In the maze of health screening

What do all those acronyms mean?

Before buying a puppy, responsible prospective owners research and read up on the breed to learn everything they need to choose the right breeder and puppy for them.

For the uninitiated, it’s not so easy to navigate the world of health screening, as there are so many acronyms used to describe the health screening of dogs. And many people wonder exactly what these results mean.

Genetic screening

Genetic screening is carried out from a blood or saliva sample. Samples are tested in accredited laboratories, either at home or abroad. You can request a single screening or a full range of genetic screenings currently available, which can detect more than 200 diseases. However, it is worth knowing that there are some diseases that are specifically breed-specific, and in the case of the Lagotto, the following six screenings are really relevant:

LSD – Lagotto Storage Disease: this is a severe neurodegenerative disease that eventually leads to death. Dogs affected by this condition show a variety of neurological signs which can include changes in behaviour, coordination problems and facial and eye tics.

JE – Benign Familial Juvenile Epilepsy : Juvenile epilepsy is a neurological disease. Affected dogs suffer from epileptic seizures (body tremors, uncoordinated movement and rigidity) from 5-9 weeks of age until 4 months of age, after which the seizures cease.
NAD – Neuroaxonal Dystrophy: affected dogs show a variety of neurological abnormalities, including gait abnormalities and behavioural disturbances.
Symptoms include slowly progressive neurological signs that begin between six and eleven months of age. Owners of affected dogs have reported gait abnormalities, behavioural changes (dullness, nervousness, vocalisation) and incontinence.

prcd-PRA – Progressive rod-cone degeneration: progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a hereditary disease that occurs in many breeds of dogs and in different forms. It is a disease that progressively worsens in progressive form, eventually leading to complete loss of vision in the dog.

HUU – Hyperuricosuria / Urate Stones: Hyperuricosuria is characterised by elevated levels of uric acid in the urine. This disease predisposes dogs to the formation of stones in their bladder or sometimes in their kidneys.

Furnishings – Furnishings refers to the longer whiskers and eyebrows seen in wirehaired dogs and other breeds. It is a dominant variant of the R-spondin-2 gene that produces the desired coat texture and growth pattern.

What are the possible results of genetic screening and what does it actually mean?

There are three possible outcomes:

  1. Free : this does not need much explanation, the dog is healthy and breedable.
  2. Carrier : the dog carries the gene in its genes but will not be sick, perfectly healthy, breedable!
  3. Affected: the individual is sick, not breedable.

In summary, free and carrier individuals are breedable. One thing to note is that a carrier should only be bred to an individual with a free result. In this case, the pups will be free or carriers, i.e. completely healthy.

The figure below illustrates this:

Musculoskeletal disorders, dysplasia

HD– Hip Dysplasia: hip dysplasia has several degrees:

  • free (HD-, A, -, HD/A) – breedable
  • almost free, (HD-/+, B, HD/B) – breedable
  • Mild, (HD+, C, HD/C) – breedable
  • medium (HD++, D, HD/D) – NOT breedable
  • severe (HD+++, E, HD/E) – NOT breedable

Free, near free and mild results are healthy and breedable. Care should be taken to mate a mild result with a free individual if possible (some clubs require this).

Individuals with moderate to severe results must NOT be bred, however it is important to note that in most cases they can live a full life if the right living conditions are provided.

ED – Elbow Dysplasia: it also has several degrees:

  • normal (free) /degree 0/; – breedable
  • mild /degree I/; – breedable
  • moderate /degree II/; – not breedable
  • severe /degree III/ – not breedable

OCD – osteochondrosis dissecans: a shoulder dysplasia, The first symptoms of the disease begin at 7-9 months of age, with recurrent forelimb lameness. Painful stretching of the shoulder joints. The screening test for shoulder dysplasia is not yet fully standardised, so only the free or shoulder dysplasia (subluxated) categories and the OCD positive and OCD negative categories are known.

Patella: knee cap dislocation, also classified in several categories:

  • Free (Grade 0): patella is not dislocatable at the extended knee, no deviation is felt – breedable
  • Grade I: The patella is easily dislocated at the extended knee, but is repositioned when released – breedable
  • Grade II: Patella often dislocates on its own and sometimes it remains – not breedable
  • Grade III: Patella permanently dislocated, with tibial torsion and tibial tarsus deviation of between 30 and 50 degrees off-axis – not breedable
  • Grade IV: Patella permanently dislocated, tibia torsion and tibia tarsus deviation between 50 and 90 degrees – not breedable

The range of mandatory health screenings varies from country to country, so before buying a puppy, find out what screenings the parents have. In Hungary, for example, in the case of lagotto, parents must have HD and ED results.