Health Matters

Golden Retrievers are generally a very healthy breed and as long as they are fed and exercised correctly should live long, healthy and happy lives.

Like most breeds, they are subject to some genetic disorders,and for some of these, health schemes organised jointly by the Kennel Club and the British Veterinary Association are in operation.

Hip Dysplasia Golden Retrievers are subject to Hip Dysplasia, and a BVA/KC scheme is in operation to assess the degree of hip dysplasia a dog has. Dogs are X-rayed, and the plates are scored by a panel of specialists. This only needs to be done once in the dogs life, and it is recommended that the dog is at least 12 months of age before assessment. Each hip is assessed independently and a score is given for each hip (i.e. 8-9 = 17) Some people will quote the combined score (17), some the score for each side (8-9). The best score you can get is 0-0 (very very rare) and the worst is 53-53 (also very very rare). The average score for the breed is a cumulative score of just under 20.
Elbow Dysplasia This is a very new scheme that has recently been introduced and you may find some breeders have had their breeding stock checked and some not. This entails X-raying the dogs elbows, and submitting the plates to a panel of specialists for assessment. A score is given for each elbow from 0 to 3, 0 being completely clear, and 3 being badly affected.
Eye Problems There are various conditions that Goldens are susceptible to, some very serious such as Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) and Hereditary Cataract (HC). Both these conditions are sight affecting and no animal having these conditions should be bred from. There are some conditions which are not sight affecting which are also included in the test, i.e. Multifocal Retinal Dysplasia (MRD) and Post Polar Cataract (PPC).

Once again there is a BVA/KC Scheme for Eyes and breeders are strongly recommended to use this. There is also a European Scheme in operation, and dogs may be assessed under this scheme.

If you would like more information on these conditions, the following pamphlets are available.
Hip Dysplasia in dogs:
A guide for dog owners.
by John Foster BVSc, CertVOphthal, MRCVS
The BVA/KC scoring scheme for control of hip dysplasia:
Interpretation of criteria.
By Christine Gibbs, BVSc, PhD, DVR, MRCVS.
Hereditary eye disease in dogs:
Conditions covered by the BVA/KC/ISDS Eye scheme.
Hereditary eye disease in dogs:
A guide for dog owners.
By John Foster BVSc, CertVOphthal, MRCVS
All available from the BVA, (Canine Health Schemes),
7 Mansfield St. London, W1M 0AT.
A Golden's temperament is its biggest asset, and that is the most important point of all!


PRA(progressive retinal atrophy) is a well recognised inherited genetic eye condition that many breeds of dog are predisposed to. The condition is characterised by bilateral degeneration of the retina which causes progressive loss of vision that culminates in total blindness. There is no treatment for PRA. There are many types of PRA but not all are recognised as inherited in the Golden Retriever. Currently BVA/KC eye certification includes Generalised PRA and Central Progressive PRA (CPRA) as inherited non-congenital conditions affecting Golden Retrievers.
DNA TESTING FOR PRA In November 2010, the Animal Health Trust announced the exciting news that a gene mutation responsible for the development of PRA in the Golden Retriever had been identified and as from 15th November 2010, a DNA test would be available. It is believed that there are three types of Generalised PRA affecting the Golden Retriever and this first (UK) DNA diagnostic test would identify 70% of the most common type. The AHT have named their test as DNA GR_PRA1.
The Way Forward As the incidence of PRA in UK bred Golden Retrievers is thought to be very low, the value of this new diagnostic test was questioned by many experienced UK Golden Retriever breeders. Very few PRA eye failures have ever been published in the Breed Record Supplement.
The Golden Retriever Breed Council has discussed this issue at length and after consultation with Dr Cathryn Mellersh at the Animal Health Trust it was decided that a joint exercise would be undertaken whereby a representative sample would be taken of the current UK breeding gene pool and DNA tested for GR_PRA1. The reasoning behind this decision was to determine whether or not there was an existing problem within our UK gene pool.
Agreed Plan After consultation with Dr Cathryn Mellersh at the Animal Health Trust, it was agreed that 200 dogs would be a realistic number to test and Cathryn, on behalf of The Animal Health Trust, kindly offered to give the 200 DNA testing kits free of charge. The Breed Council agreed that these kits would be distributed amongst the 13 UK Golden Retriever Breed Clubs in order to provide as wide a geographical spread as possible.
At a recent Breed Council Health subcommittee meeting, the protocol for this exercise was discussed. The aims, method, sampling criteria, data collection, and analysis were all unanimously agreed. In essence it was agreed:
1.That the Aim of this project is to determine the extent of GR_PRA1 gene mutation within our current UK Golden Retriever gene pool (ie what % are genetically clear, carrier or affected).

2.The Method will be to

    2.1 Eye test ( for clinical diagnosis)

    2.2 DNA sample

    2.3 Collate DNA test results

    2.4 Report results to Breed Council

3.What the Sampling Criteria for inclusion and exclusion should be within this project. Written confirmation of what was discussed and agreed, together with consent forms and covering documentation will be sent to all Breed Clubs in due course. It is the responsibility of the Breed Clubs to inform their members and conduct the sampling sessions.

4.Data Collection and analysis will be the responsibility of the Breed Council Health Coordinator.

The outcome of this project will be reported to and discussed in detail by the Golden Retriever Breed Council. It is the role of the Breed Council to determine the way forward. As your Breed Health Coordinator it is my role to implement their decision.
Margaret Woods
Breed Health Co-Ordinator
12th February 2011