|Breeding dogs at Westwood Labradoodles, Goldendoodles and North
American Retrievers all receive acceptable results on the following
health tests before they are bred: PennHIP, OFA, CERF, prcd-PRA, and
von Willebrands diesease.
You don't need a degree in genetics, or even a college course, to
understand the basics of health testing in Labradoodles or
Goldendoodles. A good Labradoodle breeder or Goldendoodle
breeder will have a pretty good handle on the genetics involved with
the health of these hybrids though!
Every aspect of your Labradoodle's or Goldendoodle's physical being
began as contributions from its parent's bodies, carried in their genetic
code. There are certain health conditions in Goldens, Poodles and
Labradors which can be passed from parent to puppy in the genetic
material and hence are found in Goldendoodles and Labradoodles,
These are called heritable (that is, "able to be inherited") disorders.
There are 2 disorders, Von Willebrand's Disease ( a bleeding disorder),
and prcd-PR (an eye disorder) in which we actually know what gene is
responsible. In the case of these diseases, a laboratory test can
determine if, or how many copies, of the gene are present. A dog
having two copies of the gene for either disorder would eventually be
affected by the disease and would not be bred. A dog with one copy is
a carrier, and a breeder would take care to breed that dog only to a
dog that is NOT a carrier. Carriers remain perfectly free of these
disorders, the only concern is them passing it to a puppy that receives
a second copy from the other parent. A dog is only affected by the
disease if they have 2 copies.
In all other instances we cannot look for a gene to tell us of the
presence of a certain disease. We have to look for evidence of the
disease itself. In the case of heritable eye diseases in Poodles,
Labradoodles, and Goldendoodles, for example, an exam is conducted
by a veterinary opthamologist every year to determine if a disease is
developing. Dogs that show symptoms of a heritable eye disease are
eliminated from the breeding program. Other examples of heritable
diseases tested for by some Doodle breeders include thyroid disease,
some forms of heart disease, Addison's disease, sebaceous adenitis,
hip dysplasia and diabetes.
The heritable disease found in Labradoodles and Goldendoodles that
most people seem familiar with is Hip Dysplasia (HD). This disease is
a sort of Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD) , with symptoms similar to
arthritis in humans. In dogs though, the heritable form of the disease
is not a disease of old age, but can develop while the dog is still quite
young and is obvious on X-rays as the hip joint has abnormal
features. As with most things, the hip architecture can range from
great to horrible, with some hips in between. Two schemes are
commonly available in the US for evaluating hips.
OFA screening relies on veterinarians reading an x-ray and assigning a
rank: 'Excellent', 'Good', 'Fair' 'Borderline' or 'Dysplastic'. This rank is
based on the shape of the hip socket and ball joint. Labradoodle
breeders who base decisions about breeding on OFA generally agree
that 'Excellent' and 'Good' rankings are fine to breed, and also agree
that 'Borderline' or 'Dysplastic ' are not acceptable for breeding. As
with all other decisions where there are gray areas, some breeders will
breed a dog with a 'Fair' rank, and others will not. Some will breed a
'Fair' under some circumstances and not others. This is really a
judgement call and not all breeders agree. There is a registry
(www.offa.org) that collects and reports hip assessments to assist in
recording and tracking these rankings. OFA will not certify a dogs hips
until the age of 2 years.
However, some breeders are using a specialized x-ray technique called
PennHIP testing, which can be done as young as 4 months of age.
This test results in a score for each hip, ranging from .1 to .9, and
reflects how tight the hip joint is, and the average score varies by dog
breed. Tighter hips, that is lower scores, are less likely to develop DJD
and are desirable in any breeding dog. In my opinion, any score
under .4 is clearly breedable. Anything over .65 i sgenerally
considered not breedable. In between .4 and .65 is a gray area.
Breeders who utilize this method track the average scores for their
breed, and try to breed only dogs with average or better-than-average
scores. For example, the average hip score for Standard Poodles is
currently .5. If a Poodle were to score .42, in the middle zone, it
would be considered breedable by most because it is better than
average. However .42 would NOT be considered breedable by most
Borzoi breeders because that breed average is .19!
So some breeders do OFA testing, some do PennHIP testing, and
some do both. My personal opinion is that there is value in doing both
tests, as they do look at somewhat different features of hip health. It
can assist in choosing mates for a dog if you know the details of the
hips. If a dog has great hip conformation (OFA 'Good' or 'Excellent')
but the hips are a little lax, maybe in the .5-.6 range, one might
consider an OFA 'Fair' mate if the hips are really tight, possibly in the
Mini-Labradoodles are at risk for slightly different problems as they are
bred from Miniature Poodles instead of Standard Poodles. For
example, the incidence of hip dysplasia is so low in the Minis that some
breeders choose not to test for it. So breeders may test for some or all
of these diseases. Some breeders do not test at all. If testing for
heritable diseases is important to you it should be among the
questions you ask of prospective breeders.
Another way breeders try to eliminate HD and other heritable diseases
from their breeding lines is to examine their dog's pedigrees carefully.
Looking at hip assessments and other health records of relatives
(grandparents, siblings, half-siblings, cousins, etc) and choosing
breeding stock with the healthiest background possible is all part of the
One of the difficulties in trying to eliminate heritable disorders in dogs
is that most of the genes that cause the disorders are what are termed
'recessive'. This means they are hidden, or masked, by other genes.
A parent that does NOT show the disease, but is carrying the gene,
can pass that gene carrying the disease to a pup. If BOTH parents
happen to be carriers and pass the genes to a pup, the pup can have
TWO defective genes and will show the disease. This is similar to 2
brown-eyed parents having a blue eyed child. Blue is recessive, but if
both parents are blue carriers, they can have a blue -eyed child.
Some heritable diseases are passed in this manner, via a single
recessive gene. Complicating this picture in the case of HD is the fact
that hip dysplasia appears to be controlled by several genes, so
predicting it's inheritance is even more difficult. It IS possible to have
2 parents with good hip scores, or good hip x-rays, produce a puppy
with hip dysplasia.
In addition to testing members of a breeding pair, breeders will gather
testing information on relatives of their breeding pair. The scores of
parents, grandparents, siblings, siblings of parents, and even puppies
produced from previous litters will all be examined. In some cases it is
better to breed a dog with slightly below average hips, if the test
results for all relatives are excellent, than to breed a dog with good
hips who has HD in its pedigree. So interpreting test results is no easy
task! This is true for the other heritable diseases passed as recessive
traits as well.
But Doodle breeders who test their breeding stock do the best they
can. They use their dogs test results to help make the best pairings
possible in their breeding decisions. The hope is to reduce the
number of Doodle pups born with hip dysplasia by removing dogs
from the breeding population that have clearly substandard hips, and
by following the offspring of dogs with hip scores in the middle ranges
to see if their pups remain healthy. We do the same for all diseases
that are known or suspected to be heritable in Labradoodles and
Author: Helene Roussi
Please look here for more information about Labradoodles and