In the Golden Retriever
Hereditary Problems and Health Clearances:
The vast majority of dogs of all breeds (as well as mixed breeds) can live
long, healthy lives if given proper care and routine veterinary attention.
Nevertheless, any dog can fall victim to a wide range of acquired
problems, just as humans can, which range from acne to viral diseases,
from allergies to cancer and so on. In addition, each pure breed of dogs
has its own particular hereditary problems, some minor, some impairing,
and some possible fatal. Some may show a very strong hereditary basis and
others not much more than a tendency to "run in families". The Golden
Retriever is no exception, and unfortunately the problems multiply as the
breed continues to increase in popularity. Failure to screen for
hereditary problems before breeding often results in the "doubling up" of
unfavorable genes, and the results are distressing for the buyer and dog
alike. The following, while not all-inclusive, are some of the more common
hereditary problems that may be encountered.
HIP AND ELBOW DYSPLASIA:
Canine hip or elbow dysplasia means poor development of the formation of
the pertinent joint, and describes a developmental disease in young dogs
of many different breeds. It can be a serious problem in any dog that is
to be trained for a demanding activity. It is an inherited defect with a
polygenic ("many genes") mode of inheritance. The degree of heritability
is moderate in nature, meaning that the formation of the hip and elbow
joints can also be modified by environmental factors such as
over-nutrition, excessively rapid growth, and certain traumas during the
growth period of the skeleton. Hip and elbow joint conformation can range
from good to bad with all shades in between.
Hip and elbow dysplasia may be diagnosed by x-rays between six months and
a year of age, but this is not entirely reliable, and dogs intended for
breeding should be x-rayed when fully mature in order to select for sound
joints. The age of 24 months is usually considered the minimum for
accurate radiographic determination of desirable conformation. X-rays are
sent to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals in Missouri for diagnostic
evaluation. Reputable breeders will have documentation showing a favorable
(Fair or better) OFA hip rating, and a pass (clear rating) for elbows, for
any dog being used for breeding.
Hereditary cataracts are a common eye problem, and at least one type of
hereditary cataract may appear at an early age. While these may or may not
interfere with the dog's sight, so may progress into severe or total loss
There are also non-hereditary forms of cataracts which may occur. Other
eye defects may include progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), and retinal
dysplasia, all of which should prevent consideration of the dog being used
for breeding purposes.
Examination of breeding stock should be done annually, until at least
eight years of age, as hereditary eye problems can develop at varying
ages. The examination should be made by a board certified veterinary
ophthalmologist (a member of the American College of Veterinary
Ophthalmology or ACVO) , who has the special equipment and training needed
to properly examine the dog's eyes. Dogs that have been examined by a ACVO
vet and found to be free of hereditary eye disease can be registered with
the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF). Reputable breeders will
have documentation showing a current eye clearance for dogs being used for
HEREDITARY HEART DISEASE:
Subvalvular Aortic Stenosis (SAS) is known to occur in the Golden
Retriever breed. All prospective breeding animals should be examined by a
board-certified veterinary cardiologist or by an internist with
cardiovascular training. If a murmur is detected on auscultation
(listening), additional diagnostic tests are available and may be
recommended; however, even if the results are negative, this does not
conclusively rule out heart disease, as some mild but hereditary forms may
be undetectable except on necropsy. Animals with hereditary heart disease
should not be used for breeding.
Reputable breeders will have documentation showing a cardiac clearance for
dogs being used for breeding.
Excerpts from "Acquiring A Golden Retriever" published by the Golden
Retriever Club of America.
(Reprinted with permission, October 1996).