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Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever hereditary health and health testing

Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever hereditary health and health testing

The Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever is commonly referred to as the “Toller” for short, as their full breed name is something of a mouthful! They are a medium sized breed from the gun dog grouping, which is sometimes mistaken for the Golden retriever, although there are significant differences between the two breeds.

The Toller can stand up to 21” tall at the withers and weigh up to 23kg, with males being slightly taller and more heavily built than females. They are rather leaner and lighter than the Golden retriever in terms of their build, and the coat colour is darker, tending towards a fox red colour or orangey-yellow coat rather than gold. They are well proportioned and athletic dogs with a muscular yet lithe structure, and a superior level of working fitness.

Historically used as a water dog within Canada to toll and retrieve ducks, the Toller is a keen swimmer that also benefits from webbed feet!

The Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever is an active, lively breed that likes to spend plenty of time outside, and that does not thrive within a sedentary or mainly indoors lifestyle. They are personable, friendly, pleasant to train and keen to please, and are very loving with their families as well as being open and calm around strangers.

If you are wondering if the Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever is the right choice of dog for you, it is important to do plenty of research into the breed before committing to a purchase. In this article we will look at the hereditary health and average lifespan of the breed in more detail; read on to learn more.

Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever average lifespan

The average lifespan of the Toller is 10-14 years, which provides a reasonable amount of variance. The mid-range average falls well within the accepted norms across the board for all breeds of a similar size, and generally, the Toller is considered to be a robust and healthy breed that lives a relatively long life.

Genetic diversity

The coefficient of inbreeding statistic for the Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever is 26%, which is a high figure for a dog breed. This indicates that the Toller is particularly subjected to inbreeding which has lead to a number of health problems within the breed. Please be sure to ask your breeder about more information on the coefficient of inbreeding.


The shape and build of the Toller is considered to be well balanced and robust, and fit for life. They are not subjected to exaggerations or overtyping, and generally, the build and shape of the Toller is a good example of a naturally evolved, healthy working dog.

Health testing for the Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever

Quite a wide range of health tests and pre-breeding health schemes are in place for the Toller, in order to improve the overall health and wellness of the breed and prevent the inheritance of known hereditary health problems. The British Veterinary Association and The Kennel Club advise the following tests and screening programmes for dogs of the breed:

  • Hip score testing, with the mean hip score for dogs of the breed being 11.2. Potential parent dogs should receive a hip score below this number in order to be considered viable.
  • Elbow score testing, with the ideal being zero.
  • Testing for progressive retinal atrophy, and collie eye anomaly, a condition that does not only affect collie breeds, despite the name!
  • DNA testing is available for collie eye anomaly, progressive retinal atrophy, and degenerative myelopathy.

Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever breed clubs also make the following recommendations for breeders:

  • Bitches under two years old not be bred.
  • Dogs under two years old not to be used to sire a litter.
  • Bitches should not produce more than one litter within any twelve month period.

Other health issues

As well as the conditions mentioned above for which health schemes and recommendations are in place, the Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever has also been identified to have the potential for certain other health issues as well, some of which are hereditary. While the breed as a whole is considered to be generally healthy, potential owners should make themselves aware of the following potential conditions:

  • Polyarthritis of the joints, particularly likely to worsen with old age.
  • Cleft palate in puppies of the breed, which can lead to the pups being unable to suckle, and so potentially die of malnutrition. However, if the pups can be successfully fed up until the age at which surgery is viable, this condition can often be corrected.
  • Epilepsy.
  • Meningitis.
  • Hypoadrenocorticism, or Addison’s disease. This is caused by an underproduction of the necessary corticosteroids that the body produces.
  • Hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid gland.
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus, a rheumatic condition.
  • Distichiasis, a condition in which the eyelashes grow a second row, which may rub on the cornea.