FINNISH LAPPHUND HEALTH
THE HEALTHY FINNISH LAPPHUND
The Finnish Lapphund is an extremely healthy breed worldwide. This is thanks to continued work in maintaining healthy lines, ensuring appropriate breedings, adding new stock to the gene pool, and developing new screening for diseases. The focus of breeding on health, function, and temperament can be seen in the diversity in colours in the Finnish Lapphund. This diversity in colour is essential to ensuring the continuation of healthy Finnish Lapphunds throughout the world.
Finnish Lapphunds have an average life span of 12-15 years, although it not uncommon to find Lappies in Finland much older than 15. The Finns have been very diligent in maintaining the health of Lappies through organized initiatives, committees, and international cooperation.
The prevalence of health issues is relatively low in the general Finnish Lapphund population. We at Bearspaw Kennel believe that it is essential to understand any health issues in the various Lappy lines, to reduce the risk of future spread in the population. We actively participate with registries that report on health issues in the Finnish Lapphund. As well, we are passionate about maintaining the health, function, and temperament of the breed so we breed for these attributes and not colour. One of the great things about the Finnish Lapphund is the surprise colour and colour combinations that occur in every litter. Diversity in colour supports the healthy gene pool.
Like all dogs (pure-bred and mixed-bred), Finnish Lapphunds can experience orthopedic issues which include hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and subluxated patellae. These orthopedic issues can have a significant impact on the health and well-being of the dog, often causing mobility issues, pain, and discomfort. Surgical repair of these conditions is very costly (e.g. repair of a subluxated patellae is $1500-$3000) and treatments (physical therapy and pharmaceutical) can be costly and life-long. As such, appropriate testing, careful breeding, and disclosure of orthopedic issues is important to reduce the incidences of these issues in the Finnish Lapphund. It is essential that all breeding stock be tested for orthopedic issues prior to use in breeding.
At Bearspaw, all our Lappies are tested for Hips, Elbows, and Patellas. We disclose all our results on the OFA database (for Canadian bred dogs). Finnish bred and owned stud dogs we have used have results on the Koiranet database. Only dogs that have acceptable results on these tests are used in our breeding.
Hip dysplasia is not common in Finnish Lapphunds but it does occur in the population. Hip dysplasia is a multi-factoral disease with genetic and/or environmental factors. Currently there is no genetic test or tests for hip dysplasia; however, x-rays are performed prior to use in breeding to ensure breeding stock are not dysplasic. Hip X-Rays are scored in North America by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and given ratings ranging from Excellent to Severe Displastic (European equivalent is scoring from A to E). How often hip dysplasia has occurred in a line, severity of score, and symptoms, can all be an indicator about the heritable of the disease in that line.
Dogs in Finland must be hip scored and publicly disclosed prior to any offspring being registered with the Finnish Kennel Club. In North America, owners of tested dogs can choose not to disclose failing hip scores (i.e. dysplastic results) on the public database.
The Finnish Kennel Club permits breeding of dogs with C scored hips (OFA Fair rating), breeding of dogs with D (OFA Moderate dysplatic) and E (OFA Severe dysplastic) hips is discouraged.
Like Hip Dysplasia, Elbow Dysplasia is relatively uncommon in the Finnish Lapphund; however, it is suspected that there are elbow problems in some lines. It is essential to confirm health in breeding stock. Elbow dysplasia is a multi-factoral condition and its pattern of inheritance is not well understood.
Elbow testing has been occurring in Finland since prior to 1988 but reporting is not mandatory. Lappalaiskoirat ry suggests that Lappies with dysplastic elbows not be bred, and is encouraging testing of breeding stock. There are also sporadic cases of elbow dysplasia on the OFA database in North America. Breeders in North America are not required to test or disclose negative health results on the OFA database.
Subluxated patellae is a genetic condition which is believed to be highly heritable. This condition significantly impacts the Lappy's ability to herd, as it makes it difficult for them to jump up and down.
Patellae testing has been occurring in Finland since prior to 1988, but historically not all owners and breeders have submitted results. It is suspected that there are patellae problems isolated in a few lines. Lappalaiskoirat ry suggests that Lappies with abnormal patellae should not be bred, and is encouraging testing of all stock. There are cases of patellae problems in North America, including a Lappy we own, whom we did not breed. Breeders in North America are not required to test or disclose negative health results on the OFA database.
Eye issues in the form of cataracts, progressive retionol atrophy, and other diseases that lead to blindness occur in Finnish Lapphunds at relatively low rates. Annual eye exams by a specialist (CERF or OFA in North America) and appropriate genetic testing (PRA-pcrd test) are performed by us to assess the eye health of our breeding Finnish Lapphunds. The Finnish Kennel Club and Lappalaiskoirat ry suggest that examining the eyes at a minimum of every other year. Bearspaw Finnish Lapphunds discloses information for the dogs we own and co-own. Disclosure of results of annual eye exams on the OFA or CERF databases in North America is voluntary.
There are several forms of cataracts which can be found in the Finnish Lapphund. The term "cataracts" represents a number of different eye conditions. Onset of cataracts early in life (juvenile cataracts) is more likely a results of genetic factors which can be heritable. Dogs, like humans, can experience cataracts or vision problems later in life as part of normal aging.
