Like all dogs, Golden Retrievers are subject to a number of heritable defects including eye, heart, hip and elbow disorders. To reduce the occurrence of these abnormalities, ethical breeders have all breeding stock screened by veterinary specialists before their dogs are bred. A dog with a “clearance” has been tested negative for evidence of a heritable abnormality by a specialist and is given written certification. These clearances do not guarantee that the puppies will not develop these disorders but they greatly improve the odds that the pups will grow into healthy adults. Breeder members of the GRCC should obtain clearances for eyes, heart, hips and elbows as a minimum standard.
HIP DYSPLASIA (HD)
Hip dysplasia refers to abnormal formation of the “ball-and-socket” hip joint and occurs in many breeds, particularly larger dogs. It is primarily inherited, and development is believed to be influenced by multiple genes. However, risk and severity of hip dysplasia may also be increased by environmental factors such as overfeeding that leads to rapid growth during early puppyhood, neutering prior to maturity, and possibly certain types of exercise.
Dogs must be 24 months of age to receive final hip certification, and screening hip x-rays should be sent to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), PennHIP or the British Veterinary Association (BVA) for diagnostic evaluation. The evaluation procedures differ somewhat but all are acceptable. You might also see clearances from Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) or the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) at a minimum age of 18 months further back in pedigrees as these were acceptable evaluations at that time.
Dysplastic dogs generally are not used for breeding, but may lead long, happy lives. The radiographic appearance of the hips does not always correlate with clinical symptoms, and many dysplastic Goldens show no outward signs until middle or older age when secondary arthritis may cause increasing discomfort. However, regular, moderate exercise and weight control are important to managing all dogs with hip dysplasia, even those without symptoms. Depending on severity, dogs with symptomatic disease may be treated with dietary supplements, medication, and/or surgery.
Sample of the hip clearance certificate that you should see from your breeder:
For further information on hip dysplasia refer to the following websites:
ELBOW DYSPLASIA (ED)
Elbow dysplasia often first appears as front leg lameness in young dogs, although symptoms can appear at any age. Like hip dysplasia, many affected dogs have no symptoms, yet can pass more serious disease to their offspring. For other affected dogs, symptoms range from mild stiffness to severe lameness.
Elbow dysplasia is primarily inherited and development is believed to be influenced by multiple genes. However, severity of elbow dysplasia may also be increased by rapid growth during early puppyhood as a result of over-feeding.
Dogs must be 24 months of age to receive final elbow certification, and screening elbow x-rays should be submitted to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or British Veterinary Association (BVA) for diagnostic evaluation. You might also see clearances from Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) or the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) at a minimum age of 18 months further back in pedigrees as these were acceptable evaluations at that time.
Although dogs with elbow dysplasia generally are not bred, many lead normal, happy lives. Depending on severity, dogs with symptomatic disease may be managed by weight control, dietary supplements, medication, and/or surgery.
Sample of the elbow clearance certificate that you should see from your breeder:
For further information on elbow dysplasia refer to the following websites:
Hereditary cataracts are fairly common in Golden Retrievers. These cataracts, sometimes called juvenile cataracts, usually appear between 1-3 years of age, but fortunately do not usually cause any functional impairment. Non-hereditary cataracts also occur, and examination by a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist is necessary to determine if the cataract is suspected to be hereditary.
Eyelid and eyelash disorders also may occur in the breed, and are generally believed to have a hereditary basis. Entropion and ectropion are conditions that cause the eyelids to roll inward or outward, respectively; and distichiasis is a condition in which misdirected hairs touch and irritate the surface of the eye. Depending on severity, surgery may be advised to correct these problems. Although dogs with these conditions can receive eye certifications, these diagnoses will be noted on the forms.
An eye disease called Pigmentary Uveitis (GRPU) is of emerging concern in the breed, and while it is believed to have a genetic basis, at this time there are no satisfactory tools that breeders can use to be certain to avoid producing affected puppies. Pigmentary uveitis typically develops in middle-aged or senior Goldens, making it very important to continue yearly eye examinations for the lifetime of any dog that has been bred. Early stages of the disease are usually very mild with no outward signs, but as pigmentary uveitis progresses, symptoms such as redness and tearing may appear, and over time the disease may progress to glaucoma. This can be a serious quality of life issue because pain from glaucoma may necessitate surgery to remove the affected eye(s).
Annual examination by a board certified veterinary ophthalmologist is recommended for the lifetime of any dog that has been bred, because hereditary eye problems can develop at varying ages. In particular, pigmentary uveitis often develops very late in life. Eye exams should be certified by the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) or the OFA, and are valid for only 12 months from the date of examination.
In addition, a few families of Goldens carry genes for progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), a gradual deterioration of the light-receptive area (retina) of the eye that may result in blindness. There are several DNA tests to help guide breeders using these lines, so that they can avoid producing affected puppies. It is acceptable to breed dogs that are carriers for PRA, providing the mate has been DNA tested as normal; and puppies produced from such matings are not at elevated risk to develop the disease.
Sample of the eye exam report that you might see from your breeder:
For further information on eyes refer to the following websites,
Dogs that are being considered as breeding prospects should be examined by a cardiologist by auscultation and/or echocardiogram to determine if there are anomalies in heart function. Normal cardiac exams may be certified by the OFA, and dogs with hereditary heart disease generally should not be bred.
Sample of the heart clearance certificate or report that you should see from your breeder:
For further information on hearts refer to the following websites,
Over the past decade breeders have had increased accessibility to DNA testing for their breeding dogs. Results of these tests are invaluable in assisting breeders on making decisions on choosing which matings will results in puppies that are safe from developing certain disorders. You will most likely see DNA clearances for:
Golden Retriever Progressive Retinal Atrophy (GR-PRA1 or PRA-GR1, GR-PRA2 or PRA-GR2)
Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is characterized by bilateral degeneration of the retina resulting in progressive vision loss leading to total blindness. More than one form of PRA affects Golden Retrievers, and causal mutations in three distinct genes have been identified; two of those mutations lead to PRA1 and PRA2.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy PRA-PRCD
Progressive rod-cone degeneration (PRCD) is an inherited form of late-onset progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) that has been identified in many dog breeds.
Congenital ichthyosis is a skin condition in which the outer layer of the skin does not form properly and results in scaling. The condition often progresses to large patches of thickened, black, scaly skin.
Ichthyosis 2- ICH2
This form is characterized by severe flaking with large amounts of whitish to brown scales and secondary infections with Malassezia. Weight loss and lethargy are associated with ICH-2. These are often not manageable with medications or baths.
Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis- NCL5
Results from the accumulation of granules in the neurons of the brain and spinal cord. This progressive neurological disorder manifests as behavioral changes coupled with a loss of coordination and blindness.
Degenerative myelopathy (DM)
An inherited neurologic disorder of dogs characterized by gradual muscle wasting and loss of coordination typically beginning in the hind limbs.
Congenital Myasthenia Syndrome (CMS)
A group of inherited neuromuscular disorders that are characterized by progressive muscle weakening that worsens with exercise.
Sensory ataxic neuropathy (SAN)
A progressive neurological disorder characterized by involuntary muscle movements and abnormal posture resulting from degeneration of the nerves controlling muscle movement. It affects both sexes but is only inherited maternally.
Other Clearances you might see:
There are additional conditions such as hypothyroidism, epilepsy, skin disease, cancer, etc, for which routine screening of Golden Retrievers is not performed. This may be because examination standards or tests have not yet been developed, because the incidence of the disease is low in the breed, or for other reasons. Potential buyers should feel free to ask the breeder about these or any subjects of concern to them, and the exchange of such information is an expected and customary practice.