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Potential Health Problems

There are many health issues that Labradors can suffer from. Responsible breeders try to eliminate as many of these as possible. We make every attempt to breed healthy, sound dogs. However, we understand that many diseases, defects and disorders are polygenic (multiple gene involvement) and it is impossible to breed perfect dogs. We are grateful to have the testing available to help us identify many congenital defects and diseases and have spent countless hours and resources attempting to eliminate these problems from our breeding program. Generally speaking the two most common problems seen in Labradors are in their eyes and joints.  We are going to cover these but in no way are we trying to say that these are the only potential problems a Lab can have. Like most breeds, Labs can have epilepsy, allergies, heart murmurs, OCD, and the list goes on. The good news is that these other potential problems are rare and breeders have done such a great job over the past few decades that we have almost eliminated these problems. Of course, we are referring to the Labs that are bred by reputable breeders and not the ones being bred by backyard breeders or puppy mills, without clearances or concern for health or genetics.

Please pay attention to health clearances while shopping for a new additional to your family.  There are genetic tests breeders can and should all be doing to guarantee that pups are free of some genetic diseased.  Additionally, we have eyes, hips and elbows screened and our hope is that we greatly reduce the chance of puppies have issues with orthopedics or disease of the eye which can impair vision.  It is very easy to do a search with the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals to check for hip and elbow clearances.  

CERF Exam All breeding dogs at Trinity are examined by a veterinary ophthalmogist board certified by the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO). The findings are forwarded to the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) for their research.
An eye certification exam consists of a thorough examination of the eye from all directions. First the pupil and iris are examined for any abnormalities, such as small holes called iris colobomas. Then the pupils are dilated with eye drops called tropicamide. Once the pupil is well dilated the examiner will usually illuminate the eye with a penlight or transilluminator as he looks for large, obvious abnormalities. The eye is then examined in detail with a slit-lamp biomicroscope that will reveal any smaller abnormalities located in the cornea, lens, anterior chamber and front region of the vitreous.

The types of defects that may be noticed during this part of the exam include cataracts (opacity of the lens) , imperforate puncta (unopened tear ducts), distichia (extra eyelashes) corneal dystrophy (cholesterol development in the cornea), persistent pupillary membranes, persistent hyaloid remnants, and vitreal degeneration.The last step uses an ophthalmoscope and a focusing lens to examine the retina or fundus. This part of the examination may reveal such problems as Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), Retinal Dysplasia, colobomas, choroidal hypoplasia and optic nerve hypoplasia (Collie Eye Anomaly), and retinal detachment.  All dogs used for breeding should have annual CERF exams, especially if any recognized heritable eye disorder is known to be present in the breed. Reputable breeders will have puppies examined before being sold if the breed is known to have any early onset, heritable eye disorders.

Progressive retinal atrophy or degeneration (PRA or PRD) is the name for several diseases that are progressive and lead to blindness. First recognized at the beginning of the 20th century in Gordon Setters, this inherited condition has been documented in over 100 breeds, and mixed breed animals as well.

Normally, the photoreceptors in the retinas develop after birth to about 8 weeks of age. The retinas of dogs with PRA either have arrested development (retinal dysplasia) or early degeneration of the photoreceptors. Retinal dysplastic dogs are usually affected within two months of birth and may be completely blind by one year. Dogs with retinal degeneration are affected from one year to eight years of age and the symptoms progress slowly.
PRA worsens over time. The affected animal experiences night blindness initially because the rods are affected first. The condition progresses to failed daytime vision. There is no cure for PRA. Fortunately, testing is available. In the last several years, DNA is being used to identify which genes are responsible for PRA. In one form of PRA called PRA rod cone dysplasia 1 (rcd1), the gene mutation has been identified.


Hip Dysplasia
Like most large, heavy breeds, the Labrador is prone to have a genetic predisposition to Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD). Canine hip dysplasia has puzzled researchers for the past 50 years. Although certain aspects of this degenerative, sometimes painful condition are now understood, much must still be learned about helping afflicted dogs and preventing the increasing incidence of the disease. Originally, the only means at the breeder's disposal was to look at the dog's movement in order to judge whether the hips seemed sound. But many dogs with wretched movement never develop hip problems, and dogs with excellent movement can develop degenerative joint disease (DJD) of the hip joint.

Hip dysplasia literally means an abnormality in the development of the hip joint. It is characterized by a shallow acetabulum (the "cup" of the hip joint) and changes in the shape of the femoral head (the ball of the hip joint). These changes may occur due to excessive laxity in the hip joint. Hip dysplasia can exist with or without clinical signs. It may or may not be bilateral (affecting both the right and left hip joints) .When dogs exhibit clinical signs of this problem they usually are lame on one or both rear limbs. Severe arthritis can develop as a result of the malformation of the hip joint and this results in pain as the disease progresses. Many young dogs exhibit pain during or shortly after the growth period, often before arthritic changes appear to be present. It is not unusual for this pain to appear to disappear for several years and then to return when arthritic changes become obvious.
Hip dysplasia is a developmental condition and is not considered a congenital anomaly.  Dogs with hip dysplasia appear to be born with normal hips and then to develop the disease later. This has led to a lot of speculation as to the contributing factors which may be involved with this disease. This is an inherited condition, but not all dogs with the genetic tendency will develop clinical signs and the degree of hip dysplasia which develops does not alway seem to correlate well with expectations based on the parent's condition. Unlike many other genetic disorders, however, the occurrence of hip dysplasia cannot be traced to a single gene; it is polygenic (caused by many genes). As with other polygenic disorders, environmental factors play a 50% role in the expression and degree of hip dysplasia. Dogs with no genetic predisposition do not develop hip dysplasia.

