Breeding our beloved Newfs is either getting more complicated or the bar is being continuously raised. When I started in the 1970’s, certifications for hip dysplasia were just getting started in Canada. Many renown old time breeders would have nothing to do with it. They felt that the only standard was the breed standard as measured in the show ring; Newfoundland dogs had been bred successfully for hundreds of years without such certification. Little did they know this was just the tip of the iceberg.
Next came hearts and in particular, sub-aortic stenosis. In 1983 Canada got its first board certified cardiologist in the person of Dr. Michael O’Grady at the Ontario Veterinary College. He had a research grant and our Newfies could have their hearts checked for a token charge. Heart certifications soon became the norm along with HD clearances.
The nineties saw the introduction of DNA tests for cystinuria, a disease which causes kidney and bladder stones . At first I thought this was just a US problem. This thought was soon dispelled when some long time Ontario breeders admitted privately that they had had cystinuria in their lines. At this point I realized that the various problems had probably been with us all along, just conveniently swept under the rug.
Now in the first decade of the 21st century elbow dysplasia is in the limelight. OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) statistics show that 25% of the elbow X-rays submitted for certification for Newfs are not normal and that Newfs are the fifth ranked breed in terms of the incidence of this disease.
It is obviously no coincidence that these four health problems are the very ones that the Newfoundland Club of America sees as the primary breeder health checks for Newfoundlands and that a Newf must be tested in these areas to be registered with CHIC (Canine Health Information Center). Testing Newfies for hips, elbows, heart and cystinuria is also recommended outside of North America, as far away as New Zealand. In Germany, this testing is actually required before a Newfoundland dog can be bred.
Peter Maniate has been writing columns for the Newf News, the magazine of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada, since 1979. In 1996 he started writing a Newfoundland dog column in the Breedlines section of Dogs in Canada magazine on behalf of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada. When Dogs in Canada ceased publication at the end of 2011 he continued the Breedlines column in the Newf Newfs.
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