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Explaining (the minefield that is….)……..

Labrador Healthtesting – For Puppy Buyers  :-)

 

Healthtesting in Labradors – Responsible puppy buying :-)
 
The healthtesting schemes for our breed can be a little confusing. Some BREEDERS don’t even truly understand them, so puppy buyers can be very much forgiven if they find them baffling or complex :-)
 
I’ll try and give a no frills explanation.
 
  • This is preceeded by the STRONG disclaimer that a dog or bitch, is SO much more than the result of just ONE of these healthtests, and ALL results and ALL other important things need to be balanced against temperament… and then less so for a family dog, type, looks, colour and competition success.
 

BVA/KC Hip Scoring:

This scheme has been running for nearly 50 years now in one form or another. So no excuses whatsoever for BOTH parents of any litter you are considering to not have been hip scored.
  • Hip score xrays are taken by a vet usually with the dog out under General anesthetic or heavy sedation. This dog must be older than a year when they are taken. They are then sent (usually digitally these days) to the BVA (British Veterinary Association to be put infront of a panel of experts, and a ‘score’ is given based on various measurements and angles of various parts of both hip joints.
  • Hips are only scored ONCE in a dogs life, and this score stays with them forever.
  • The WORST possible score that a single hip can score is 53. The BEST is 0 (zero).
  • Therefore the worst possible total score is 106 for BOTH hips. The best is 0 (Zero).
  • A hip SCORE is shown as TWO numbers such as 2:4 or 8:8 or whatever, indicating the left hip and the right hip scores. To calculate the dogs total you just add those two numbers together.
  • The current breed average sits at around a total of 12 for both hips. There are other totals and ‘means’ but this is a good way to think of it.
  • It is ideal if a dogs or bitches score is fairly ‘even’…. so if they scored a total of 12, you would ideally want that to be 6:6 or so…. Rather than say, 1:11.
  • It is possible, and about 2% of all dogs scored DO get the result 0:0 which is, of course *perfection*, however buyers must not really seek this perfection deliberately as a buyer needs to consider that fact that the worst score is 106…. So there are a hell of a lot of acceptable scores that are higher than that golden ‘0’ score :-)
It always needs understanding that good scores on both parents does not GUARANTEE against joint disease or problems in the offsprings hips, however responsible breeders use the scheme to show they care about the health of the puppies they produce and that they are ‘doing their best’.
 
 

BVA/KC Elbow Scoring:

This scheme has been running for nearly 25 years now and *most* good breeders do use it. It has massively increased in uptake in the last ten years and it is now nearly as commonly used as the BVA Hip scoring scheme.
 
  • Elbow score xrays are taken by a vet usually with the dog out under General anesthetic or heavy sedation. This dog must be older than a year when they are taken. They are then sent (usually digitally these days) to the BVA (British Veterinary Association to be put infront of a panel of experts, and a ‘score’ is given based on various measurements and angles of various parts of both elbow joints.
  • Elbows are only scored ONCE in a dogs life, and this score stays with them forever.
  • The WORST possible score that a single elbow can score is 3. The BEST is 0 (zero). THIS IS VERY DIFFERENT TO THE WIDERANGING SCORES OF THE HIP SCHEME PLEASE NOTE.
  • An Elbow score is often shown as TWO numbers such as 0:0, or 1:2 or whatever, indicating the left elbow and the right elbow scores. However a dog is always considered to carry the HIGHEST number of the two as a score. So therefore, even if he scored 0:1, his personal score would be considered ‘1’. I appreciate this seems cup half empty, but it is just a fact. Therefore ANY score on EITHER elbow should mean the dog is not bred from.
  • Unlike the hip scheme ONLY ELBOWS SCORING A TOTAL OF 0.0 (ZERO) SHOULD BE BRED FROM.
It always needs understanding that this 0.0 score on both parents does not GUARANTEE against joint disease or problems in the offspring’s elbows, however responsible breeders use the scheme to show they care about the health of the puppies they produce and that they are ‘doing their best’.
 
