Support Labrador Health Research
Please Note: PSLRA is a "Not For Profit" Club, IRS 501C7. Donations made to PSLRA are not tax deductible.
Each year PSLRA identifies Health Research for the betterment of Labrador Retrievers, and makes an annual contribution based on recommendations from Board and Club members.
If you would like to support PSLRA in these efforts, as well as Labrador Retriever Health Research in general, please consider donating to this fund.
If you do not require your donation to be tax deductible, and would like to donate to PSLRA's Labrador Retriever Health Research Fund, please follow the link below:
What is a Labrador?
The Labrador Retriever is currently the most popular dog in the United States. One reason for that popularity is the amazing versatility of the breed. Labradors excel as guide dogs, in the show, obedience, rally, and agility rings, as therapy animals, as hunting companions, in search and rescue work, and, of course, as family pets. [Read More]
LRC Breed Standard
The Labrador Retriever is a strongly built, medium-sized, short-coupled, dog possessing a sound, athletic, well-balanced conformation that enables it to function as a retrieving gun dog; the substance and soundness to hunt waterfowl or upland game for long hours under difficult conditions; the character and quality to win in the show ring; and the temperament to be a family companion. [Read More]
Illustrated Breed Standard
The Labrador Retriever is a working dog bred to perform retrieving tasks in any kind of weather or environment. It possesses the physical characteristics and temperament that allow it to adapt to many parts of the world and to a variety of work beyond the shooting field. [Read More]
AKC - Labrador Retriever
The gentle, intelligent and family-friendly Labrador Retriever from England continues to be the most popular breed in the United States, according to AKC registration statistics. This versatile hunting breed comes in three colors: yellow, black and chocolate. [Read More]
English versus American: There is only one breed of dog known as the Labrador Retriever, described by the Standard of the Breed. Within Labrador Retriever breed type there are variations in body style which have evolved to suit the use of the dog, as well as the preferences of individual breeders and owners. In the United States the general public has begun to label these variations mistakenly as "English or "American" style. Perhaps a better description for variations in style is "show/conformation" or "working/field" styles. [Read More]
The Labrador Retriever Club, Incorporated is dedicated to the health and welfare of the Labrador Retriever breed, while conserving the original breed function - that of a "working retriever." A purebred dog offers its owner the likelihood that he will be a specific size, shape, color and temperament. [Read More]
Want to help make our events a success, and join in on the fun? Visit our Volunteer page to see the Volunteer Opportunities PSLRA currently has available. [Read More]
Want to become a PSLRA Member? Visit our Membership page to learn more about PSLRA, and to submit an on-line Membership application. [Read More]
Labrador Retriever Health
Breeding quality Labrador Retrievers is a costly and time-consuming undertaking if done properly. Responsible breeders plan litters carefully, maintain standards and strive to achieve improvement with each generation. Anyone interested in owning or breeding a Labrador Retriever should become familiar with the various medical conditions, and appropriate health clearances, before deciding to obtain a Labrador.
We also suggest you review PSLRA’s Code of Ethics which outlines the Club’s position regarding the minimum required health screening / clearances for both parents prior to breeding.
The following are known health issues in the Labrador Retriever breed:
Hip Dysplasia typically develops because of an abnormally developed hip joint, but can also be caused by cartilage damage from a traumatic fracture. With cartilage damage or a hip joint that isn’t formed properly, over time the existing cartilage will lose its thickness and elasticity. This breakdown of the cartilage will eventually result in pain with any joint movement. No one can predict when or even if a dysplastic dog will start showing clinical signs of lameness due to pain. Severity of the disease can be affected by environmental factors, such as caloric intake or level of exercise. There are a number of dysplastic dogs with severe arthritis that run, jump, and play as if nothing is wrong and some dogs with barely any arthritic x-ray evidence that are severely lame.
Elbow dysplasia is a general term used to identify an inherited polygenic disease in the elbow. Three specific etiologies make up this disease and they can occur independently or in conjunction with one another. These etiologies include:
- Pathology involving the medial coronoid of the ulna (FCP)
- Osteochondritis of the medial humeral condyle in the elbow joint (OCD)
- Ununited anconeal process (UAP)
Studies have shown the inherited polygenic traits causing these etiologies are independent of one another. Clinical signs involve lameness which may remain subtle for long periods of time. No one can predict at what age lameness will occur in a dog due to a large number of genetic and environmental factors such as degree of severity of changes, rate of weight gain, amount of exercise, etc. Subtle changes in gait may be characterized by excessive inward deviation of the paw which raises the outside of the paw so that it receives less weight and distributes more mechanical weight on the outside (lateral) aspect of the elbow joint away from the lesions located on the inside of the joint. Range of motion in the elbow is also decreased.
