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Astrud PWDs

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Health testing
Health Testing in PWDs

OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) certification numbers for hips and elbows. An OFA number indicates that a dog has been evaluated by x-ray by the OFA and found to show no signs of having Hip Dysplasia at age 24 months or older. Passing OFA ratings for hips will indicate whether the dog’s hip structure has been found to be “Excellent, “Good” or “Fair”. Parent OFA rating is important in predicting the tendency to hip dysplasia, as is the OFA history in the pedigree. OFA also evaluates elbow x-rays and rates elbows as “Normal” if no indication of elbow dysplasia is found. Elbows are rated by the OFA only on a pass/fail basis.


Penn Hip is another method of evaluating hip health. This technique measures hip laxity with a value called "distraction index" or DI. The laxity of the tested dog is compared to all other dogs of the same breed and based on the DI all dogs of the breed are ranked in a percentile. For example, a PWD in the 75th percentile has a DI that is better than 75% of all PWDs.



CERF (Canine Eye Registration Foundation) All breeding dogs should have an annual CERF examination. A CERF exam is only good for one year and can only be done by a Board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist. A CERF exam can detect such anomalies as cataracts, persistent pupillary membranes, retinal problems, and other congenital and acquired ocular anomalies.


OptiGen - Research has lead to a DNA test to identify dogs that are either normal, carriers or affected with Progressive Retinal Atrophy which causes blindness in affected dogs. PRA is caused by a recessive gene. Pattern A and A1 are dogs that are normal, i.e., do not carry the gene. Pattern B or B1 are carriers (have one recessive gene), and Pattern C and C1 are dogs that carry two recessive genes, and thus are affected with PRA, leading to blindness. Pattern B/B1 and Pattern C/C1 dogs should only be bred to Pattern A/A1 to avoid producing PRA-affected puppies. Before this genetic test was available, PRA blindness was a serious risk in most breeding lines, but since the advent of the test, there is no danger of producing an affected dog if PRA testing is done and at least one of the parents is normal (non-carrier).


GM1 - Storage Disease (GM1 gangliosidosis) is a recessive genetic disorder. It is produced only when two carriers are bred together. The disorder is caused by a lack of an enzyme that allows the build up of toxic substances in the nerve cells. It is fatal to affected puppies. But as with PRA, with genetic testing there is no risk of producing an affected dog.


UPenn Cardio – Juvenile Dilated Cardiomyopathy (JDCM) is another recessive genetic disorder. If both parents carry the gene and pass it on to a puppy, that dog will be affected with Cardio, typically resulting in death due to reduced heart function at an age of a few weeks to a few months. After extensive research funded by the PWDCA and the PWD Foundation, researchers at U. of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine have developed a DNA test for Cardio. The test indicates non-carriers (Normal, type 1-1) and carriers (type 1-2), and is yet another great advance in genetic testing to help breeders produce healthy dogs. As with other recessive genetic diseases, there is no danger of producing affected puppies if testing is done and breeding decisions are based that information.


MSU Thyroid panel - Analysis of thyroid levels and thyroid antibodies through Michigan State University will reveal whether the dog is currently showing any evidence of autoimmune thyroid issues. This test will reveal problems from autoimmune thyroiditis well  before there are any outward symptoms, so it's useful to evaluate dogs periodically.


IC (Improper Coat) - Improper coat is NOT a health issue, just a cosmetic one. It is a recessive gene that in affected dogs causes a coat that is more like a "regular" dog coat--shorter and not evergrowing like a PWD coat is, and with short hair naturally occurring on the feet and muzzle. Some dogs with IC will shed,  others won't. Although it is purely cosmetic and doesn't affect the dog adversely, it is not part of  breed standard and doesn't reflect the breed type of the original Portuguese dogs. The IC test identifies dogs that carry IC.


Don't confuse IC with follicular dysplasia, which is a health concern. It is a skin and hair condition that can result from breeding two curly-coated dogs together. There is no genetic test for follicular dysplasia.


For additional information from the PWDCA on health considerations in PWDs, click here.



For good info on PWD genetic testing, see the PWD Foundation, and also CHIC (Canine Health Information Center).