Flat coated retriever hereditary health and longevity

Flat coated retriever hereditary health and longevity

Health & Safety

The flat coated retriever is one of the various retrieving dog breeds that originate in the UK, and one that was historically mainly used for retrieving both on land and in the water.

They are lively, active dogs that are able to turn their paws to many different tasks, and are highly personable, amenable to training and keen to please. They make for excellent family dogs as well as working dogs, and today, are most widely owned as pets. They are also one of the most widely bred dogs for training as assistance dogs by organisations such as Guide Dogs for the Blind.

The flat coated retriever is a medium built dog that should be slightly lighter than either the golden retriever or Labrador retriever, and dogs of the breed stand up to 24.5” tall at the withers, and can weigh up to 34kg. Their coats should be smooth and glossy, and can be seen in either black, yellow or liver, with a one colour coat.

If you are considering buying or adopting a flat coated retriever, it is vital to make sure that the temperament and core traits of the dog are a good fit for your family and lifestyle. It is also important to look into the general health and longevity of the breed and their genetic diversity, in order to know what to expect from your dog’s health throughout their life.

In this article we will look at the hereditary health and average longevity of the breed in more detail. Read on to learn more.

Flat coated retriever longevity

The average longevity of the breed as a whole within the UK is ten years, which is rather lower than the average for other breeds of a similar size and build, which is twelve years. While it is of course entirely possible that any given dog of the breed may live for significantly longer than this, the breed is known to be prone to certain hereditary health problems, which may affect their average lifespan.

Genetic diversity within the breed

The coefficient of inbreeding statistic for the flat coated retriever is 6.5%, which is just a touch higher than the ideal for pedigree breeds, which is 6.25% or lower. As the flat coated retriever’s figure is only marginally higher than the ideal, this indicates that the breed is not particularly prone to problems associated with inbreeding, but breeders should seek to reduce the coefficient of inbreeding figure within their breed lines where possible.

Health testing for the flat coated retriever

Various different health schemes and pre-breeding tests are available to flat coated retriever owners, in order to identify the presence of or predisposition to certain hereditary health problems. Current schemes include:

  • Hip score testing, with the mean score across the breed being 7.8. Dogs intended to be used for breeding should attain a score below this to be considered as good candidates.
  • Testing for goniodysgenesis, which is a predisposition to a painful eye condition that can lead to a loss of vision. Testing for hereditary glaucoma is also advised.
  • Flat coated retriever breed clubs also advise that bitches under the age of two should not be bred from, and should not produce more than one litter within any twelve month period. It is also advised that bitches should produce no more than three litters in their lifetime.

General health

As well as the factors and conditions mentioned above, the flat coated retriever breed as a whole has been identified to have slightly elevated risk factors for certain other conditions that have a hereditary factor to them, but for which no pre-breeding tests are currently available. These include:

  • Entropion of the eyelids, which causes the eyelid to invert and rub on the cornea, causing pain and soreness.
  • Ectropion of the eyelids, the opposite of entropion. This condition causes the eyelids to turn outwards, again, leading to potential soreness, and a heightened risk of debris entering the eye.
  • Cataracts in one or both eyes, however, these are usually operable.
  • Distichiasis, a condition that causes the eyelashes to grow a secondary row of lashes. These have a propensity to invert onto the eyeball, rubbing and causing pain and problems with vision.
  • Glaucoma in adulthood, due to dysplasia of the pectinate ligaments of the eyes.
  • Patellar luxation, a condition where the kneecap is not properly secured in place by the muscles and ligaments. This can cause dislocation of the kneecap, and may require surgical correction.
  • Various different types of cancers, including malignant histiocytosis. This is an acute onset cancer that progresses rapidly and aggressively. Soft tissue sarcoma is also particularly prevalent within the breed too. A UK study has identified that over 50% of flat coated retrievers aged eight or older are likely to develop this condition, with soft tissue sarcoma being one of the most common causes of death within the breed as a whole.


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