Health Certificates

Golden retrievers are prone to several hereditary conditions
– just to keep this in perspective with humans the number is in the 100’s. To try to control and eradicate these conditions, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) in conjunction with the Kennel Club (KC) have instigated 3 health schemes. Breeding stock are screened prior to mating, and although it is never possible to guarantee that clear parents will produce all clear off-spring the likelyhood is much increased.

BVA/KC Eye Scheme

At present Goldens are examined for 3 eye conditions :-

Hereditary Cataract (HC)

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) (now
virtually eliminated in the UK)

Multifocal Retinal Dysplasia (MRD)

Examination of dogs over 12 months is by one of a panel of vets with a special qualification in veterinary ophthalmology, and needs to be updated annually. HC can develop later in life and so all breeding stock should have current clear eye certificates. When you receive your puppy’s KC registration document, it will state the parents eye status for HC & PRA with the date of the last testing. MRD is not included on the registration as other problems of a non-hereditary nature can give rise to similar lesions and the ‘folds’ tend to reduce or even disappear with age, all of which makes acurate diagnosis very difficult.DNA research is about to begin and hopefully in a few year’s time the annual eye tests will be replaced by a one off blood test.

There is now a DNA Test (Cheek Swab) for GPRA-1 and GPRA-2, kits are available from the Animal Health Trust web site.

BVA/KC Hip Scheme

Hip dysplasia (HD) is an abnormal developement of the hip joint, influenced by hereditary factors, nutrition and exercise.The hip is a ball and socket joint and in 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. The disease is characterised by bunny jumping when running, stiffness after exercise and difficulty in getting up.

Under the BVA/KC scheme the dog’s hips are x-rayed when the dog reaches a minimum of 12 months of age. The plates are then submitted to a specialist panel at the BVA who assess 9 features of each hip, giving each feature a score

HIP JOINT Score Range Right Left
Norberg Angle 0-6
Subluxation 0-6
Cranial Acetabular Edge 0-6
Dorsal Acetabular Edge 0-6
Cranial Effective Acetabular Rim 0-6
Acetabular Fossa 0-6
Caudal Acetabular Edge 0-5
Femoral head/neck Exostosi 0-6
Femoral Head Recontouring 0-6
TOTALS (max possible 53 per column)

The lower the score, the better the hips, so the range can be from 0 (clear) to 106 (badly dysplastic). The breed average is currently about 19. Dogs with 0:0 hips are very much the exception rather than the rule. The parents hip scores are shown on the puppy’s registration as the score for each hip eg 10:9 which would be 19 ie breed average.

BVA/KC Elbow Scheme

This is the most recently introduced of the BVA schemes (March 1998)  As it entails 3 x-rays of each elbow, some breeders feel that the risks outweigh the benefits. Elbow dysplasia is a multifactorial condition manifesting as a variety of developmental disorders of the elbow leading to osteoarthritis of the elbow joint. As the disease has
a genetic component screening should help breeders select suitable dogs for breeding. As with the hip scheme, the dog must be a minimum of 12 months of age before it is x-rayed for the scheme (hips & elbows are usually done at the same time) and the X-rays are sent off to be assessed by the BVA panel. The scores for each elbow range from 0 (clear) to 3 (badly affected) However unlike the hip scheme, on the KC registration the elbow score is shown as a single number, equivalent to the worst elbow eg a dog scoring 2:1 would be shown as 2.

If you would like a more detailed explanation of the BVA/KC schemes visit the BVA Website and click on Canine Health Schemes

European Eye Scheme

This scheme has only recently been introduced, but a number of breeders are using it in preference to the BVA scheme. It tests for HC, PRA and MRD, but the results at present are not published or collated. The KC do not recognise this scheme and so the results do not appear on the puppies registrations. Like the BVA scheme dogs need to be tested annually, so ensure that both parents have current clear certificates and ask for a copy from the
breeder.

Modern day breeders have to perform a juggling act, trying to produce a good looking dog with super temperament that is as clear of health problems as possible. The health schemes should be used as a guide to help breeders towards this goal. The most important aspect of a Golden is its beautiful nature, a fact of which we should never lose sight.