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What Golden Retriever Owners Need To Know About Ectopic Ureter

Golden retrievers are large and very handsome dogs with distinctive long, glossy golden coats, but their natural good looks are only half of the story. Golden retrievers are also highly intelligent, very versatile and really smart, as well as loving the company of people, which means that they are usually a pleasure to train and capable of learning and retaining a wide range of different commands.

This is part of why golden retrievers are in great demand as assistance dogs for people with vision or hearing disorders, and why they make excellent therapy dogs too. While the golden retriever breed as a whole is robust and healthy, there are a few hereditary health conditions that dogs of the breed can inherit, and one of the less well known of these is called ectopic ureter.

Ectopic ureter is also sometimes known as wet puppy syndrome, and this is a condition that can also affect another less popular and well-known dog breed as well as the golden retriever – the Entlebucher mountain dog. A lot of what we know about ectopic ureter in the golden retriever has been established through tests and studies into the condition in Entlebucher mountain dogs, and the way that the condition affects dogs of both breeds is now much better understood as a result.

If you are considering buying a golden retriever puppy or perhaps considering breeding from your own golden retriever, it is important to learn the basics of ectopic ureter, how it is passed from dog to dog, and the effects that it can have on them. Read on to learn more about ectopic ureter in the golden retriever.

What is ectopic ureter?

Ectopic ureter is a congenital defect that affects the formation of the ureter, and which leads to urinary incontinence and an elevated level of risk for urinary tract infections. The condition can also occur concurrently with renal dysplasia, although this is by no means always the case.

When a dog has ectopic ureter, the end of the ureter itself – which should end at the bladder – ends at a different place. In bitches with the condition the ureter usually ends at the vagina or urethra, whilst in male dogs, the ureter usually ends at the urethra.

The term “wet puppy syndrome” is often used interchangeably with the medical name of ectopic ureter because pups with the condition tend to drip urine continually, because the connection between the kidneys and the bladder is not properly formed. This may affect just one of the dog’s two ureters, or both of them together.

However, the condition tends to present slightly differently in male dogs versus female dogs, and sometimes at different ages.


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What sort of dogs may inherit ectopic ureter?

Ectopic ureter is a hereditary health condition that can affect both male and female dogs from breed lines where the condition is known to present. It cannot be caught or transmitted from dog to dog other than by means of heredity.

When it comes to female pups with ectopic ureter, the urinary incontinence that accompanies the condition usually becomes evident very early in the pup’s life, although because dams clean their pups, this may not become obvious until the pups are a few weeks old. In male dogs, symptoms such as urinary incontinence don’t always become evident until the pup is fully grown, which means that golden retriever puppy buyers might buy a male pup with the condition and not realise this for some time.

What are the symptoms of ectopic ureter in the golden retriever?

Urinary incontinence in the form of a continual drip of fluid that means that the dog’s fur is almost always wet with urine is the core symptom of the condition to look out for.

If you own a young golden retriever and they have urinary incontinence from a young age, ectopic ureter is one of the conditions your vet should consider. They will need to rule out other causes of the incontinence, which means running some examinations and tests that might include a contrast dye test with x-ray, an ultrasound, or a cystoscopy.

In some cases, the problem can be corrected surgically, but this is not always the case for all dogs.

Can golden retrievers be tested to find out their status prior to breeding from them?

Currently, no DNA test or pre-breeding screening protocol is in place to identify dogs with higher risk factors for ectopic ureter prior to breeding. However, golden retriever breed clubs, along with The Kennel Club and the Animal Health Trust, are working to develop a definitive testing scheme for the condition, which involves ultrasound examination and scoring to return a result of a normal, ectopic or intermediate ureter.

Currently, the exact gene or anomaly responsible for ectopic ureter in golden retrievers isn’t known, but because we do know the condition is hereditary, any dog who has close relatives with the condition should be considered to have higher risk factors.

A dog that has ectopic ureter, even if successfully corrected with surgery, should not be used for breeding. Puppy buyers are advised to ask breeders about the condition and any presentations of it within their breed lines before committing to a purchase.


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