Curly coated retriever hereditary health and genetic diversity

Curly coated retriever hereditary health and genetic diversity

Breed Facts

The curly coated retriever is the tallest of all of the retriever dog breeds, standing between 23-27” tall at the withers and with weight in proportion to their height. Dogs of the breed tend to be larger than bitches, and the breed as a whole it long legged- lithe and muscular, without being heavy or overly stocky. They are lively, fit and active dogs that thrive out of doors, and have a long working history as a retrieving gun dog that is equally at home on land or in the water.

The coat of the breed is very tightly curled, similar in texture to that of the poodle but rather curlier and shorter. The dense, thick curls of the coat help to repel water, and offer protection to the dog in thorny undergrowth. The muzzle has straighter, shorter fur, and the curly coated retriever can be seen in only two colours, being liver or black.

While the curly coated retriever is not yet as popular within the UK as other better known retriever breeds such as the Labrador retriever and the golden retriever, they nevertheless make for excellent pets, and are well worthy of consideration if you are looking for a medium sized, active dog breed. Before considering a purchase, it is important to look into the background health and overall wellness of the breed in more detail, and in this article we will examine the longevity, hereditary health and genetic diversity of the curly coated retriever dog breed. Read on to learn more.

Curly coated retriever longevity

The average longevity across the breed as a whole is 9-14 years, which offers quite a lot of variance for such an apparently uniform breed. Hereditary health defects that can shorten life are present within some curly coated retriever breed lines, which goes some way towards explaining the numbers at the lower end of the scale.

Genetic diversity and breed-specific health testing

The coefficient of inbreeding statistic for the breed as a whole is 13.5%, which is high enough to potentially pose the risk of prevalent hereditary problems within the breed. The ideal coefficient of inbreeding statistic for a pedigree dog is 6.25% or lower, and curly coated retriever breeders should aim to achieve a figure below this by means of selective breeding of their future breed lines.

Various health tests and breed-specific health schemes are available for the curly coated retriever, which should, over time, help to reduce the incidence rate of these conditions within the breed. These include:

  • Hip dysplasia, with the breed’s mean hip score being 10.2. Potential parent dogs should receive a hip score below this figure.
  • Elbow dysplasia, with the ideal figure being zero.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy, which leads to eventual blindness.
  • DNA testing can also be performed on dogs of the breed, to identify a propensity to exercise induced collapse, and a deficiency of the enzymes that metabolise glycogen, leading to poor organ function.

Curly coated retriever conformation

While the shape, build and physical appearance of the curly coated retriever is generally considered to be good, a couple of problems may arise due to the dog’s build and coat.

As a breed with a deep yet narrow chest, the curly coated retriever is at potential risk of bloat or gastric dilation volvulus, which causes the stomach to fill with gas and potentially twist. Bloat is fast in onset, and requires prompt veterinary treatment, as without this it usually proves fatal.

The coat of the breed requires a significant amount of brushing and grooming, in order to prevent tangling and matting, and potential skin problems. The curled coat is prone to knotting and holding debris close to the skin, leading to itchy areas, irritation and potential infections.

Other health conditions

The breed is also recognised as being at potential risk of developing a range of other conditions, but for which no health screening schemes are currently available. These include:

  • Entropion of the eyes, which leads the eyelids to turn inwards and allows the eyelashes to rub on the cornea, causing pain and soreness.
  • Distichiasis, in which a second row of eyelashes develops, which can again rub on the surface of the eye.
  • Epilepsy, although this can sometimes be managed with medication. Dogs with epilepsy, or with epilepsy in their breed lines should not be bred from.
  • Cataracts of the eyes, which usually develop in old age but that may present at any time.
  • Alopecia, or a generalised loss of the fur of the coat with no specific trigger.
  • Canine follicular dysplasia, another condition that causes bald patches due to the incorrect formation of hair follicles leading to stunted hair growth.
  • Glycogen storage disease, which leads to glycogen accumulating to dangerous levels within the body, which can lead to organ failure over time.


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