The following is posted with permission of the author: Sylvia Donahey, of Birnam Wood Golden Retrievers…..(Thank You Sylvia!)
Several years ago I bred a dog, Birnam Wood’s No Trout About It, “Cody,” that was later diagnosed with Pigmentary Uveitis (PU) at four years of age. (http://www.k9data.com/pedigree.asp?ID=186041)
Dr. Wendy Townsend was just beginning her research into PU and blood samples were sent from the affected dog, his dam and several clear littermates along with pedigrees and eye reports. I also notified the sire’s owner and requested they submit blood and a DNA sample. The sire and dam were both reexamined and were clear of PU. I thought those actions were what any responsible breeder would do.
Over the last two years I have read the advisories from the Health & Genetics Committee regarding Pigmentary Uveitis and thought other than this dog confirmed with PU, I was breeding healthy dogs for the last 40 years. Like other responsible breeders, I did the best I could with the information available regarding researching pedigrees for all known genetic issues. So, I was stunned to receive an e-mail from Laura Salvatore that at 8.5 years CH. Birnam Wood’s Expedia.com, “Zoom,” had just been diagnosed with PU. Thankfully it was found “early” and considered mild.(http://www.k9data.com/pedigree.asp?ID=72069)
Since Zoom and Cody share the same dam, that had my immediate attention. I contacted all of Zoom’s littermates and advised them to have their dogs checked immediately. On Saturday, at an eye clinic in Santa Rosa, three of her littermates were checked. Webb and Jeeves were clear, Monty was diagnosed with a mild case. Another owner in North Carolina wrote back that her dog Tucker has it in one eye. Unfortunately, her local vet had misdiagnosed it as allergies for several years and by the time she was referred to an ophthalmologist a month ago, it had progressed to blindness in one eye and glaucoma. Webb’s son, SugarRay, has a mild case in one eye. No breeder ever wants to hear this. And quite frankly no Golden Retriever should have to suffer this fate.
Zoom has produced several successful litters and is an Outstanding Dam. Several of her children have also been bred. I am advising the owners of her offspring to delay any breeding plans until we have had an opportunity to obtain more information on this disease. Hopefully a DNA test and other genetic information will be available soon to help us make informed breeding decisions.
PU can severely affect the quality of life for our dogs. It robs their owners of the enjoyment of their older dog because they are constantly medicating it and worried about its eyes. It is expensive to treat, painful to the dog and if surgery is required to remove the eye, the cost could easily escalate over a thousand dollars.
Early screening is no guarantee, because PU strikes later in life when dogs are at the end of their breeding careers. Unlucky males may have been used upwards of 100 times by the time of diagnosis. Unlucky females may have five litters on the ground when diagnosed. Many could be great grandparents by the time they are diagnosed. Do the math: hundreds, maybe thousands of dogs could be involved in just one extended family.
What can we do to help the breed we all love? For starters, annual eye examinations for the dog’s lifetime and faithful submittal of the results to CERF – regardless of findings. Post the results to whatever databases are out there that also collect information (k9data.com, offa.org). Stress to our puppy buyers the importance of annual CERF examinations. While an unbred pet diagnosed with PU will not have a genetic impact on the breed, it needs to be diagnosed early enough to begin treatment and the breeder needs the information for their program. Contact Dr. Wendy Townsend if a dog is diagnosed with PU and provide her with blood/DNA/pedigree/eye exam information. I admit I was lax in the past about sending in annual examination forms to CERF on our older dogs. I didn’t see the point if I wasn’t breeding that dog anymore. But I will never do that again because I would only be contributing to the lack of information.
Before breeding our bitches we need to do more homework on all sides of the pedigree. People complain that it is frustrating when researching pedigrees to read “eyes normal” on k9data where a valid CERF number should reside. Or the owner removes the year and age from the number and when you check on the CERF site, the dog has vanished from the database. Simply put, stud dog and brood bitch owners should provide current CERF examination certificates. Years ago it was not unusual to pass around the actual eye examination when exchanging genetic information for a proposed breeding. Back then I rarely CERF’d my brood bitches; just included their exam form with all paperwork. Boy, was that shortsighted – I should have done both! The examination form contained more detailed info than the CERF certificate at that time. This isn’t true anymore; the CERF certificate lists everything you may need to make an informed decision, including breeder options. If the dog or bitch’s owner feels something further is listed on the exam form that the other party needs to know, they can provide both. More information is better. But there simply is no reason not to submit an examination form to CERF, especially in the case of frequently used sires.
Many years ago when SAS came to our attention, responsible breeders took the disease very seriously and tested their breeding stock to avoid breeding affected dogs. They banded together to promote the health of the dogs. Recently when prcd-PRA became known, responsible breeders began testing their dogs with the new DNA marker test and it appears they have gotten a quick handle on it. They shared information on their dogs both affected and carriers because they realized it’s “us” as a breed that is going to suffer and not just one unlucky kennel here and there. This is progress and for the betterment of the breed. It is what we need to do to come to grips with PU – share information openly, take away the stigma of having produced a defect. We all produce defects no matter how hard we try not to. And for heaven’s sake if a Golden has produced puppies (whether a stud dog or brood bitch) and then is later diagnosed with PU, we have a moral and ethical obligation to notify everyone concerned so they can take appropriate action.
My personal philosophy regarding Pigmentary Uveitis and how widespread it may be in the breed is fairly simple. From looking at pedigrees in k9data it is pandemic. I know it is common belief but never confirmed that the early Gold-Rush dogs that many of us have in commonality were affected, but I have viewed other pedigrees without those bloodlines and they have produced it as well. Thank you to the owners/breeders who have listed a diagnosis of PU on your dog’s page on k9data. I know how painful that was as I just listed my affected dogs.
Where to go from here? I’m not sure at the moment, and I know I’m preaching to the choir – but please consider:
- If you are breeding your Goldens and not examining them annually for their lifetime, stop breeding; you are contributing to the problem.
- If you are breeding your dogs and not submitting the annual examination forms to CERF, stop breeding; you are contributing to the problem.
- If you are not encouraging all your buyers to have their dog’s eyes examined annually and submitted to CERF, stop breeding; you are contributing to the problem.
- If your dog is diagnosed with PU and you continue to breed it, stop breeding; you are the problem.
Permission is granted to share this message with every Golden owner and breeder that you know. I will post it to my blog at: http://www.sylviadonaheygolden.blogspot.com/, as well. We are all in this together and should fully disclose and share information so that others may make candid and informed breeding decisions. It is all about the dogs. They deserve our very best effort.
Again thank you Sylvia!
Some Stats on PU:
The following is a partial list of dogs whose owners and/or breeders have listed them as affected with Pigmentary Uveitis in the K9data.com Honorifics field of their pedigree. Others have listed their dogs affected status in the CERF field which is not a field you can search. So, please keep in mind this list is NOT a complete one, and K9data.com is not an official registry but rather a site used by breeders and fanciers to catalog pedigree and health information about Golden Retrievers.