Like humans, our canine companions are equally at risk for inheriting a wide range of diseases and genetic disorders and the Labrador Retriever is no exception. While we cannot control everything in nature, it is the goal of every responsible breeder to take steps to eliminate these diseases. The first step in this process includes completing regular health screenings and genetic testing to ensure that they are not passing on diseases to future generations.
The following list describes the genetic diseases noted to be the most inheritable amongst the Labrador Retriever breed:
Hip Dysplasia: Hip dysplasia is when the hip joints fail to develop normally, which results in a gradual deterioration and can, in severe cases, lead to the loss of function in the hip joints. It is an inherited disorder commonly seen in larger breeds, including the Labrador Retriever. While it is a genetic disorder, it can be influenced by environmental factors including obesity, exercise, and nutrition. Radiographs are used to screen for this disorder and a grade of Excellent, Good, Fair, Borderline, Mild, Moderate, and Severe are assigned by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals.
Elbow Dysplasia: An inherited disease of the elbow which may not be recognized for a long period of time. Symptoms of Elbow Dysplasia include lameness, changes in the gait, and decreased range of motion in the elbow. While genetic, environmental factors including weight gain and level of exercise can influence its progression. Radiographs are used to screen for this disorder and are noted as either Normal or assigned a grade of I, II, III when diagnosed as abnormal Elbow Dysplasia by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals.
PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy): PRA is a genetic disorder that causes cells in the retina to degenerate and eventually die over time. In most cases, this will cause the dog to go blind as there is no treatment or cure for affected dogs. Signs typically can be recognized in early adolescence. There is a genetic test that is available for the Labrador Retriever, which should be completed before breeding, to ensure the disorder is not passed on to future generations. It is recommended that an annual CERF eye exam be conducted to ensure that any breeding Labradors remain clear of this disease, along with other retinal diseases.
CNM (Centronuclear Myopathy): CNM is a serious form of muscular myopathy that affects the Labrador Retriever. First signs of the disease are seen in puppies 2-5 months of age. Symptoms include: loss of muscle tone and control, exercise intolerance, and awkward gait. There is a genetic test available for the Labrador Retriever, which should be completed before breeding to ensure the disease is not passed on to future generations. There is no cure or treatment for this genetic disorder.
EIC (Exercise Induced Collapse): EIC is an inherited disease that causes exercise intolerance and possible collapse in an otherwise healthy Labrador. Affected Labradors are generally normal at rest and can typically tolerate mild to moderate amounts of exercise; however, may become uncoordinated and even collapse with longer periods of strenuous exercise. Symptoms of the disease may show as early as 5 months of age or as late as 5 years of age. There is a genetic test available for the Labrador Retriever, which should be completed before breeding to ensure the disease is not passed on to future generations. There is no cure or treatment for this genetic disorder.
Cardiac Exams: Congenital Heart disease is thought to be a genetically inherited in canines and signs are can be present at birth and develop over time. It is recommended that all breeding Labradors undergo an annual cardiac exam using either auscultation (listening with a stethoscope) or an echocardiogram (visual exam of the heart and valves).
When searching for our Labrador puppy, ask the breeder what genetic tests and health screenings have been completed on both parents of the litter. The breeder should happily provide you with proof of these examinations and be willing to show you the OFA certificates. Furthermore, you can find detailed information about the health screenings completed on the parents, their siblings, and their offspring by visiting www.ofa.org. Be leery of any breeder that is unwilling or unable to provide you with proof of these examinations and genetic tests.
Now that you have done your research on the Labrador Retriever breed and decided that you are ready to adopt a puppy, you will need to determine whether you are interested in rescuing a dog or working with a breeder of purebred Labradors. If you decide that you want to work with a breeder, it is imperative that you do your research to ensure that you choose a responsible and ethical breeder.
Here are some tips to help guide you in your examination:
Check in next week to learn about the importance of testing for genetic diseases.