Portuguese Water Dog Health Issues

All breeds of dogs have health risks. Many health conditions are inherited through the sire and/or dam, and the dogs bred before them. The Portuguese Water Dog is faced with several health issues that all breeders should be aware of. A thorough study of all dogs within the pedigrees of a breeding pair, and even their siblings should be a priority for every breeder. If the risks are very high, perhaps the breeding should not take place. Here are some of the health issues which should be of concern.

GM-1 Storage Disease
GM-1 Storage Disease is a rare disease that is fatal to affected puppies. If a carrier is bred to another carrier, puppies that are affected will die before reaching adulthood. This dreadful disease can be avoided and eliminated through proper testing and breeding practices. It is possible to breed carriers; but only to non-carrier mates. Non-carrier, Carrier and Indeterminate Portuguese Water Dogs have a normal life expectancy. All dogs being considered for breeding must be tested.

A direct gene blood test is available to determine the GM-1 status of the dog. Information about this test is available on the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America website at www.pwdca.org. Click on health and then on GM-1 Storage disease. Currently the NYU Department of Neurology conducts testing and provides certification of the rating of dogs as GM1 normal or GM1 carrier. Results before September, 1999 were rated as: N95L, N99L, N95A, N99A, C95, C99. In the GM-1 assay Rating "N" means Non-carrier and "C" means Carrier. The probability of accuracy in the rating follows the N or C. An "L" or "A" following the number means that the ancestors in the dog’s pedigree were confirmed, making the probability even higher. Dogs listed GM-1 AP which is a permanent rating indicating that both parents are N95A or N99A need not be tested.

Hip dysplasia is a genetic defect that causes imperfections in the hip joints, when they are not formed perfectly. There are varying degrees of dysplasia, from very mild to severe. X-rays are the diagnostic tool used to detect dysplasia. In Europe the FCI works with the following hip ratings, HD A, HD B, HD C, HD D and HD E. HD A being the best and HD E being the worst.

You can submit films after the dogs has reached 12 months old. Ratings which are "breedable" are HD A, HD B and HD C. In the USA the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) studies x-rays that are taken of dogs to determine if dysplasia is present. After a Portuguese Water Dog has reached two years old, films should be submitted to OFA to detemine the dog’s hip rating. Passing ratings given by OFA are Excellent, Good, and Fair. If the films indicate dysplasia, it is indicated as mild, moderate, or severe. A dog with dysplasia may exhibit mild to extreme discomfort, and may have difficulty walking, and rising from a down position. When dysplasia is present, sometimes a dog will keep both legs together rather than running with a normal gait. Dysplasia can be controlled with anti-inflammatory medications and even surgery-- an expensive alternative for very severe cases. A dysplastic dog should never be allowed to be overweight, as this will cause additional strain to the hip joints. Age and arthritis also worsen the condition. Visit the OFA website at www.offa.org for more information.