Pamela A. Davol, 76 Mildred Avenue, Swansea,
Unfortunately, among the various disorders which can afflict Labrador Retrievers, eye disorders are prevalent in the breed. Screening breeding stock for eye disorders through a board certified member of the American College of Veterinarian Opthamologists goes a long way in helping to minimize occurrence of eye disorders in future offspring. Autosomal recessive eye disorders, however, can be inherited even when both parents are clear of the disorder. This is because many dogs may be genetic carriers for an eye disorder. Only when two carriers are bred together will a percentage of the puppies in the litter be afflicted with the disorder. Therefore, there are limitations to a breeder's ability to ensure that a puppy will be free of risk.
Over the past years, Wing-N-Wave has adopted the procedure of having all of our puppies' eyes examined prior to the time that they are sold. There are, of course, limitations to this exam due, in part, to the fact that the retina does not fully develop until a pup is approximately 4 months of age. Additionally, disorders such as Progressive Retinal Atrophy are not detectable in the Labrador breed at such an early age (although severe cases of PRA have been reported as early as 1 year of age in Labradors in England). Therefore, it has often been implied that such pre-sale eye exams are unwarranted.
If I, myself, were also beginning to doubt the need for puppy eye exams, that doubt was laid to rest by a letter which I recently received. The following is an excerpt from that letter:
Pam, ... I would like to tell you a story of my recent experience with retinal dysplasia. I've been building a small kennel on my acreage... I've been interested in raising labs for years and bought a place that would serve as a great facility to do so. I read articles, visited web sites(didn't find yours till today) called many dog breeders, and on Aug 18th I drove to 2 breeders and purchased 3 pups, all different colors. They are field trial labs. I joined the local hunting club and at the first meeting this guy told me to get the pups eye's checked. So I drove to (the local) state teaching vet school for what I thought was going to be a routine exam. 2 out of the 3 didn't pass. Geographic retinal dysplasia in one and retinal folds with a cataract in the other. I was in shock. The breeder that I bought the pups from hadn't even heard of RD. Nor did he know that you should CERF a pup at 7 weeks before you sell them. In reviewing breeders' ads on the Internet I have found only 1 other breeder than yourself that CERFs before they sell. Why isn't this the norm? I returned the pups and received a replacement that CERF'd clear but I'm wondering about all the pups that have been produced by this guy that are walking around with RD. It's a sad state of affairs out there...[reprinted with permission]
The current cost for litter clearances is $30 for the first puppy and $20 for each additional puppy. Eye clinics are sometimes sponsored by training facilities or AKC member clubs and offer reduced fees for exams. For more information on eye disorders please visit: Inherited Eye Disorders in the Labrador Retriever