Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Learn more about what PRA is here:

In our breed, we check all breeding stock for any eye related diseases beginning at one year and annually thereafter if they are used for breeding. Pet dogs do not really need to be checked, although they should be checked periodically. There are two forms of PRA in the breed- early onset which can show up between one and two and late onset, which shows up around eight, often after a dog has been used for breeding many times. CWC were the SECOND breed in the world to have the marker for this gene identified. The initial work was done in England and now one of the researchers came here at MSU to set up a lab and begin research. Our breed health foundation contributed big bucks as this was a priority in our breed. Dr. Simonsen-Jones is excellent and will continue on with other breeds.

Interestingly enough, with many carriers identified, we can trace all known cases/carriers back to TWO imported dogs. Everyone in the breed has been very upfront, and all carriers are being published, as well as affected. In fact, BOB at our last Specialty was found to ba a carrier! Some carriers may be bred but all offspring must be tested, a big expense so not many will do it.

Barbara Brown

Optigen, the company founded by Dr.'s Aguirre and Ackland, from Cornell (originally at UPA) have found something close to the gene for the PWD and Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, and are working on it for the labrador and poodle (although it's the same gene, the test has not been available to that breed). We are just getting the results for some of our PWDs and as of Jan 1st the test was available to all PWDs. The results are pretty depressing in that we have very few normal dogs, lots of carriers, and also this "false allelle", or marker that cannot be distinguished from the true marker area - that's my interpretation - and so we have dogs that are test bred normal for PRA, ie, not carriers, coming up afftected and carriers, and probably lots of false carriers. The test is probably quite accurate for those few dogs rated "A" or normal. Go and take a look at Optigen's page, or do a search on "Optigen dogs" and see what they are saying - it's not easy but it's here to stay until they find the gene. Its the best we got, but at $260/dog it 'aint cheap!

I gather Dr. Brewer (see Decembers AKC Gazette) is still working on his PRA gene test, but has not got there yet!

Its a tough time for our breed, not huge in numbers, and to find so many carriers is depressing...gene testing is here to stay and for the future, but when it comes, all those breedings you've done in the last two years come undone in your face ....ugh...

Jane Harding

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