The Labrador retriever is the most popular large dog breed in the UK and the 8th most popular dog breed of all – and in terms of annual Kennel Club registrations of new puppy litters, the Lab was in fact the number one ranked dog for well over two decades, until their monopoly was finally broken in 2018 by the French bulldog.
Labrador retrievers are amazingly versatile dogs that possess a winning combination of a kind demeanour, high energy levels, high intelligence and a strong desire to please their handlers, and they are a popular pick for working roles of all varieties. Labradors are one of the most popular breeds of dog used as assistance dogs, as well as being found in other roles too ranging from detection and sniffer dogs to police and military dogs as well.
Most of today’s Labradors in the UK are kept as pets rather than for working roles, and they are also common competitors in canine sports of all types, where they tend to do very well.
Labrador retrievers have an average lifespan of between around 10-12 years, which is about the norm for a dog breed of this size. The popularity of Labradors in the UK means that there are a large number of dogs of the breed around; but there are also quite a few hereditary health conditions that have developed within the breed as a result of this.
Hereditary Labrador retriever health conditions can of course have a significant impact on the quality of life and longevity of affected dogs, as well as having implications for their care and welfare. One hereditary health condition that can be found in Labrador retrievers is called retinal dysplasia and oculo skeletal dysplasia (or RD and OSD), and this is in fact a combination of two separate health conditions that affect different parts of the body, but that often occur in combination due to the gene fault that causes them to develop.
There is a DNA testing scheme in place for Labrador retrievers in the UK that allows dog owners and breeders to participate to have their dogs tested for the markers of retinal dysplasia and oculo skeletal dysplasia, which breeders can use to help them to choose healthy parent stock within their breeding programmes.
This helps to ensure that dogs with RD and OSD are not bred from and so, do not pass the condition on to their own offspring.
In this article we will explain the basics of what Labrador retriever retinal dysplasia and oculo skeletal dysplasia is, how it is inherited, and how to get a DNA test for RD and OSD in the Labrador. Read on to find out more.
Retinal dysplasia or RD in dogs can develop in all manner of dogs without causing any real problems, but in some cases, it can lead to a number of problems and malformations of the dog’s eye, which tends to be the case with the hereditary form of the condition found in Labrador retrievers.
Additionally, within the Labrador retriever breed in particular, the gene fault that causes retinal dysplasia can also result in a rather more serious condition developing too, which is called oculo skeletal dysplasia.
Oculo skeletal dysplasia causes malformations of the dog’s skeleton, which include achondroplasia or dwarfism resulting in abnormally short legs, and blindness and retinal detachment often accompany the condition too.
Unusually for a canine health condition for which a DNA test is available, the exact mode of heredity of retinal dysplasia and oculo skeletal dysplasia in the Labrador retriever isn’t known for sure. However, the basis of the DNA test for RD and OSD in the Labrador retriever is based on the assumption that the condition is inherited by means of autosomal dominant heredity with incomplete penetrance.
Autosomal dominant hereditary health conditions can be inherited by a dog if just one of their parents passes on the gene fault for the condition to their young – even if the other parent dog within the mating match is totally healthy. However, the incomplete penetrance aspect of the heredity means that some dogs who inherit the gene fault will never develop the condition – although this is down to chance and not something that should be relied upon.
In order to find out if your Labrador retriever carries the gene fault for retinal dysplasia and oculo skeletal dysplasia, you can arrange to have them DNA tested to find out their status. This enables people who might be considering breeding from their Labrador retrievers to identify dogs that could pass such a health condition on to their own young, and so, remove them from breeding programmes.
Please bear in mind that both parent dogs in any planned mating match need to be tested in order to return a definitive result on their future litter.
To arrange a DNA test for retinal dysplasia and oculo skeletal dysplasia in the Labrador retriever, you just need to book an appointment with your vet to allow your vet to take a DNA sample from your dog. This is then sent off to a laboratory that is approved to test for the markers of the condition, who will test the sample and return a result to the owner of the dog in question.