Eye Screening – Companion Animal Eye Registry (CAER)
The purpose of the OFA Companion Animal Eye Registry (CAER) is to provide breeders with information regarding canine eye diseases so that they may make informed breeding decisions in an effort to produce healthier dogs. CAER certifications will be performed by board certified (ACVO) veterinary ophthalmologists.
For Labrador Retrievers, the examinations are generally conducted at 7 weeks of age, then annually up to the age of 10 years.
The procedure, which is conducted yearly, involves a careful and comprehensive examination of the eye. To start with, the dog’s pupils are dilated with eye drops. The examiner then illuminates the eye with a penlight to look for any key abnormality.
The eye is then examined in detail using a slit lamp bio-microscope to identify any diminutive anomalies in the lens, cornea, and in the anterior chamber. During this part of the exam anomalies such as distichia, cataracts, vitreal degenerations, and corneal dystrophy may be noticed.
Lastly, the retina is examined using an ophthalmoscope (usually an indirect ophthalmoscope). This exam provides the examiner a lucid view of all the parts of the retina. The indirect ophthalmoscope device offers the veterinarian with proper optics and a light source. Problems such as Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Retinal Dysplasia, optic nerve hypoplasia, choroidal hypoplasia may be revealed during this part of the examination.
If any problems are identified during these examinations, they are recorded in an official form by the Ophthalmologist. Regardless of whether owners submit their CAER exam forms to the OFA for “certification,” all CAER exam data is collected for aggregate statistical purposes to provide information on trends in eye disease and breed susceptibility. Clinicians and students of ophthalmology as well as interested breed clubs, individual breeders and owners of specific breeds will find this useful.
Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia
Tricuspid valve dysplasia (TVD) in dogs is a congenital heart condition In medical terms, dysplasia means a malformation; TVD is a condition in which the heart’s tricuspid valve forms improperly during embryonic development. Like the human heart, a dog’s heart is divided into two halves. The tricuspid valve is in the right half between the right atrium and the right ventricle. Its job is to prevent the back flow of oxygen-depleted blood as it flows from the right atrium to the right ventricle on its way to becoming oxygenated once again by the lungs via the pulmonary artery.
Made up of irregularly shaped flaps, the tricuspid valve forms a barrier when blood tries to work its way back into the right atrium as the right ventricle contracts. In utero, these flaps are adhered to the ventricle wall. Normally, cellular degeneration takes place and the flaps are detached. In dogs with TVD, this degeneration does not take place and the flaps remain connected to the ventricle wall, hampering the valve from doing its job of preventing the blood’s back flow. Blood is then regurgitated, or leaked, back into the right atrium, increasing the workload of the right side of the heart.
Exercise Induced Collapse (EIC)
Exercise-Induced Collapse (EIC) is an inherited neuromuscular disorder affecting Labrador Retrievers. EIC presents as exercise intolerance in apparently healthy dogs. Affected dogs are usually diagnosed before two years of age and appear normal during low to moderately strenuous activity. However, shortly after 5-20 minutes of strenuous exercise affected dogs will begin to walk with a wobbly, uncoordinated gait that often only affects the hind limbs. Dogs remain mentally alert and are not in pain during episodes of EIC. In some circumstances, the symptoms of EIC can progress to full body weakness with low muscle tone (flaccid paralysis), confusion, loss of consciousness, seizures and very rarely, death. The episodes typically last 5-10 minutes and most dogs will completely recover within 15-30 minutes.
- Visit the University of Minnesota for more information about Exercise Induced Collapse (EIC) including testing.
Centronuclear Myopathy (CNM)
Centronuclear Myopathy is an inherited progressive muscle disease affecting Labrador retrievers. Though the severity of symptoms is variable, affected dogs typically present between 6 weeks to 7 months of age with exercise intolerance, awkward gait and difficulty eating. As the disease progresses, symptoms also include generalized muscle Atrophy, downward flexion of the head and neck, low muscle tone and more frequent episodes of collapse when exposed to cold temperatures. Progression of the disease tends to stabilize around one year of age and dogs typically have a normal life span, but affected dogs usually have life-long medical problems due to the underlying muscle disease.
