As in every population, we find genetic disorders in dogs. There are several disorders known to the Lagotto, below more information about the genetic abnormalities known for the lagotto Romagnolo (update May 2018).
Not all mentioned health issues will have influence on the dogs quality of life.
All results of the health tests carried out for our dogs can be found in the database of the Dutch Kennel club (hips, eyes and patella) and mydogdna (DNA markers). In the unlikely event that you can’t find something there, please feel free to ask.
Hip dysplasia (HD) is a developmental disorder of the hip joints. It can be hereditary, but environmental factors also play a role in development. A dog can suffer a lot from HD, but that is not necessary. On the outside of the dog you can not see if a dog has HD, so if your dog can walk well, that does not have to say that his hips are perfect. To really see if your dog has HD, (digital) X-rays of his hips are needed.
The patella (kneecap) is located in the tendon of the large thigh muscle. There are great forces on this muscle so that the leg can carry the body and dogs can stand, walk and jump. In order to ensure that the kneecap remains in the middle of the joint, there is a groove, through which the kneecap glides. If the kneecap shoots out of the groove (patella luxation), that leg can no longer bear the body weight. As with hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia, there is a genetic basis, but environmental factors also play a role.
Below are some eye abnormalities that we see more often in the Lagotto Romagnolo. During the annual eye examination all common eye abnormalities are tested.
Cataracts are a clouding of the lens in the eye. It occurs in older dogs, but is also occasionally seen in very young dogs. Cataract can be hereditary. In addition, cataracts can occur as a result of inflammation or underlying disorders such as diabetes. There are different forms of cataract.
PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy)
A group of inherited retinal disorders that occurs in many breeds and leads to blindness in the final stage. Currently there is a small increase in the number of PRA cases in Scandinavia. DNA marker research seems to be a next step.
Abnormal hair growth on the eyelid edge. Which in severe cases can cause irritation and inflammation of the eye.
Membrana pupillary persistens (MPP)
In this condition, remains of the vascular system for the lens (membrana pupillaris) are left behind. This is called persistence. Normally this vascular system disappears about four weeks after birth. MPP is a congenital eye disorder.
Not all eye deviations that are found result in exclusion for breeding. The breeding rules of the Lagotto Romagnolo Club Netherlands indicate that breeding with dogs that are found positive to PRA or Cataract is not allowed in any case. Dogs that have been found to be positive for another hereditary eye defect will always have to be bred to a dog that is free of this abnormality.
More information about the annual eye examination can be found on the website of the Raad van Beheer (the Dutch Kennel Club).
Benign familial juvenile epilepsy (BFJE) is a neurological disorder encountered in the Lagotto Romagnolo breed. Affected dogs suffer from focal-onset epileptic seizures in puppyhood. The seizures invariably resolve spontaneously by four months of age. In some cases, carriers might also present epileptic signs. BFJE is inherited in an autosomal recessive manner.
Epileptic seizures are caused by a disruption of the normal electrochemical activity of the brain. Onset of focal epileptic seizures in BFJE is at 5-9 weeks of age. The seizures consist of whole-body tremors, ataxia (uncoordinated movements), and stiffness. The epileptic signs can sometimes be associated with alterations of consciousness. Frequency of seizures can vary between individuals: there can be several seizures a day or sporadic seizures a few times a week. Usually an affected puppy seems completely normal between the seizures. However, in severe cases there can be neurological signs, such as generalised ataxia between the seizures. BFJE form of epilepsy is relatively benign since the seizures typically end after 4 months of age.
Shorthair is not a health problem but gives a different appearance to the lagotto. With the help of a DNA test we can prevent lagotti from being born with a short coat that often also sheds.
LSD (Lagotto Storage Disease)
Lagotto storage disease (LSD) is a progressive neurological disorder characterised by cerebellar ataxia. Histological examination reveals neuronal vacuolisation in the peripheral and central nervous systems. Aggregation of vacuoles can also be seen in several other tissues, but only vacuolisation of the nerve cells seems to be relevant. Lagotto storage disease affects the Lagotto Romagnolo breed. The disorder is inherited in an autosomal recessive manner.
The onset of clinical signs and pattern of progression vary considerably between individuals. The first signs can be seen at the age of 4 months to 4 years. Typically the first observable sign of LSD is usually progressive ataxia (uncoordinated movements). The first signs of slowly progressing ataxia are not necessarily noticed by the owner. Some of the affected dogs also suffer from episodic nystagmus (involuntary eye movement). In some cases, nystagmus is the first sign noticed. Lagotto storage disease is a progressive condition leading to behavioural changes such as restlessness, depression, and aggression. The life expectancy of affected dogs depends on the progression of the disorder and the severity of the signs. Some dogs can live for several years with mild signs, but dogs with severe clinical signs are usually euthanised earlier.
Hyperuricosuria (HUU) is an inherited disorder in dogs that can cause hyperuricemia and predisposes affected dogs to the development of urolithiasis (urate stones) in the kidneys and bladder. The disease is very common in Dalmatians but is seen in several other breeds as well. Hyperuricosuria is inherited in an autosomal recessive manner.
HUU predisposes affected dogs to the formation of uric acid stones. In Dalmatians, the disease is more common in males than in females. As much as 34% of all male Dalmatians are diagnosed with uric acid stones. Clinical signs of urolithiasis include hematuria, pain while urinating, and blockage of the urinary tract. Patients with urine stones are more susceptible to urinary tract infections. Blockage in the urinary tract is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate veterinary care.
NAD (Neuroaxonal dystrophy)
Neuroaxonal dystrophy in Spanish water dogs is a rare neurodegenerative disorder. Clinical signs appear between six and eleven months of age. Affected dogs are presented with progressing neurological signs such as gait abnormalities, abnormal vocalization, incontinence and behavioural changes. The disease is pathologically characterised by spheroid formation in the central nervous system. The inheritance pattern is autosomal recessive.
Clinical signs of the disease are progressive in nature and include gait abnormalities; behavioural changes such as dullness, nervousness, or abnormal vocalization; incontinence; and uncontrolled defecation. Affected dogs may also show compulsory pacing, visual deficits, nystagmus, tilting of the head and neurological deficits, predominantly related to sensory localization. Neurological examination may show a mild head tilt, generalised cerebellar ataxia, hypermetria of the thoracic limbs, a depressed patellar reflex, proprioceptive deficits, decreased menace, visual deficits, positional nystagmus, and decreased muscle tone. Due to the progressive nature of the condition, clinical signs typically lead to euthanasia before two years of age. A characteristic pathologic feature for the disease is the development of spheroids in the central nervous system. Spheroid formation can be observed in the grey matter of the cerebral hemispheres, the cerebellum, the brain stem, and in the sensory pathways of the spinal cord
Cerebellar Abiotrophy (CA)
Read the case report by T.S. Jokinen e.a.. The University of Bern and Helsinki are working together to find a DNA marker for this disease.
In some cases the Lagotto (but also other breeds) loose hair, causing (temporarily) a bald spot. It is still unclear at this time what causes this with in the Lagotto Romagnolo. We do see that the hair often grows back within a few months.