Health issues

Health issues

Labradors are a basically healthy breed but like all dogs (be they pure bred or mutts) they can be affected by some debilitating diseases.  I will address a few here and outline what we do at Byers Peak Labradors to help prevent the genetic spread of these diseases.

Byers Peak Labradors is proud to support Labradata, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing up-to-date verifiable medical data about the most popular breed in the world.  Click on the LabraData logo or go to http://www.labradata.org/ to find out more!


Hip Dysplasia is a terrible genetic disease because of the various degrees of arthritis (also called degenerative joint disease, arthrosis, osteoarthrosis) it can eventually produce, leading to pain and debilitation.  No one can predict when or even if a dysplastic dog will start showing clinical signs of lameness due to pain. There are multiple environmental factors such as caloric intake, level of exercise, and weather that can affect the severity of clinical signs and phenotypic expression (radiographic changes). There is no rhyme or reason to the severity of radiographic changes correlated with the clinical findings. There are a number of dysplastic dogs with severe arthritis that run, jump, and play as if nothing is wrong and some dogs with barely any arthritic radiographic changes that are severely lame.  To help prevent this terrible disease, we never breed any dog without first obtaining an OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) passing clearance.  Hips clearances have four main classifications - Excellent, Good, Fair (all of which are passing), and then dysplastic, or a failing clearance. 

You will NEVER see Byers Peak Labradors breeding animals that either do not have this clearance or that only have what is called "prelims" or preliminary clearances.  Prelims are obtained before the dog or bitch has turned 2 years old, and while these are great indicators of what the dog or bitch may obtain as a final clearance, we have seen too many prelims go bad.  Why take the chance?

Elbow dysplasiais a general term used to identify an inherited polygenic disease in the elbow of dogs.  Clinical signs involve lameness which may remain subtle for long periods of time. No one can predict at what age lameness will occur in a dog due to a large number of genetic and environmental factors such as degree of severity of changes, rate of weight gain, amount of exercise, etc. Subtle changes in gait may be characterized by excessive inward deviation of the paw which raises the outside of the paw so that it receives less weight and distributes more mechanical weight on the outside (lateral) aspect of the elbow joint away from the lesions located on the inside of the joint. Range of motion in the elbow is also decreased.  OFA has only two elbow clearance classifications, either clear (passing) or dysplastic (failing).  Remember that having only one elbow cleared is NOT passing!

Again, to help prevent this terrible disease, we never breed any dog without first obtaining an OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) passing clearance.  You will NEVER see Byers Peak Labradors breeding animals that either do not have this clearance or that only have what is called "prelims" or preliminary clearances.  Our feeling is that we should never take the chance that our puppies will be genetically predisposed to this disease.

Many times on websites you will see the dog's registered name followed by a bunch of numbers that you are supposed to decipher as health clearances... they can be misleading!  Below is the key to a few codes, as posted by OFA:

Hip Dysplasia

Example: LR-100E24M-PI

  • LR = Breed Code, in this case a Labrador Retriever
  • 100 = Ascending numerical identifier given to each animal within a breed evaluated as normal and given a number, in this case the 100th Labrador to be given a number
  • E= The phenotypic OFA evaluation, in this case E = Excellent, other normal phenotypes include G (Good) and F (Fair).
  • 24 = The age in months when the testing was done, in this case 24 months
  • M = Sex, in this case a male
  • PI or VPI = Indicates that the animal has been permanently identified in the form of tattoo or microchip. If the dog is permanently identified AND the id has been verified and signed off by the attending veterinarian, a suffix of VPI is applied. If the animals lacks permanent identification, a suffix of NOPI is applied. 

 

Elbow Dysplasia

Example:  GR-EL500F36-PI

  • GR = Breed Code, in this case a Golden Retriever
  • EL = OFA Database, in this case Elbow (EL)
  • 500 = Ascending numerical identifier given to each animal within a breed evaluated as normal and given a number, in this case the 500th Golden to be given an elbow number
  • F = Sex
  • 36 = The age in months when the testing was done, in this case 36 months
  • PI or VPI= Indicates that the animal has been permanently identified in the form of tattoo or microchip. If the dog is permanently identified AND the id has been verified and signed off by the attending veterinarian, a suffix of VPI is applied. If the animals lacks permanent identification, a suffix of NOPI is applied

One thing to watch out for is the age of each animal when they received their clearances... for example, if the dog was 24 months old when they got their elbow clearances but then they were 30 months old when they got their hip clearances, this may be a flag that the hips did not clear at 24 months and that they had to be re-evaluated at a later date.  Ask your breeder why!  More information can be found at the OFA website here - http://www.offa.org/ .

The Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) is an organization that was founded by a group of concerned, purebred owner/breeders who recognized that the quality of their dog's lives were being affected by heritable eye disease. CERF was then established in conjunction with cooperating, board certified, veterinary ophthalmologists, as a means to accomplish the goal of elimination of heritable eye disease in all purebred and recently hybrid dogs by forming a centralized, national registry.  After the painless physical examination of the dogs eyes, the board certified Veterinary Ophthalmologist will complete the CERF form and indicate any specific disease(s) found.  The exams must be performed once per year on any breeding stock.  To find out more information, go this this website - http://www.vmdb.org/cerf.html .  All of our dogs are "CERF'd" annually.

PRA - 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. Since age at onset of disease varies among breeds, you should read specific information for your dog. 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 prcdform 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.  The good news is that we can do genetic tests to prevent the spread of this genetically inheritable disease.  The main company that does these tests is named OptiGen (http://www.optigen.com/index.html).  There are three different classification outcomes of the tests done for PRA.  They are Clear/Normal (or the old term is OptiGen A), Carrier (OptiGen B) or Affected (OptiGen C).  The clear dogs will never develop the disease nor will the carriers.  However the carriers, if bred to another carrier or an affected dog may produce affected dogs that will eventually go blind.  Even if your dog is an affected or carrier, if bred to a clear dog, the offspring will never develop the disease.  This is why we are adamant that all breeding stock at Byers Peak be tested... good choices MUST be made!

EIC or Exercise Induced Collapse. This inherited disease is common in Labrador Retrievers, but is also found in other breeds, including Curly-Coated and Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Boykin Spaniels, German Wirehaired Pointers and Pembroke Welsh Corgis. Affected dogs typically become weak in the hind limbs and collapse after 5-20 minutes of high intensity exercise, such as in field trials or upland game hunting, and in some cases simple fetch and retrieves.  This DNA blood test has similar outcomes as the PRA classification system - They are Clear/Normal, Carrier or Affected.  The clear dogs will never develop the disease nor will the carriers.  You will find that many lab breeders that have been around for years are resistant to this test.  Please read the information on the website provided by the testing lab at the University of Minnesota (http://www.vdl.umn.edu/ourservices/canineneuromuscular/eic/home.html) and make up your own mind.  We have had a dog who was affected by EIC and she was symptomatic (Dazzle) so I KNOW it is not a made up disease.  We test for this as well.

There are many other tests that we do here at Byers Peak, such as testing for CNM (or Centronuclear Myopathy) which is an inherited health condition that weakens the muscles, making it difficult for a dog to walk. Centronuclear Myopathy (CMN), or hereditary myopathy, begins in puppies and climaxes at about 1 year old.  This disease is similar to Muscular Dystrophy in human children.  Again, it is a DNA test done with results similar to PRA - clear, carrier, or affected.

We also test for TVD (or Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia). The atrioventricular (AV) valves in the heart ensure that the blood flows from the atria to the ventricles when the heart beats. Malformation (dysplasia) of the right atrioventricular (tricuspid) valve causes backflow of blood into the right atrium, or tricuspid regurgitation. There may also be narrowing (stenosis) of the valve. Due to the dysplastic valve, the heart works less efficiently.  This test is done by one of two methods:
 

  • Ascultation - Cardiologist Veterinarian listening to the heart via stethoscope
  • Echocardiogram - Echocardiography is an ultrasonic examination of the heart. The Cardiologist Veterinarian must be able to perform two-dimensional, pulsed-wave Doppler, and continuous wave Doppler examinations of the heart.

    Byers Peak Labradors is proud to support Labradata, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing up-to-date verifyable medical data about the most popular breed in the world.  Click on the LabraData logo  or go to http://www.labradata.org/ to find out more!
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