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The four areas of health testing required for a Newfoundland dog to be registered with the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) are rapidly becoming the norm for breeders in Canada and the US. CHIC is a joint venture of the Orthopedic Foundation For Animals (OFA) and the Canine Health Foundation of the American Kennel Club. As set by the Newfoundland Club of America, the four required tests are for hips, elbows, heart and cystinuria. A dog with a CHIC registration is not necessarily clear in all of these areas; what it indicates is that the breeder is aware of the health status of the Newf for these crucial aspects.

A fifth arena seems to be emerging and that is for eyes. Eye certification for dogs is done by the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF). The CERF Registry is supposed to register those dogs certified free of heritable eye diseases by members of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists but in fact recognizes the complexity of breeding and allows for discretion on the part of breeders by allowing some minor conditions on a breed by breed basis. These conditions are listed on the registration certificate as a “Breeder Option”. You can check the eye status of dogs on the websites of both CERF and OFA.

I did just that. Going back five years I found that 381 Newfoundlands have received CERF certification. Sixty-three of these Newfs were listed with Breeder options, including four with two of them, making for a total of 67. This means that about one in six of the CERF registered Newfies has a minor eye problem that is either known to be inherited or of unknown genetic predisposition. Breeders are advised to be cautious when breeding such dogs. Anecdotal information that I have obtained suggests that when both sire and dam have the same Breeder Option condition, there are often multiple affected offspring. However, breeders who use discretion in this matter can help prevent unduly narrowing the gene pool.

The three most common conditions in the 67 Breeder Options identified for Newfoundlands in the CERF Registry in the past five years are ectropion (23), entropion (14) and macroblepharon (14). Until I did this research I had always thought that entropion (in- rolling of the eyelid) was the more common condition and had always associated ectropion (eversion of the eyelids) with the larger St. Bernard head. Completely new to me is macroblepharon which means an abnormally large eyelid opening that may lead to secondary conditions associated with corneal exposure.

What is important here is that Newfoundland breeders have another tool to help them in their complicated breeding decisions. Most encouraging is that many are already taking advantage of it.

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.

Permission is granted for re-publication of the preceding article or excerpts from it as long as the author is credited and the name of the original publication and date of first publication is included.

Dogs in Canada

March 2008