Health Issues


Hip & Elbow Scores
Centronuclear Myopathy
CNM Clinic
CNM Clinic Application Form
OptiGen Test
Elbow Dysplasia
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Total Retinal Dysplasia
Multifocal Retinal Dysplasia
BVA/KC Eye Panellists

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Those wishing to know about the inherited disease tests
available for the Labrador Retriever, should click on the link below

Inherited Diseases



The Animal Health Trust is collecting samples for projects seeking to identify the inherited genetic mutations responsible for Labrador Retrievers having an increased risk of developing mast cell tumours, melanomas, and soft-tissue sarcomas, respectively. The melanoma and soft-tissue sarcoma projects are part of the LUPA project (, a 4 year initiative involving 20 veterinary schools from 12 European countries. With the support of The Labrador Retriever Club, we have recently applied to the Kennel Club Charitable Trust for funding for the mast cell tumour research project. 

Mast cell tumours are the most common skin cancer in dogs, affecting mainly older dogs. Surgery and local radiotherapy are a cure for 70% of tumours, but about 30% of the tumours spread and the dogs require chemotherapy. A study in 2004 of the incidence of mast cell tumours in dogs diagnosed at the AHT between 1997 and 1999 identified a high prevalence in Boxers, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and Weimaraners.

Melanomas arise from cells (containing the pigment melanin) that occur in the skin (‘cutaneous melanoma’), in the mouth (‘oral melanoma’), under toe nails (‘ungual melanoma’), and in the eye (‘ocular/uveal melanoma’). The severity of a melanoma depends upon location, with oral tumours being the most likely to spread. Labrador Retrievers are amongst several breeds that appear to have an increased risk of developing oral melanomas.

Soft-tissue sarcomas are a group of tumours derived from soft tissues (muscles, tendons, fibrous tissue, fat, blood vessels, nerves, and tissues around joints). The behaviour of the tumours depends upon their subtype and location. Dogs are usually treated by surgery which may need to be followed by local radiotherapy. There is some evidence to suggest that Labrador Retrievers have a higher incidence of

Soft-tissue Sarcomas.

In the long term, it is hoped that the research will lead to the development of tests to identify dogs that carry the gene mutations conferring an increased risk. This information will be useful to vets as it will identify dogs who may benefit from careful monitoring for early detection of cancer, and thereby early treatment. These tests will also assist breeders to reduce the incidence of dogs affected with these cancers. The research will also increase understanding of how these tumours develop, ultimately assisting the development of new therapies.

Dr. Mike Starkey
Oncology Research Group (

February 2009

Labrador Retriever owners can help these projects as follows:

A). If your dog has a suspected mast cell tumour, melanoma, or soft-tissue sarcoma: 

  • If your vet is taking a blood sample for a clinical reason, ask the vet to save a surplus sample (1-2ml) in an EDTA tube 

or contact the AHT to request a cheek swab kit

  • Ask your vet to collect a small piece (3-5mm cube) of the biopsy of the suspected tumour (normally removed for diagnostic histopathology) and send it to the AHT

If you have advance notice of your vet removing a biopsy, contact the AHT to ask for a special preservative (‘RNAlater’), in which to collect the small piece of tissue, to be sent to the vet

or ask your vet to place a small piece of the biopsy of the suspected tumour in a freezer, and then ask the vet to contact the AHT to ask to be sent a special solvent (‘QIAzol’) in which to transport the piece of tissue.

 B). If your dog does not have cancer (and has not had cancer) and is at least 6 years old:

  • If your vet is taking a blood sample for a clinical reason, ask the vet to save a surplus sample (1-2ml) in an EDTA tube

or contact the AHT to request a cheek swab kit

  • Please let us know if your dog develops cancer within the following 4 years

AHT Contact Details

 For any queries or more information about the project contact:

Dr. Mike Starkey (Tel: 01638 555603; E-mail:

To submit a blood sample, or request a cheek swab kit and/or
an RNAlater/QIAzol sample tube (for a tumour biopsy),
contact: Lisa Jeffery (
Tel: 01638 751000, extension 1214;

Hereditary Defects

When trying to breed good Labrador Retrievers it is important that the whole dog is considered. Aspects such as temperament, type, quality and working ability are all very important, and so too is soundness.

