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.

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) and so older dogs will not have been elbow tested. 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

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.