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Common Hereditary Faults In A Labrador Retriever

A responsible breeder should realize that certain matters of health are his responsibility. Such a breeder should do everything possible through his breeding to keep certain known inherited serious faults from becoming widespread in Labrador Retrievers. He should also try his best to understand what to do about inherited faults detrimental to the breed that have already become widespread within the breed.

There seems to be two extremes among persons interested in breeding dogs. There are those who are over-cautious and others who will breed anything to anything and trust to luck. The more intelligent approach is to investigate and leave the final decision to the weighing of various aspects of each particular problem. Elimination from the breeding program of every dog falling the slightest bit below perfection is not the intelligent approach.

Various breeds of dogs have their own particular inherited problems, some of which are a matter of physical beauty, such as eye-color. Light eyes in Labradors are frowned upon, but since there is no basis in fact that the color of eyes in a dog has anything to do with his vision, color becomes an aesthetic choice. Dark eyes are dominant in inheritance in most breeds; if a breeder prefers not to have that color, he should take care never to breed to a yellow-eyed dog or he will develop "carriers" for light eyes in his strain, if not light eyes themselves. This fault of appearance is not widespread in the Labrador breed and is a far lesser fault than progressive retinal atrophy (PRA).

Progressive retinal atrophy leads to complete blindness and is widespread in many breeds, including Labradors in England. It is not a serious problem at the present time in this country but any signs of it becoming on the increase should be watched for by breeders. The danger of it becoming widespread is the fact that blindness develops slowly and a Labrador cannot be declared free of affliction until he is four years of age. This age factor varies with different breeds. Any case of blindness should be diagnosed by a qualified doctor or veterinarian.

Kennel owners should obtain the services of an expert in eye diseases and have all dogs checked. Temporary certificates are issued for those dogs proved clear under four years of age and permanent certificates after that age. The British Kennel Club lists all dogs holding such types of certificates in their monthly official magazine. They also do this for their hip dysplasia program. Effort is being made to bring progressive retinal atrophy under control, but it will be difficult since many dogs will be bred from under four years of age without knowledge of whether or not they are passing on the genes of inheritance for this blindness.

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