Health Tests Explained

Golden Retrievers are subject to Hip Dysplasia, Elbow Dysplasia and Hereditary eye disease – health schemes organised jointly by the Kennel Club and the British Veterinary Association are in operation for these diseases.

Hip Dysplasia

Golden Retrievers are subject to Hip Dysplasia, (HD) which is an abnormal development of the hip joint, influenced by hereditary factors, nutrition and exercise. The hip has a ball and socket joint and in the case of HD the socket may be shallow so the head of the femur fits loosely , which in turn leads to wear and tear and arthritic changes.

A current BVA/KC scheme is in operation to assess the degree of hip dysplasia a dog has. (This scheme has been in place since 1984). Dogs are X-rayed, and the plates are scored by a panel of specialists. This only needs to be done once in the dogs life, and it is recommended that the dog is at least 12 months of age before assessment. Each hip is assessed independently and a score is given for each hip (i.e. 8-9 = 17) Some people will quote the combined score (17), some the score for each side (8-9). The best score you can get is 0-0 (very very rare) and the worst is 53-53 (also very very rare). The average score for the breed is a cumulative score of just under 16.

Advice for breeders is to only use breeding stock with scores well below the breed average score.

The parents hip scores are shown on the puppy’s registration as a score for each hip ie = 8:7 which would total 15 – under the breed average. Please be sure to ask the hips scores of the parents BEFORE committing to a puppy.

Elbow Dyspasia

This is a relatively new scheme (introduced in 1998) Elbow Dyspasia is a multifactorial condition, manifesting as a variety of developmental disorders fo the elbow which will develop into osteoarthritis of the elbow joint. The disease has a genetic component, so screening should help breeders select suitable dogs to breed from. Dogs must be a minimum of 1 year old before it can be x-rayed for the scheme… (Hips and elbows are usually done together).

The scheme entails X-raying the dogs elbows, and submitting the plates to a panel of specialists for assessment. A score is given for each elbow from 0 to 3, 0 being completely clear, and 3 being badly affected.. Unlike the Hip scheme the elbow score will appear on the KC Registration as a single number – ie = a dog scoring 2:1 would be shown as a 2.

Eye Problems

There are various conditions that Goldens are susceptible to, some very serious such as Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) and Hereditary Cataract (HC). Both these conditions are sight affecting and no animal having these conditions should be bred from. There are some conditions which are not sight affecting which are also included in the test, i.e. Multifocal Retinal Dysplasia (MRD) and Post Polar Cataract (PPC).
The BVA/KC Eye Scheme which breeders are strongly recommended to use currently examines for the following –

  • Hereditary Cataracts (HC)
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
  • Multifocal Retinal Dysplasia (MRD)

Dogs of over 12 months are annually examined by one of the panel of vets with a special qualification in veterinary ophthalmology and dogs should be updated annually throughout the dog’s breeding life. HC can develop later in life therefore it is wise for you to ensure your puppy’s mother and father have current clear eye certificates.

PRA – Progressive Retinal Atrophy

PRA is a well recognised inherited genetic eye condition that many breeds of dog are predisposed to. The condition is characterised by bilateral degeneration of the retina which causes progressive loss of vision that culminates in total blindness. There is no treatment for PRA. There are many types of PRA but not all are recognised as inherited in the Golden Retriever. There is now an official DNA testing scheme for both PRA 1 and PRA 2.