The purpose of this Curly Coated Retriever genetic health database listing is to provide a resource to easily access and supply information pertaining to the genetic health problems of the breed, and to inform you of the health screening and testing available for these diseases.
All prospective puppy buyers want their new puppy to have the best possible chance for a long and healthy life, and regular veterinary care is important toward achieving that goal. But in addition, the risks for many significant health issues can be greatly reduced through careful breeding practices, beginning with certain screening examinations of the parents of a litter. Each breed (and mixed-bred dogs too) has its own particular hereditary problems, and Curly Coated Retrievers are no exception. Failure to screen for these conditions before breeding results in taking unnecessary risks for genetic disease, and frequently leads to distress for the buyer and dog alike. Below is a discussion of important diseases for which the SSCCRCs recommends pre-breeding health testing. Reputable breeders are expected to conduct screening examinations for these diseases on the parents of a litter, and to disclose the results to prospective puppy buyers.
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.
Signs of hip dysplasia cannot be detected in very young puppies, but often appear between four and twelve months of age. Symptoms can vary widely from mild stiffness after exercise to severe lameness. Improvement or even resolution of symptoms can occur as the dog matures and muscles stabilize the joint; however, dysplastic dogs usually develop some degree of arthritis and discomfort later in life.
Dogs must be 24 months of age to receive final hip certification, and screening hip x-rays should be sent to either the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or to PennHIP for diagnostic evaluation. The two evaluation procedures differ somewhat but both are acceptable, and SSCCRC encourages all Curly breeders to do this pre-breeding screening examination.
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 Curlies 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.
Hereditary cataracts can happen in Curly Coated 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 also 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. Curlies do have an inherent tendency toward eye irritation and sometimes swelling can also cause the effect of eyelashes turning inward. This is why it is important to have eyes examined by a certified board ophthalmologist and not your local veterinarian.
Examination by a board certified veterinary ophthalmologist is recommended within the last year of any dog that has been bred, because hereditary eye problems can develop at varying ages and can often develop very late in life dogs should be examined every two years. 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 Curlies 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.
HEART DISEASE (SAS)
A small percentage of Curlies are affected with a hereditary heart disease called subvalvular aortic stenosis. While this is not common in the breed, it can be serious, so all prospective breeding dogs should be examined over the age of 12 months by a board certified veterinary cardiologist. If a murmur is detected through auscultation (listening with a stethoscope), additional diagnostic tests are available and may be recommended. Normal cardiac exams should be certified by the OFA, and dogs with hereditary heart disease generally should not be bred.
DNA testing should be performed on all breeding stock prior to breeding in order to determine genetic problems that can be avoided.
Glycogen Storage Disease IIIa is an autosomal recessive trait, which means that two copies of the gene must be present for the dog to be clinically affected. Curlies with only one copy of the gene are carriers of the disease but do not demonstrate clinical symptoms. There is a DNA based test to identify carriers as well as affected Curlies. Selective screening of breeding stock should be performed to identify which offspring need to be screened further. For example, if a sire and dam of a litter are both clear for GSD IIIa, there is no need to test the offspring of those parents. However, if one or both of the parents are carriers of GSD IIIa, all offspring should be tested so that carrier offspring can be identified to prevent future carrier-to-carrier breedings.
Exercise-Induced Collapse (EIC) is an autosomal recessive genetic disorder found in the DNA of Curlies. Unlike in other breed, such as the labrador Retrievers the gene in Curlies is rarely if ever symtomatic, meaning that they will never experience a symptom although the dog carries two genes for the trait.
EIC symptomatic dogs suffer from a loss of muscle control following periods of extreme exercise. Typically, an affected and symptomatic dog begins to show symptoms between 5 months and 3 years of age, usually around the age that more intensive training begins.
EIC is a recessive disorder, a dog must have two copies of the mutation in order for the disease to manifest symptoms. This means that a dog can have one copy of the mutation and not experience any signs or symptoms of EIC; this dog would be known as a carrier. The carrier can then pass on either the normal gene or the mutated gene to any offspring. If two carriers are bred, a dog could potentially receive the mutated gene from each parent and be affected by EIC. Because an affected Curly Coated Retriever will most likely never experience and episode of EIC it is felt by many in the breed that the test for EIC is somehow skewed and not as significant in the test results. A very high percentage of the breed is tested as having one or both copies of the EIC gene.
Certifications and Clearances
Certification results from hip, elbow, eye, and heart examinations may be placed in the public record on searchable databases, and the most widely used of such databases is provided by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals at www.offa.org. Breeders often describe their dogs as “hip, elbow, eye, and heart certified” or as having “all their clearances” and these statements usually can be verified on the OFA website. Records can be accessed by searching using the dog’s full registered name (with exact spelling) or registration number, and reputable breeders should not hesitate to provide you with this information.
There are additional conditions such as epilepsy, skin disease, cancer, etc, for which routine screening of Curly Coated 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.