Congenital and juvenile cataracts are relatively rare and dogs with these diagnoses should not be bred. The most commonly reported forms of cataracts (on Koiranet) are posterior polar cataracts, cortical cataracts, and other cataracts of unknown type. Whether these conditions are heritable (pasted to subsequent generations) is currently unknown. Lappalaiskoirat ry currently does not recommend breeding dogs affected with posterior polar or posterior punctuate cataracts. However, OFA and CERF (in North America) do not consider these to be genetic problems in the breed and as a result some breeders will breed an affected dog. Breeders in other parts of Europe sometimes breed affected dogs as well.
PRA (PROGRESSIVE RETINOL ATROPHY):
Prcd-PRA at one time was considered the most significant health problem in the Finnish Lapphunds. The disease is due to a simple recessive gene in the Finnish Lapphund. A reliable genetic test was developed in the 1990s and since then the rates of affects dogs have dropped to almost none. Carriers of the disease causing gene (which are not affected by the disease) are extremely common in the breed. These dogs have one "normal" gene and one "mutant" gene and are termed heterozygous for the gene. There is no risk of unhealthy puppies when a carrier is bred with a non-carrier. Lappalaiskoirat ry suggests that at least one parent (ideally both) in a breeding pair has a known genetic status through DNA testing or be clear (non-carrier) via parentage. There is no need to remove carriers from the gene pool and in fact, if this was done, it would reduce the diversity and overall health and quality of the breed. Lappalaiskoirat ry maintains a database of PRA testing. In North America, dog owners may choose to have results of the genetic test disclosed on the OFA or CERF databases.
OTHER EYE CONDITIONS:
Other eye conditions which are found in all dog breeds can be found in low numbers in the Finnish Lapphund. Dogs displaying severe forms of eye diseases or poor eye health should not be breed.
PPM (persistent pupillary membranes) is a common eye condition in many dog breeds. PPM is not considered to be a genetic problem or of concern in Finnish Lapphunds. PPM does not cause any vision obstruction or issues in this breed.
OTHER HEALTH ISSUES
POMPE DISEASE (GSD II):
In 2012, the first puppies affected with Pompe (GSD II) were noticed in a litter in Finland. The breeder of that litter, Lappalaiskoirat ry, and Genoscoper lab worked quickly to identify a gene and create a DNA test for the disease.
GSD II is a rare metabolic disease found in dogs and humans. It is a rare inherited disorder in humans with a poor prognosis even with early detection and enzyme replacement therapy. There is no treatment for GSD II in dogs, and it is typically fatal early in life. There are rare cases where a dog has survived until adulthood. GSD II is due to a simple recessive gene.
Most breeders in Finland are testing at least a few of their dogs, even if they do not suspect a problem. Lappalaiskoirat ry is maintaining a voluntary databases of dogs tested (worldwide) and encourages that in each pairing at least one parent be tested clear. The belief in Finland is that we have a rare chance to control a rare, typically fatal disease while it is not common. Bearspaw Finnish Lapphunds has tested our dogs and disclosed the results -- all our dogs are clear by testing or parentage to date.
Addison's Disease is an autoimmune disorder which attacks the thyroid. Diagnosis can be confirmed with a series of thyroid panels and exam by a specialist. It is a different disorder than hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. It is treated with prescription medications. A dog can live a happy life with treatment, but it is not suggested that confirmed cases by bred. This disease is very rare in Finnish Lapphunds and appears to only be in certain related lines.
In humans and dogs, hypothyroidism is caused by a variety of factors including environment, nutrition problems, and genetics. Not all cases of hypothyroidism have genetics factors or can be inherited, but some are. How often cases have occurred in a line can be a good indicator of the heritability. The illness can start to show signs of symptoms in dogs over 1 year old, and is often most evident by the time they are 3-4 years old. Symptoms include oily skin, hair loss beginning at the tail, loss/lack of energy.
A diagnosis of hypothyroidism must be confirmed through a series of thyroid panels checking several different hormone levels. More than one thyroid panel is often required to confirm diagnosis. Once diagnosed, a dog can be treated with prescription medications. Breeding affected dogs is generally not advised. In some cases, spaying or neutering an intact dog diagnosed with hypothyroidism can have a positive impact on hormones and the overall severity of the condition.
OTHER AUTOIMMUNE PROBLEMS:
Isolated cases of other autoimmune disorders have been found in Finnish Lapphunds. This can include Megaesophagus, certain types of allergies (see below), and a variety of other conditions. Autoimmune conditions in general are extremely rare in Finnish Lapphunds.
Dogs, like humans can have allergies and sensitivities to foods, plants, bugs, and other environmental factors. These allergies and sensitivities can range in severity and have a variety of symptoms. Dogs of course can have a happy life with allergies if they are moderate and controllable with dietary changes and/or environmental changes. Severe allergies can have a significant impact on a dogs well-being.
There are rare, isolated cases of allergy problems in a few Finnish lines and in North American lines related to those original lines. The genetics and nature of inheritance of allergies is complex and not clearly understood. A problem appearing as a result of one breeding does not mean that both parents are "carriers" but it can depending upon the problem and the incidences within the lines. As such, Lappalaiskoirat ry does not suggest the breeding of dogs with suspected autoimmune type allergies. It is important for breeders and owners to disclose allergies so that we can better understand them.
Neurological problems including epilepsy, brain tumors, and unspecified neurological problems occur on a extremely infrequent basis in the Finnish Lapphund. Neurological problems are due to many causes and may or may not have genetic components. For example, reaction to toxins, fevers, or other illnesses can cause a few isolated cases of seizures in a dog. In contrast, epilepsy is indicative of repeat seizures in a dog over its lifetime. Risk assessment and breeding decisions should be made carefully if there are suspected or confirmed neurological problems in a line or a specific dog.
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