Portuguese Water Dog Health Issues
All purebred and mixed breed dogs are prone to hereditary health problems. The Portuguese Water Dog is no exception. The Portuguese Water Dog Club of America encourages its members to be aware of health issues and responsible breeding practices to reduce or eliminate hereditary health problems. The information provided herein should help you in your quest for a responsible breeder.
PLEASE NOTE: The PWDCA, Inc. strongly recommends that any dog used for breeding be minimally evaluated with the PWDCA recommended health screening tests prior to breeding. This includes an annual eye exam performed by a veterinary ophthalmologist certifying the absence of inheritable eye disease, radiographic evaluation and registry determination to be free of hip dysplasia, and individual genetic testing for prcd-PRA (or certified CHIC parentage clear). In regards to a breeding pair, the PWDCA, Inc. strongly recommends that one parent be genetically tested as normal (non-carrier) or certified CHIC parentage clear for prcd-PRA, JDCM and GM-1.
Hip dysplasia occurs in most breeds of dogs including mixed breeds. A dog that has hip dysplasia is said to be dysplastic and has hip joints that are not formed perfectly. The imperfection can be slight or severe. The dysplastic dog may experience no pain or problems from its condition or it may experience mild to severe discomfort and have difficulty moving. Veterinary prescribed anti-inflammatory medication can control the symptoms in milder cases. Aging, arthritis and obesity can aggravate the condition. Surgery, which is costly, may be done but only in the most severe cases. Hip dysplasia can only be diagnosed by an x-ray.
OFA Hip Rating (sample below):
The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) is an organization of veterinary orthopedists that evaluate hip x-rays for signs of dysplasia. The service is provided for a modest fee. An x-ray taken of the dog less than two years old will receive only a temporary "Preliminary" rating. An x-ray of a dog two years old or older, evaluated as not dysplastic, will receive a permanent certificate with an OFA number. Along with the number will be a rating status of Excellent, Good, or Fair. Dogs determined to be dysplastic, only a rating (no number) as to the degree of the dysplasia from Mild to Severe will be provided. All dogs should have their hips evaluated by OFA for a final rating prior to breeding. Those dogs too young for a final rating or not receiving a passing hip rating should not be used for breeding.
Some breeders submit elbow joint x-rays to OFA for evaluation to rule out the possibility of elbow dysplasia. The rating for elbow joints is either normal or not normal.
-Sample Orthopedic Foundation for Animals Certification-
Juvenile Dilated Cardiomyopathy (JDCM) is an inherited fatal disease in young Portuguese Water Dogs that is caused by a recessive gene (both parents of a puppy must carry the gene to produce the defect). Puppies affected with JDCM die suddenly or with very little warning usually between the ages of six weeks to seven months old. There have, however, been cases reported younger than six weeks as well as older than seven months. The signs and symptoms of JDCM include a 12 to 48 hour onset of loss of appetite, decreased energy level, vomiting, and difficulty breathing. Some pups have no physical signs or symptoms at all, may just collapse and die, or are found dead by the breeder or new owner. At this time, there is no known cure or treatment but there is a way to prevent producing JDCM affected puppies.
We now have a DNA gene based test, based on a cheek swab or a blood sample, which will determine if a dog is Normal (not carrying the gene) or is a Carrier of the JDCM gene. All breeding animals can be tested to determine their status, thus avoiding the breeding of two JDCM carriers and producing puppies which will die of this deadly disease.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have recently developed this DNA test for detecting dogs who do not have the JDCM gene and dogs who are carriers of the JDCM gene. Breeders are now able to have their breeding animals tested for Normal or Carrier status. Never breed two carriers together or you will produce puppies which will die.
The PWDCA highly recommends that dogs used for breeding be DNA tested for JDCM status and that one of a breeding pair, either the sire or the dam, be tested as Normal.
It is important that all prospective puppy buyers discuss Juvenile Dilated Cardiomyopathy with breeders. Ask if the parents have been tested for JDCM and what their status is, Normal or Carrier. A puppy from a JDCM DNA tested Normal sire or dam will not be affected with this fatal disease.
Some Portuguese Water Dogs are affected with patterned hair loss or follicular dysplasia. This condition, which is believed to be hereditary, generally presents itself at between two and four years of age. The hair may fall out and grow back, or it may never grow back. It appears that most of the dogs that exhibit hair loss have curly coats and are the product of curly to curly coat breedings. However, it must be remembered that most dogs with curly coats do not have hair loss.
Addison's's disease is a disorder found in both humans and animals and is caused by adrenocortical insufficiency. This means that the adrenal glands stop producing the hormones that control metabolism of sugar and maintain the balance of salt and water in the body. This disease can be difficult to diagnose, but once diagnosed, it is treatable. The cause of Addison's is still being researched. It is likely hereditary, but the mode of inheritance is not known. Stress is thought to be a trigger for Addison's symptoms. These symptoms include weight loss, vomiting, depression, lethargy, weakness and shedding of hair. Untreated Addison's disease may lead to death.
GM-1 Storage Disease
GM-1 Storage Disease is a rare disease, which affects humans and Portuguese Water Dogs. It is a genetically transmitted fatal metabolic disorder. Affected puppies will not reach adulthood, and are only produced by breeding of two carrier dogs. Non-carrier, Carrier and Indeterminate Portuguese Water Dogs have a normal life expectancy. There is a direct gene test available which determines the GM-1 status of the dog. NYU Department of Neurology issues certificates designating the rating of dogs as GM1 normal or GM1 carrier. In addition to these ratings, dogs that were blood assay rated before 9/1/99 may have a rating of N95L, N99L, N95A, N99A, C95, C99. In the GM-1 assay Rating "N" means Non-carrier and "C" means Carrier. The number following the letter indicates the probability of accuracy in rating. "L" or "A" following the number indicates the rating is more accurate because it is ancestor or litter confirmed. All dogs must be tested before breeding except for dogs listed GM-1 AP which is a permanent rating indicating that both parents are N95A or N99A.
There are various inherited and congenital eye problems found in all breeds of dogs including the Portuguese Water Dog breed. Some of these problems are expressed at an early age (eight weeks) and others cannot be diagnosed until well into adulthood. It is recommended that all pups have their eyes examined by a Board Certified veterinary ophthalmologist before going to their new home and that the owner receives a copy of the eye exam form from the breeder before the sale is finalized.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Lymphangiectasia (Protein-losing Enteropathy - PLE)
Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis (HGE)
Some of the content in the Puppy Information series was provided by: Lisa Baird, Verne Foster, Jane Harding, and Kathryn Monroe