In recent studies it has been observed that 2 out of 10 puppies born of so called HD-free parents will develop hip dysplasia. The risk increases to 5 out of 10 if one of the parents does in fact have hip dysplasia; 8 out of 10 will risk developing hip dysplasia if both parents are afflicted.

At present, the strongest link to contributing factors other than genetic predisposition appears to be to rapid growth and weight gain. In a recent study done in Labrador retrievers a significant reduction in the development of clinical hip dysplasia occurred in a group of puppies fed 25% less than a control group which was allowed to eat free choice. It is likely that the laxity in the hip joints is aggravated by the rapid weight gain.


Elbow Dysplasia
Elbow dysplasia is a general term used to identify an inherited polygenic disease in the elbow of dogs. Elbow dysplasia has multiple inherited etiologies which may occur singularly or in combination. These etiologies include fragmented medial coronoid (FCP) of the ulna, osteochondritis of the medial humeral condyle and ununited anconeal process (UAP). The most sensitive view used to diagnose secondary degenerative changes in the elbow joint is an extreme flexed medio-lateral view of the elbow which is required by the OFA and recommended by the International Elbow Working Group. The veterinary radiologists are most interested in the appearance of the anconeal process of the ulna.

When there is instability of the elbow joint due to elbow dysplasia, one of the most sensitive radiographic findings is new bone proliferation (osteophytes) on the anconeal process of the ulna associated with secondary developmental degenerative joint disease.

Exercise Induced Collapse

Exercise-Induced Collapse (EIC) is a genetic neuromuscular disorder characterized by muscle weakness, lack of coordination and life-threatening collapse after intense exercise in otherwise apparent healthy dogs. Affected dogs tolerate mild to moderate activity but will display signs of EIC after 5-20 minutes of strenuous exercise. The severity of EIC varies, some affected dogs continue to run while dragging their hind legs while others have progression of weakness from rear to forelimbs resulting in a total inability to move. EIC events are often accompanied by a dramatic elevation of body temperature, although unaffected dogs also exhibit elevated temperatures under the same exercise conditions. EIC episodes last from 5-25 minutes with a gradual return to normal with no apparent residual weakness or stiffness. Affected dogs show signs of the disorder as early as 5 months of age, which is typically when more strenuous training and activity begins. Dogs with EIC can lead full, productive lives with proper management.  

EIC is caused by a mutation in dynamin 1 gene (DNM1 c.767G>T). It is inherited as an autosomal recessive disorder, which means that both males and females are affected equally, and that two copies of the mutation are needed to cause the disease. Dogs with one copy of the normal gene and one copy of the mutation (carriers) do not exhibit any signs of EIC.

We test our dogs for this gene and we can therefore guarantee that all of our puppies cannot be affected by Exercise Induced Collapse.

Progressive Retinol Atrophy

Progressive retinal Atrophy, progressive Rod-cone degeneration (PRA-prcd) is a late onset, inherited eye disease affecting Labrador Retrievers. PRA-prcd occurs as a result of degeneration of both rod and cone type Photoreceptor Cells of the Retina, which are important for vision in dim and bright light, respectively. Evidence of retinal disease in affected Labrador Retrievers can first be seen on an Electroretinogram around 1.5 years of age, but most affected dogs will not show signs of vision loss until 4 to 6 years of age or later. The rod type cells are affected first and affected dogs will initially have vision deficits in dim light (night blindness) and loss of peripheral vision. Over time affected dogs continue to lose night vision and begin to show visual deficits in bright light. Other signs of progressive retinal atrophy involve changes in reflectivity and appearance of a structure behind the retina called the Tapetum that can be observed on a veterinary eye exam. Although there is individual and breed variation in the age of onset and the rate of disease progression, the disease eventually progresses to complete blindness in most dogs. Other inherited disorders of the eye can appear similar to PRA-prcd. Genetic testing may help clarify if a dog is affected with PRA-prcd or another inherited condition of the eye.

We test our dogs for PRA-prcd and guarantee that all of our puppies cannot be affected by PRA-prcd.

Hereditary Nasal Paraketosis

HNPK in dogs is a hereditary disease in which a genetic mutation is passed from parent to pup. Signs of the disease generally become apparent in young dogs that are 6 months to 1 year old. Affected dogs have dry, rough, brown or grey crusts that develop on the surface of and along the edges of the nose. You may also notice bumps.

  • Dry, crusty nose

  • May have bumps or lesions on the nose

  • Pigmentation loss in the nose

  • Chronic bacterial infections in the nasal area (if topical therapy is not applied early)

HNPK is not a fatal condition, but affected dogs suffer discomfort and pain if symptoms are left untreated.

This disease can be completely avoided by a simple genetic test.   We test all of our breeding dogs to make sure we don't breed puppies that will affected by this disease.  We guarantee all of our puppies to be free of HnpK.  

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