Retinopathy in the Swedish Vallhund dog breed
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Retinopathy in the Swedish Vallhund dog breed

The Swedish Vallhund is also sometimes known as the Swedish cattle dog, and this is a small dog breed that was originally bred and developed in their home country of Sweden to herd cattle. Dogs of the breed have a very low profile which makes them a good choice for work of this type, as it reduces the likelihood of them being kicked by a stray hoof!

Whilst the Swedish Vallhund dog breed today is more commonly kept as a pet and companion than for working roles, they aren’t very common within the UK, and so many dog lovers won’t have seen one out and about in their local area.

However, if you are seeking a new dog and are researching which breeds might be the right fit for you, the Swedish Vallhund is one to bear in mind if you are interested in owning a very lively and very intelligent dog that is also excellent with children and very amenable to training.

Swedish Vallhunds tend to be very healthy small dogs as a whole, and there are not a huge number of health conditions that present commonly across dogs of the breed. However, there are a couple of hereditary health conditions that have become established within UK stock of Swedish Vallhunds, and one of these is called retinopathy, which is a disorder of the eyes.

In this article we will look at retinopathy in the Swedish Vallhund dog breed in more detail, examining how the condition is transmitted from dog to dog, its effects, and how to determine the risk factors for any dog of the breed.

There is also a testing protocol in place to identify the markers of the condition in breeding stock, and this is something else that we will outline later on.

Read on to learn more about retinopathy in the Swedish Vallhund.

What is retinopathy?

Retinopathy is a hereditary eye condition that affects the photoreceptor cells of the dog’s eyes, leading to them degrading and breaking down over a period of time.

Retinopathy is a painless and gradual condition, but it does lead to progressive blindness, although the length of time it takes for any dog’s vision to be seriously compromised can be quite variable. Some dogs will go on to become totally blind, whilst others might simply have compromised vision in certain types of lighting conditions.

How acute and serious the condition is in any given dog can also vary a lot, as can the age of onset. Retinopathy is rarely diagnosed for the first time in dogs under the age of two, whilst some dogs will reach their senior years before displaying the markers of the condition.

Why are Swedish Vallhunds at risk of retinopathy?

Retinopathy is a hereditary health condition, and the type of retinopathy found in Swedish Vallhunds is unique to dogs of the breed.

Because the total number of Swedish Vallhunds in the UK is relatively small, the limited number of dogs within the gene pool make it easier for hereditary conditions like retinopathy to spread across increasing numbers of dogs, increasing the risk factors for all dogs of the breed.

How is retinopathy transmitted from dog to dog?

Retinopathy is passed on from parent dogs to their young by means of autosomal recessive heredity, which means that the odds of any given puppy inheriting the condition depends on the status of both of their parents combined.

Knowing the status of two parent dogs allows breeders to predict the odds of their offspring also being affected by the condition, depending on whether the two respective parent dogs have a status of clear, carrier or affected.

  • Two clear parent dogs will produce a clear litter.
  • Two affected parent dogs will produce an affected litter.
  • Two carrier parent dogs will produce a litter with each pup having odds of 50% for carrier status, 25% clear status, and 25% affected status.
  • A clear dog and an affected dog will produce a litter of carriers.
  • A clear dog and a carrier will produce a litter of 50% clear and 50% carriers.
  • A carrier dog and an affected dog will produce a litter of 50% carriers and 50% affected.

Pre-breeding health screening for retinopathy in the Swedish Vallhund

A pre-breeding health test to identify the markers of retinopathy in Swedish Vallhund breeding stock has been introduced for the breed in the UK, which can be conducted by means of a DNA test.

Previously, diagnosing retinopathy in the Swedish Vallhund relied largely on BVA eye screening, which can only return a result on the state of the dog’s eyes at the time of examination and does not predict future eye health.

In order to get a Swedish Vallhund tested for retinopathy, you just need to ask your vet to take a DNA sample from the dog and send it to an approved laboratory for testing, which returns a result of either clear, carrier or affected.

Both parent dogs in any mating match need to be tested in order to predict the outcome for their litter, and anyone who is considering buying a Swedish Vallhund puppy is strongly advised to buy from a breeder who health tests their dogs as standard, and that makes the results available for prospective buyers to view.

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