The purpose of this website, sponsored by the Lagotto Romagnolo Foundation, Inc. , is to give breed enthusiasts the chance to educate themselves on health issues that affect the breed, health testing and the chance to avoid the heartbreak that can come from making breeding choices that are not in the best interest of the dogs.
All our health recommendations have been made with prior consultation of our scientific counsel and/or in accordance with the newest research.
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Learn more about frequent asked questions:
How do we want to keep the Lagotto Romagnolo a healthy breed?
Due to the rapid increase of Lagotti in the United States, we are witnessing more and more health related issues in the breed. Unfortunately, when a breed like ours gains popularity some breeders make decisions to breed dogs with health or temperament issues for monetary reason. Also, very often breed enthusiasts with companion dogs jump into wanting to breed because they love their dog and think it is a great idea to produce more without taking the time to educate themselves, find a breed mentor or learn about ethical and responsible breeding practices.
Through our educational site, access to resources, and Lagotto Foundation support for health research we will encourage ethical breeding practices, provide information to mentor breeders and continue to promote research for all of the issues affecting our breed.
Breeding restrictions versus genetic diversity – what is important to know?
Genetic diseases in all purebred dogs is a direct and predictable consequence of breeding practices. The reason is, that intense selection and the extensive use of a limited number of dogs, like frequently used sires, reduces the genetic diversity.
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First of all, ‘genetic diversity’ and the ‘gene pool’ are two different things.
The gene pool is the set of all genes in a population. The gene pool will never be larger than it was when the breed is founded. But the gene pool can become smaller when genes totally disappear. Let’s pretend you take out all white Lagotti of the breeding program, the gene for ‘white’ will disappear and the gene pool will become smaller.
Genetic diversity instead is the number of different alleles of all genes and the frequency with which they appear. An allele can be described as an assorted characteristic of a gene. Genetic diversity is distinguished from the tendency of genetic characteristics to vary and it serves as a way for populations to adapt to changing environments. The more closely related two individuals are, the greater the similarity in their collections of assorted characteristics and vice versa. When fewer dogs can be used for breeding, fewer genetic characteristics are available.
In this context, it is important to know that EVERY restriction has the same effect. It doesn’t matter if you take out 20% of dogs that don’t pass a behavior test or take 20% of dogs out of breeding program that are affected from a genetic disorder. Both leads to the same result, a limitation of breeding choices. The more restrictions you have for breeding, the less dogs meet all the requirements and genetic diversity is limited.
In conclusion, inbreeding, excessive use of stud dogs or intense selection of breeding dogs limits the genetic diversity.
When we set criteria like our health database requirements, we certainly have a selection. Therefore, every selection has to be determined very carefully and we need to find a balance. On one hand, a genetic disorder with a small frequency (frequency = affected dogs and carriers of an autosomal-recessive gene) can be eliminated through breeding restrictions over time. If the number of dogs that should not breed is small enough, it would not affect the genetic diversity because there are still enough choices to make breeding decisions. On the other hand, restrictions for a genetic disorder with a high frequency would lead to an intense selection, because the number of choices would be too small and more or less only a few dogs would be used for breeding.
The difficulty lies in the question of how to determine the percentage of frequency that should cause restrictions without harming the genetic diversity in the breed. This has to be answered for every genetic disorder individually in consideration of the dogs overall qualities.
Which are the requirements for Lagotti to be included in our database and why?
We have decided on four very important health restrictions for breeding:
Hips, Eyes, BFJE and LSD.
- Why breeding with BFJE and LSD carriers?
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. BFJE has a frequency of 28.74% in the breed but only 1.09% in all dogs. (source: www.mydogdna.com)
No BFJE “affected” dog should be bred but “carriers” may be used as mating partners to dogs tested “normal”. Taking out carriers too would mean elimination of almost every third dog from breeding and that would have been an intense limitation on the breeding choices with an impact on the genetic diversity in the breed.
