Health Conditions in the Lagotto Romagnolo
Benign Familial Juvenile Epilepsy
Benign Familial Juvenile Epilepsy was first recognized and reported in the Lagotto Romagnolo as early as 2002. The disease is described as inherited benign juvenile epilepsy. A similar disease is described in human medicine. The affected puppies usually show evidence of seizures and ataxia from 5 to 9 weeks of age and these resolve spontaneously by 8 to 13 weeks of age. Research at the University of Helsinki identified the causative gene in 2007, showing an autosomal recessive mode of inheritance.
Genetic testing for BFJE is available and it is recommended that all breeding stock be tested prior to breeding. Testing is available from Optigen in USA, Laboklin in Germany or Genoscoper in Finland.
Many countries have submitted samples and now, thousands of Lagotto have been tested for the BFJE gene. The data shows the following results of that testing: 3% affected; 46% carriers; 51% normal.
To better explain what these results mean, please see below for definitions:
Carrier dogs should only be mated to clear dogs so as to avoid producing BFJE affected puppies. It is NOT recommended to withdraw carrier dogs from breeding, as this would greatly reduce the already small Lagotto gene pool and not necessary when mating to a clear or normal dog.
For more information, please visit the open access article on PLOS Genetics Website.
Storage Disease in Lagotto
Storage disease is a severe neurodegenerative disease found in the Lagotto, and is auto-recessive. It is essential that no affected dogs are bred and carriers must only be bred to a clear. The disorder was recently identified in the Lagotto by researchers at the University of Helsinki and the University of Bern. Onset of symptoms can appear from 4 months of age to 4 years. This is a progressive disorder. Those dogs affected will deteriorate to the point they will need to be euthanized. While genetic testing is currently only available through the University of Bern, a commercial test is expected to be available through Genoscoper sometime in 2015.
For more information, please review the article posted on the Lagotto Romagnolo Association of the UK.
Cerebellar Abiotrophy (CA) aka progressive juvenile ataxia
While considered very rare, another condition found in the Lagotto is cerebellar abiotrophy of CA. This is a condition being researched at the University of Helsinki and the University of Bern and is form epilepsy in the breed that is unconnected with the BFJE mutation. The age of onset is adulthood. The number of confirmed cases is low and research is continuing. There is currently no commercial test for this disease and more research is needed.
More information on the condition and case studies can be found on the Lagotto Romagnolo Club of New Zealand website.
Hip dysplasia is a malformation in the hip joint and is a multi-genetic inherited trait. Dogs affected by this condition will lead to eventual deterioration of the hip. Arthritis develops and reduces function and mobility for the dog, and can be very painful. It is one of the most common health occurances in dogs, with the large and giant breeds being thought to be the most affected. However, smaller breeds are not immune when affected, and tend to show less obvious signs. Hip dysplasia can be found in the Lagotto and therefore, responsible breeders make sure that they get hip radiographs (x-rays) on any dog in their breeding program and only breed dogs with passing scores. Two different methods are used: OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) and PennHip.
Another type of degenerative joint disease is elbow dysplasia. It is an inherited polygenic disease in the formation of the elbow. While some breeders may choose to have elbow x-rays done at the same time as hips, there have not been significant numbers of elbow dysplasia found in the breed and is therefore not a required test for LRCA member breeders. According to the OFA database, dated December 2014, 100% of the Lagotto Romagnolo’s tested have been normal.
Very few cases of juvenile cataracts have been found in the Lagotto. In both Germany and Switzerland, several samples have been taken and are being studied in order to examine the possibility of inherited cataracts, and those results are still pending. LRCA member breeders are required to have any breeding dogs eyes tested and cleared by a board certified ophthalmologist before any breeding. Results are to be submitted for certification issued by Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. Breeders are required to have this test done on an annual basis on any breeding dog.
While rare, a Lagotto can be born with an incorrect or “short-coat.” This is an appearance issue and not a health one. These dogs are perfectly healthy and all Lagotto, but if two “carrier” dogs are mated, it is possible for some of the off-spring can be born with a short, flat coat, and not develop the normal curls associated with the Lagotto. The puppy’s parents will most likely have normal coats. This incidence does not become apparent until the dog is 4-6 weeks of age and the hair on the legs, head, muzzle and body will be short and fine, and they do tend to shed. This genetic mutation is the same one found years ago in the Portuguese Water Dog. An “improper-coat furnishings” test became available in 2011, and is available from Optigen in the US and Laboklin in Germany. It is recommended that breeders make sure that at least one dog in the breeding pair be tested “normal” for incorrect coat.