- Visit CNM Online for more information about Centronuclear Myopathy (CNM) including: Symptoms, testing and care for a CNM affected dog.
Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)
Degenerative Myelopathy is an inherited neurologic disorder caused by a Mutation of the SOD1 gene known to be carried by Labrador retrievers. This mutation is found in many breeds of dog, though it is not clear for Labrador retrievers whether all dogs carrying two copies of the mutation will develop the disease. The variable presentation between breeds suggests that there are environmental or other genetic factors responsible for modifying disease expression. The average age of onset for dogs with degenerative myelopathy is approximately nine years of age. The disease affects the White Matter tissue of the spinal cord and is considered the canine equivalent to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease) found in humans. Affected dogs usually present in adulthood with gradual muscle Atrophy and loss of coordination typically beginning in the hind limbs due to degeneration of the nerves. The condition is not typically painful for the dog, but will progress until the dog is no longer able to walk. The gait of dogs affected with degenerative myelopathy can be difficult to distinguish from the gait of dogs with hip dysplasia, arthritis of other joints of the hind limbs, or intervertebral disc disease. Late in the progression of disease, dogs may lose fecal and urinary continence and the forelimbs may be affected. Affected dogs may fully lose the ability to walk 6 months to 2 years after the onset of symptoms. Affected medium to large breed dogs, such as the Labrador retriever, can be difficult to manage and owners often elect euthanasia when their dog can no longer support weight in the hind limbs.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (prcd-PRA)
The OptiGen prcd-PRA test is a DNA-based test that helps you avoid one form of Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). PRA refers to a group of diseases that cause the retina of the eye to degenerate slowly over time. The result is declining vision and eventual blindness. “prcd” stands for “progressive rod-cone degeneration” which is the type of PRA known in several breeds. AFTER reading the information on this page, you can link to information specifically about the breed in which you are interested.
Retinal Dysplasia/Ocuskeletal Dysplasia (RD/OSD)
Retinal Dysplasia-retinal folds (RD) is a common clinical observation in many dog breeds. Since many retinal folds are benign and of unknown heritability, veterinary ophthalmologists will often advise that breeding dogs with RD is an acceptable option. However, in Labrador Retrievers RD is of much greater concern. RD in Labradors will cause a dog to fail a CAER examination, the recommended annual eye examination that is done in North America by certified veterinary ophthalmologists, diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmology (ACVO).
In such cases, breeding is not advised because RD in these breeds can be an indication that the dog is a carrier of a serious inherited syndrome called OSD (OculoSkeletal Dysplasia). OSD is a severe condition in which the dogs show a variety of skeletal malformations, including shortened limbs (dwarfism), and blindness at an early age; the blindness results from a generalized malformation of the retina that causes a partial or full retinal detachment and cataracts.
- Visit Optigen for more information about Retinal Dysplasia/Ocuskeletal Dysplasia (RD/OSD) including testing.
Skeletal Dysplasia Type 2
Several hereditary forms of disproportionate dwarfism or “short-legged” phenotype have been recognized by breeders of Labrador Retrievers over the years. A distinct form of a mild skeletal dysplasia type 2, termed SD2, is characterized by short legs with normal body length and width. In contrast to more severe conditions such as Oculoskeletal Dysplasia (OSD) or radius curvus deformity, SD2 has a very subtle phenotype without any obvious ocular or auditory defects and without known secondary joint problems. Still, this form of disproportionate dwarfism is not a desirable trait and can result in Labrador Retrievers failing to reach the height standard for the breed.
Hereditary Nasal Parakeratosis (HNPK)
Hereditary Nasal Parakeratosis is an inherited disease affecting the nose of Labrador Retrievers. Beginning around 6 to 12 months of age, affected dogs develop dry, rough, gray to brown crusts and rarely, painful cracks on the tip of the nose. In some cases, lesions are also present on the haired area around the nose. The noses of affected dogs are prone to superficial bacterial infections and often become depigmented over time. Affected dogs are otherwise healthy. Symptoms often wax and wane in severity over the dog’s life. Though manageable, this disorder requires continuous topical therapy to prevent recurrence of excessive nasal crusting.
- Visit Paw Print Genetics for more information about Skeletal Hereditary Nasal Parakeratosis (HNPK) including testing.