In the breed are a number of health tests, some are compulsory if breeding i.e. hip scoring and eye testing, and some are available but not compulsory i.e. elbows, and patellas.
Hip Scoring : This scoring system is to asses hip dysplasia (hip abnormalities) in dogs. Scoring only needs to be done once in the dogs life, and comprises of a hip x-ray performed by a vet then sent to the British Veterinary Association (BVA), who score the hips with points according to a criteria. The minimum number of points for a hip is 0 (this is excellent) and the maximum number of points is 53 for each hip. The higher the score the increased abnormality of the hip and joint. When breeding it is recommended for the future of the breed that dogs with low scores are used, the breed average is 7.
Eye Testing: This is performed by a specialist ophthalmic veterinary surgeon who is listed on the BVA eye panel, to assess if the dog has any inherited eye conditions. In the Flatcoated Retriever we test for PLA/Goniodysgenesis, this is a degenerative disease caused by increased intraoccular pressure. It is a painful condition which can lead to permanent blindness. Treatment options are sadly lacking as the damage has already been done; Therefore, only breeding from clear tested dogs is very important. There are eye testing sessions run by ophthalmic vets up and down the country. The Kennel Club states that a gonioscopy test should be performed every 3 years. You can contact this club, or the Flatcoated Retriever Society who will help you find a session. An interesting article regarding the importance of testing.
Elbow Scoring: Although not compulsory, you can get the elbows of your dog scored for elbow dysplasia. Like the hip dysplasia scoring, the elbows are x-rayed by a vet, and the images sent to the BVA. The images are given a grade depending on the level of dysplasia of the elbow, so the lowest score is 0 for good elbows, and the highest score is 3 for severely dysplastic elbows. This is a once in a lifetime test, only dogs scored 0 should be bred from as recommended by the Kennel Club.
Patella Scoring: The Flatcoated Retriever Society run their own patella luxation screening programme. The patella is the knee cap, in luxation the patella moves out of the groove it should sit in. It can be caused by a number of reasons for example if the groove is too shallow, but the incidence of patella luxation is a developmental inherited condition. The condition can cause pain and lameness, sometimes surgery is an option. The scheme grades them from 0 to 4, 0 being normal, 4 being the patella is in a constant luxated position. This testing if offered at some Society events throughout the year, for more information contact the Flatcated Retriever Society.