEAR, THE PUPPIES CAN NOT BE AFFECTED BY THESE DISEASES.
Remember, carrier dogs are healthy, and there is no reason to avoid buying a carrier puppy. However, just
because the parent dogs appear healthy on the outside is no reason to skip doing DNA testing, because they
could be carriers.... breeding two carriers together can create diseased (affected) puppies... and that is what
we are trying to avoid. As long as one parent is tested clear, there is no danger of ever producing an affected
puppy. The DNA tests listed above provide complete assurance against producing affected puppies but you
should feel free to ask a breeder for verification that these tests have been done. A good breeder will be happy
that you asked and will be quick to show you documentation.