As with most breeds problems occur from time to time. HOWEVER, puppy buyers must try to understand that there are no guarantees when you buy a puppy. Conscientious breeders try to reduce the chances of inherited problems in the puppies they breed by using the health schemes available at the time.

Several health control schemes have been set up by the British Veterinary Association and the Kennel Club (BVA/KC). These can be used to help with the breeding of sound Labradors. They are:

  • The BVA/KC Hip Dysplasia (H.D.) scoring scheme

  • The Elbow Dysplasia (E.D.) grading scheme

  • The BVA/KC/ISDA Inherited Eye Disease scheme

  • The EVCO & The AHT Eye Disease schemes

All of these issue certificates from acknowledged veterinary experts in the fields of radiography or ophthalmology. Results are published quarterly in the Breed Record Supplement and appear on KC registration documents.

The Labrador Retriever Club strongly recommends that all breeding stock is evaluated for Hip Dysplasia & inherited eye diseases using one of the schemes. The Club also strongly recommends that prospective puppy buyers only buy from breeders that have had both parents BVA/KC hip scored and eye examined as unaffected (using the BVA/KC, EVCO or AHT eye schemes).

The LRC Puppy Register
will only accept litters bred by LRC members who have both
parents of the puppies officially hip and eye scored.

Other Tests

  • Elbow Dysplasia (ED)  It is an added bonus if one or both of the parents have been evaluated for elbow dysplasia using the BVA/KC scheme.

  • General Progressive Retinal Atrophy (GPRA) DNA testing for (more correctly, PRDC in the Labrador)  is gradually are becoming available to dog breeders in order to check whether individuals are genetically clear/normal, or carriers, or affected by this inherited disease before they develop the clinical symptoms.  One such test is available for a rare but serious eye disease which can occur in Labradors.  It is usually referred to as General Progressive Retinal Atrophy (GPRA) but more correctly is called the PRCD form of PRA.

  • Currently there are three eye examination schemes available in the UK. All utilise acknowledged veterinary ophthalmologists: the BVA/KC Eye Scheme (the main scheme), the EVCO & the AHT. Results of examinations are published in the quarterly Kennel Club BRS.

In the Labrador Retriever several eye diseases are assessed these are:

  • Hereditary Cataract (HC) this condition may be due to a dominant gene with incomplete penetration, or due to a recessive gene; the type found in the Retriever breeds causes posterior polar cataracts.  Only rarely does it cause total blindness.

  • General Progressive Retinal Atrophy (GPRA) a very serious eye disease causing total blindness; inheritance is probably due to a simple recessive gene.

  • Total Retinal Dysplasia (TRD) is a rare cause of blindness in young puppies.  It is caused by a simple recessive gene.

  • Multifocal Retinal Dysplasia (MRD) seems not to affect eyesight, inheritance unknown at present, possibly due to a simple recessive gene.

  • The OptiGen prcd-PRA Test is a DNA-based test that helps you avoid one form of Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). PRA refers to a group of diseases that cause the retina of the eye to degenerate slowly over time. The result is declining vision and eventual blindness. “prcd” stands for “progressive rod-cone degeneration” which is the type of PRA known in several breeds.

To investigate further click the button below:

Optigen Website

The LRC strongly recommends that breeders always have their dogs/bitches
checked for inherited eye diseases
and that they have a CURRENT eye certificate.

It is not any good at all if males are offered at public stud
with only an out-of-date eye certificate.

Centronuclear Myopathy (CNM) in Labrador Retrievers is an hereditary myopathy characterised by skeletal muscle problems such as muscle weakness and exercise intolerance. It is also known as hereditary myopathy of the Labrador Retriever (HMLR).

The mutation, or change to the structure of the gene, probably occurred spontaneously in a single dog but once in the population has been inherited from generation to generation like any other gene. The disorder shows an autosomal recessive mode of inheritance: two copies of the defective gene (one inherited from each parent) have to be present for a dog to be affected by the disease. Individuals with one copy of the defective gene and one copy of the normal gene - called carriers - show no symptoms but can pass the defective gene onto their offspring. When two apparently healthy carriers are crossed, 25% (on average) of the offspring will be affected by the disease, 25% will be clear and the remaining 50% will themselves be carriers

For Further information visit the official Web site of
the Alfort School of Veterinary Medicine, France

click below

Labradors can also be tested for Centronuclear Myopathy at
the Animal Heath Trust, Newmarket