PRA-Cord 1 testing for progressive retinal atrophy in dogs
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PRA-Cord 1 testing for progressive retinal atrophy in dogs

Dogs
Health & Safety

Progressive Retinal Atrophy is a progressive canine eye condition that cannot be reversed, and that eventually leads to complete blindness in the affected dog. While it is not painful, as mentioned, the fact that it ultimately causes the dog to totally lose their vision makes it a significant threat to the health and quality of life of affected dogs, and it is classed as a hereditary condition, which means that it is passed on down the breed line from parent dogs to their offspring.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy in dogs comes in various different forms, each of which affect the eye of the dog in different ways, although their end result (blindness) is always the same.

The only way to deal with the condition is to remove dogs that suffer from it or that are predisposed to it from the breeding pool, so that it is not passed onto their offspring-and in this way, over time, the disease should become much less prevalent and hopefully ultimately be phased out.

The Kennel Club, in conjunction with the British Veterinary Association, strongly advises that dogs from breeds that are widely predisposed to the condition have their eyes tested prior to a decision being made to breed from them, in order to help to ensure that the condition is not passed on.

As the condition comes in different forms, different tests are necessary for each form of the disease, and in this article, we will look at PRA-Cord 1 testing, for the form of the condition that affects the rods and cones of the eyes.

What is PRA-Cord 1 progressive retinal atrophy?

PRA-Cord 1 progressive retinal atrophy is a form of progressive retinal atrophy that affects the rods and cones of the eyes, which are a type of photoreceptor cells. The purposes of these cells is to receive, translate and transmit information on light and colour to the brain, where the brain turns them into the picture that makes up your dog’s vision.

PRA-Cord 1 leads to a gradual, progressive death and breakdown of the rods and cones themselves, which ultimately leads to blindness. How old the dog is when this process begins to occur can be highly variable, but it rarely afflicts very young dogs, whose eyes may appear to be totally healthy and normal until they get older.

To find out more about general progressive retinal atrophy in dogs in order to understand the basics of the condition, check out this article.

What sort of dogs are prone to developing PRA-Cord 1 progressive retinal atrophy?

Several breeds of dog have a high incidence rate of markers for the condition, including the Labrador retriever and the miniature longhaired Dachshund. To find out more about the breeds of dog that should be tested for PRA-Cord 1 and any other tests that are recommended, check out this page of The Kennel Club’s website.

How would I know if my dog was developing PRA-Cord 1?

If your dog is of a breed or type that is known to have a higher than usual incidence rate of PRA-Cord 1, it is wise to have them tested for the early markers of the condition. If you plan to breed from your dog, this is especially important. Additionally, if you know that some of your dog’s ancestors or their close relatives have the condition, it is especially important to test prior to breeding, and testing is the best and most conclusive way to identify the condition.

The degeneration of vision that accompanies the condition rarely becomes apparent until affected dogs are at least three years old, and it is more likely to occur as your dog gets older. You will begin to notice a gradual deterioration in the dog’s vision, which is painless but of course, incapacitating.

How does the condition’s heredity work?

PRA-Cord 1 is an autosomal recessive condition, which means that a dog needs to inherit the gene for the condition from each of their two parents in order for it to affect their vision. A dog that inherits the gene from just one of their parents but not the other will not develop the condition themselves; however, they will still be a carrier for the condition, which means that they run the risk of passing it onto their own offspring.

What does the test involve?

In order to identify the markers for PRA-Cord 1 in dogs, DNA testing needs to be performed, which usually means that your own local vet will take a sample of your dog’s DNA, and then send it off to one of the laboratories that are certified to perform it.

The DNA test itself is totally painless and simple, and usually just involves taking a swab of the skin cells on the inside of your dog’s cheek.

The results will be returned to you directly, with a copy also retained by The Kennel Club and the British Veterinary Association, who collate figures on the incidence rate and patterns of hereditary health conditions across specific breeds.

To find out more about the test and how to request testing for your own dog, further information is available on The Kennel Club website.

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