Lagotto Storage Disease (LSD, formerly Lysosomal Storage Disease) is a progressive neurological disorder characterized by cerebellar ataxia. The first signs can be seen at the age of 4 months to 4 years. Lagotto storage disease is a progressive condition leading to behavioral 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 euthanized earlier. LSD has a frequency of app. 10% in the breed and is almost unknown in other breeds (<1%). (source: www.mydogdna.com)
The LSD test has been available to our breed only for a short time. We recommend that dogs tested as ‘carriers’ of the LSD gene may only be bred to ‘normal” tested dogs. The goal should be to eliminate this severe genetic disorder in the breed over the years. Therefore, we highly recommend that breeders choosing to breed a ‘carrier’ carefully look at the overall qualities of the dog and breed with the goal of eliminating ‘carriers’ from breeding programs. LSD carriers should never be frequently used in breeding programs and breeders that mate a carrier should test their puppies before they make a decision on selling with a breeding contract.
The Lagotto Romagnolo Foundation, Inc. will be closely following further studies and whether or not the frequency of LSD in the breed will increase. Our hope is that responsible breeding & testing will produce a decrease in ‘affected’ and ‘carriers’ of this disease. Through encouragement for breeders to make good choices when breeding LSD ‘carriers’ and educating potential puppy buyers about the questions to ask, this disease can be eliminated from our breed.
- What are the differences in hip classifications?
OFA uses a qualitative method because no form of measurement is utilized. Instead this method is based on subjective visual criteria such as degree of joint laxity (subluxation) and the presence of degenerative joint disease. The evaluation can be conducted at at least 2 years of age and the dog does not have to be sedated for the procedure.
The radiologist will grade the hips with one of seven different physical (phenotypic) hip conformations: normal which includes “excellent”, “good”, or “fair” classifications, borderline or dysplastic which includes “mild”, “moderate”, or “severe” classifications. The final hip grade is decided by a consensus of the 3 independent outside evaluations.
Seven classifications are needed in order to establish heritability information (indexes) for a given breed of dog. Definition of these phenotypic classifications are as follows:
We include dogs in our database that receive a passing OFA rating of “Excellent”, “Good” or “Fair”.
OFA Preliminary hip evaluations completed after 12 month will be accepted in the health database but have to be certified by a final evaluation after 24 month.
PennHip is a quantitative and objective method performed under sedation. The technique assesses the quality of the canine hip and quantitatively measures canine hip joint laxity which means it measures the separation distance of the femoral head center (ball of hip) from the acetabular center (socket) while the hip joint is forced to luxate, then divides this measurement by the radius of the femoral head (ball of hip). In effect, this method evaluates how far the femoral head can be displaced from the acetabulum. The resulting number is termed the “distraction index” (DI). The DI score can range from 0 to 1 with scores closer to 0 indicating less hip laxity. Dogs receiving a score of less than 0.3 are considered to have normal hip-joint conformation with little, if no risk for degenerative joint disease.
PennHip evaluation can be performed after the age of 4 month. According to Antech Imaging Services and Dr. Gail K. Smith, VMD, PhD, Founder of the PennHip program and Director of the Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, studies* indicated the repeatability of PennHIP DI already at 16 weeks old dogs. Although the best repeatability measured in his studies was between 1 and 2 years of age, early imaging with already 16 weeks of age gave a pretty much reliable information about the dogs risk to develop degenerative joint laxity in his life.
Breeders are encouraged to re-evaluate the dogs hips with this method, especially when the “distraction index” is higher.
* Gail K. Smith et al.: “Coxofemoral joint laxity from distraction radiography and its contemporaneous and prospective correlation with laxity, subjective score, and evidence of degenerative joint disease from conventional hip-extended radiography in dogs” in American Journal of Veterinarian Research, Vol 54, No 7, July 1993
FCI, which is used by most European countries, classifies hips with the help of the Norberg Angle. The procedure is under sedation and performed by a certified veterinarian who is elected by the dog club. The measurements grades are:
/= 105° is A
< 105° is B
>/= 100°is C
>/= 90° is D
< 90 is E
All three grading methods cannot be compared one to one as the age, anesthesia used and the method for taking the x-ray (position of the dog etc.) may affect the end result.
We have decided to include dogs with the following outcome in our database:
- OFA Excellent, Good or Fair
- PennHip evaluations are considered passing only if the results indicate a “distraction index” (DI) that meets or exceeds the median DI for Lagotto as set forth in the PennHip Evaluation.
- FCI: A and B. (Since not all FCI countries grade in B1 and B2, we will accept all B hips in our database).
We want the breed to remain the wonderful companions and working dogs that we have grown to adore, while ensuring they continue to be healthy and long-lived members of our families.