 

BVA/KC Annual Eye Test:

This is a very simple eye examination, by a specialist (so not your average vet), that checks for several conditions that our breed can be most commonly affected with.
The examination should be, in breeding animals, repeated EVERY year throughout their breeding life, and a buyer should always be able to see an eye test certificate for BOTH parents at the time of purchase, and that should be dated within the previous 12 months (so exactly like a car MOT).
A common old school *trick* is to test ONCE, at about a year old (when most of these conditions won’t yet be noticeable to an examiner) then use this certificte for the rest of the dogs breeding life. This is wholey unacceptable practice.
 
 

DNA testing:

This is a huge and complex subject with many views and standpoints. The facts of the matter is, that over the last 20 years or so, a number of conditions have had the faulty gene identified by Laboratories, and, DNA tests have been developed to test for these conditions before breeding, OR, if a dog is suspected of having the condition.
 
There are many many DNA tests out there on the market, many for very very minor conditions that do not unduly affect a dogs quality of life. Some are important tests that DO affect the dog very much is AFFECTED by the condition.
 
There are only THREE results that a DNA test can give:
CLEAR: So the dog will neither ever HAVE the condition nor can PASS the condition along to their offspring.
CARRIER: The dog will NEVER, themselves, HAVE the condition but can pass the condition along to their offspring IF (and this is important!) they are mated to another Carrier of that condition. What is crutial to understand is that if a Carrier is mated to a Clear the puppies will all NEVER develop that condition as the worst they could themselves be is a Carrier.
AFFECTED: It is extremely rare for dogs with Affected results for anything are bred from. There are matings that can take place that still will produce healthy offspring but it is so unusual its probably not worth going into too much detail about.
 
Statistically:
Clear x Clear – All puppies Clear of the condition
Clear x Carrier – 50% Puppies genetically Clear, 50% puppies genetically Carriers (But CRUTIALLY 100% puppies CANNOT develop the condition).
Carrier x Carrier – 50% Carriers, 25% Clear and 25% Affected.
Clear x Affected – 100% Carrier puppies
 
So you understand that ALL we are trying to AVOID to produce healthy puppies are Carrier x Carrier matings. Everything else produces healthy puppies for that condition.
The most common current situation is that, because of the above, only one parent has been DNA tested, usually the stud dog, and, IF that dog is CLEAR for all the tests undertaken, the there is no need for the bitch to be tested, as above, WHATEVER her status NO Affected puppies can be produced for any of the tested conditions. However, if BOTH parents hold DNA test results, thats a bonus :-)
 
Currently the most common conditions tested for are:
PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy) An eye condition that is very serious and can cause blindness pretty early in life.
CNM (CentroNuclear Myopathy) A form of muscular dystrophy which is very distressing to witness, and dogs almost always have to be put to sleep very early in life. This is very RARE but because it is so serious it is widely tested for.
EIC (Exercise Induced Collapse) Tradionally has affected show lines far more frequently than working lines, however, is tested for almost across the board now. It is a condition that causes collapse when the dogs system is taxed usualy by adrenaline or exhaustion. It does no real daily harm, but is distressing for the owner to witness and causes anxiety at all times, so has become a standard test.
SD2 (Skeletal Dysplacia 2) is a mild form of dwarfism which can affect the dog to varying degrees. Some just have short legs in proportion to the body, however some have many other facial, jaw and organ problems which have been found to be related. Many live a long and happy life…. Some do not. It is a recent addition to the regular DNA tests.
 
There are many others out there. These are the ones I place personal importance on, but the list is ever increasing!
 
 
To summarise:
When you make enquiries on litters, basically, the minimum you should expect is BOTH parents Hip scored, and those scores on or below that breed average of 12 (or a few points either way of it), AND a Current clear BVA/KC Eye test certificate.
 
MOST Litters these days from good breeders will have a lot more than that, however, between both parents, including two ‘0’ elbow scores, and a number of DNA test results in one or both parents.
 
NEVER buy from breeders who do not do the absolute minimum as above. They cheat you, they cheat their puppies they produce, and they show how very very little they care. Inexperience is NEVER an excuse, new breeders should have at least looked up the basics of the job, and these ARE the basics.
 
Diana Stevens – Wylanbriar Labradors. April 2020.

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