Health of the Breed

The vast majority of dogs of all breeds (as well as mongrels) can live long, healthy lives if given proper care and routine veterinary attention. Nevertheless, any dog can fall victim to a wide range of acquired problems. Each pure breed of dogs has its own particular hereditary problems some minor, some impairing, and some possibly fatal. Some may show a very strong hereditary basis and others not much more than a tendency to” run in families”. The Curly-Coated Retriever is no exception and unfortunately as seen in other breeds, the problems tend to multiply as the breed continues to increase in popularity and there is an increase in indiscriminate breeding. Failure to screen for these problems before breeding often results in the “doubling up” of unfavorable genes, and the results are distressing for the buyer and dog alike.

A good Breeder of Curly Coated Retrievers should be able to discuss the health screening done with their breeding stock and other measures they’ve taken to reduce the likelihood of problems. They should be willing to guarantee against common problems and want to know of anything that might show up later in your puppy.

If your Curly should develop a major health problem, you should tell your breeder about it. This way, the breeder can remain informed about potential problems in their lines. Such problems would include those listed below and others, such as seizures, cancer, heart defects, and anything else that might be heritable.

If your Curly is unfortunate enough to suffer from ill health, please inform the breeder of your dog of any problems so that they can monitor their own breeding and contact the breed club health co-ordinator who will log the details so that any trends and problems may be identified.
Although the curly is a healthy breed the preceding have been known during history of the breed:


The “Curly Coat Problem” can be frustrating — it is often misdiagnosed for other diseases such as thyroid deficiency, and it is detrimental to a breeding program trying to establish the proper coat. It is difficult to say how many Curlies are affected with this, as many are not shown, are not noticeably affected, or the problem is thought to be something else, such as wear from the collar. In mild cases, the patterning may appear once and then never again when the coat grows back in. While mildly affected dogs generally lead normal lives, it is an indicator of more serious trouble, as it is caused by some type of auto immune problem. Affected dogs are more likely to have allergies, reproductive problems; in its severest form, it affects the growth hormones and the dogs mature at about 40lbs.

Very often dogs with patterned baldness will have good coats as a puppy, with the bald spots appearing at sexual maturity. Bald patterning appears on the backs and/or insides of the hind legs, and/or on the flanks, and/or on the front and/or sides of neck, and/or the deepest part of the chest and/or as an overall thin or brittle coat. A minor indication of the problem is dogs that are fully coated but only have real curls on their necks and backs. The hair loss is very distinctly bilateral (on both sides of the dog). There are varying manifestations of this syndrome, from appearing nearly normal to being almost completely bald. In some cases, hair grows back after shedding, but within months rather than weeks.
Diets and supplements do not take care of patterned baldness. You should inform your dog’s breeder (send clear, close up photos of all the spots) of any symmetrical bald spots appearing on your puppy so that they can take this information into account in their breeding program. Unaffected dogs seem to produce affected puppies, implying a recessive gene or genes, but the exact mode of inheritance is unclear. Very few veterinarians know about this problem in Curly Coats.

Bloat, Torsion, Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV). Call it what you will, this is a serious, life-threatening condition of large breed dogs. While the diagnosis is simple, the pathological changes in the dog’s body make treatment complicated, expensive, and not always successful. There are thoughts that the type of food used can contribute to a dog getting the condition. There is also quite a wide body of evidence put forward for bloat to have some hereditary basis.

Hip Dysplasia is an ongoing problems for all the retriever breeds as well as many other breeds of similar or larger size. It is a malformation of the ball and socket joint in the hip, with varying degrees of resulting impairment. Diagnosis is definitive only through proper x-ray analysis.

If you are looking at a puppy, ask if both parents have a hip score. Ask to see copies, or check on the site to verify the dog’s scores.

Canine Epilepsy is a chronic condition characterized by recurrent seizures. Although seizures are always abnormal events, not all seizures in dogs are caused by canine epilepsy. Canine Epilepsy is a disorder of the brain where abnormal electrical activity triggers further uncoordinated nerve transmission. This uncoordinated and haphazard nerve tissue activity scrambles messages to the muscles of your dog’s body and the coordinated use of the muscles is then inhibited. Because there are many causes of chronic recurrent seizures in dogs, canine epilepsy is not a specific disease or even a single syndrome, but rather a diverse category of disorders. Behavioral changes include not recognizing the owner, viciousness, pacing, and running in circles.

Eye Problems – cataracts of various kinds, corneal dystrophy, suspected PRA, distichiasis, entropion, ectropion, PPM, retinal dysplasia. None are particularly common but all should be asked about and guaranteed for. Our Code of Ethics recommends that dogs used for breeding are tested under the KC/BVA scheme which for our breed is a single test during the dogs lifetime. Make sure the breeder supplies you with current eye reports on the sire and dam.
PRA – Early in the disease, affected dogs are night blind, lacking the ability to adjust their vision to dim light; later their daytime vision also fails. As their vision deteriorates, affected dogs will adapt to their handicap as long as their environment remains constant, and they are not faced with situations requiring excellent vision. At the same time the pupils of their eyes become increasingly dilated, in a vain attempt to gather more light, causing a noticeable “shine” to their eyes; and the lens of their eyes may become cloudy, or opaque, resulting in a cataract.

Elbow disease is the preferred term to be used when talking about elbow problems in growing dogs. Unfortunately “elbow displaysia” was the name given to the condition of ununited anconeal process and this term is closely linked in this way in the minds of most veterinarians and some dog breeders. Elbow disease is a general term to denote joint problems in growing dogs
Elbow disease has received increasing publicity in recent years due to the high prevalence of foreleg lameness localised to the elbow joint and the realisation that elbow disease has a hereditary basis.

If you know of a curly in need of welfare, please check the current details on the breed club website.