Health Screening Schemes

Health Screening Schemes

In the U.K. there are hereditary disease control schemes set up jointly by the British Veterinary Association and the Kennel Club. In Labradors, the diseases covered are HIP DYSPLASIA, ELBOW DYSPLASIA – (OCD), HEREDITARY CATARACT, CENTRAL PROGRESSIVE RETINAL DYSPLASIA – (CPRA), GENERAL PRA – (GPRA), RETINAL DYSPLASIA.

The control schemes work as follows:-


The BVA has an appointed list of official eye specialists, each of which covers a geographical region of the country. They work to a set, agreed examination pattern. Dogs may be examined at any age. Each dog presented for examination is checked for all relevant diseases and an official certificate is completed, giving details of pass or fail for each condition. If a dog fails on any one condition, the certificate issued is a FAIL certificate. A PASS certificate can only be issued if the dog passes clear on all conditions. The eye certificate is valid for ONE YEAR and dogs should be subjected to an annual examination.

The results and date of the examination are recorded on the dog’s KC registration document. The results of the examinations are sent to the Kennel Club for publication in the KC Breed Records Supplement (a quarterly publication). Each dog is listed either as Affected or Unaffected. If affected, the disease is identified. The registration papers of any puppy, whose sire or dam has failed an eye examination, will be marked to show that the sire or dam is affected with an eye condition.

Since quarantine regulations have been relaxed some breeders have started to use stud dogs that have been examined under the European College of Veterinary Ophthalmology scheme.   This scheme works in much the same way as the BVA/KC one, the main difference being that the results are not published by the Kennel Club.  


The BVA has a panel of specialists in London, who read and assess the hip status of all examined dogs and a certificate is issued, giving details of failure points on each hip.

For an official reading, an x-ray of a dog may be taken from the age of 12 months. The x-ray is taken by the owner’s own vet, who is required to print the registration details of the dog on the x-ray plate. The x-ray plate is then sent to the BVA in London for reading. The panel of experts examine each plate and after taking certain measurements, list areas where abnormalities occur. A fixed range of points may be given to a total of 52 per hip. Nine areas of the hip are scored, zero being perfect, six being the maximum anomaly on each area. The results are then passed back to the owner’s vet and to the Kennel Club for publication and registration records.

Scores are usually referred to individually, i.e. left hip …. – right hip ….. (e.g. 4 – 3). However some times a total score is mentioned, where the scores from the left and right hip are added together, (e.g. 4 + 3 = 7).

Before the present scoring scheme came into effect, hips were simply graded into three categories, PASS, BREEDERS LETTER or FAIL. The pass certificate would have been equivalent to a total score of not more than 4 (one hip not to score more than 3, i.e. maximum score 1 – 3). Breeders letter was equivalent to a total score of not more than 8 with one hip not to score more than 6 (max. score 3 – 5). Fail was any score higher than 8.

In Labradors, the breed hip score details are passed to a geneticist, who analyses all the results and publishes, for our Club, annual figures, including the total number of Labradors scored, the range of scores and the breed average. As at the last report, dated August, 2000 a total of over 31,242 Labradors had been through the scheme, the range of total scores went from 0 to 104 and the breed average was a total score of approximately 16. Detailed records are also kept of the progeny of top stud dogs.


X-rays of elbow joints may be taken from one year of age, preferably at the same time as the hip x-ray. The procedure for x-raying and documentation is the same. Each elbow will be graded on a scale of 0 to 3. (0 being normal, 3 being severely dysplastic). The grade of the worst elbow will be used as the measure of dysplasia and will be published and recorded on registration forms. It is recommended that only Labradors with a grade of 0 or 1 are used for breeding.


The Labrador Retriever Club issues guidelines to Labrador owners regarding the use of these official schemes. All dogs should be examined before they are bred from, and only those dogs which reach the recommended standards of hips, elbows and eyes, should be used for breeding. Stud dog owners should ask to see the certificates of any bitch brought for mating and should only accept those, the certificates of which are in order. The puppy-buying public is advised only to buy a puppy from parents that have passed the official schemes.

The eye examination certificate is straightforward. If the dog fails, it should not be bred from. If a dog produces a case of GPRA amongst its progeny, it is a carrier of the disease and should not be bred from again. The hip examination is rather more complicated. A dog should only be bred from if its hips are of a satisfactory standard. We recommend a score of less than the breed average, or only marginally above it. A dog with a total score of more than (say) 16, should preferably be mated to a dog with a lower score if possible. The ancestors in the pedigree should also be taken into account. If a dog has a very low score, but its parents, etc. have high scores, it is less suitable to be bred from than a dog with a marginally higher than average score, the ancestors of which all had very low scores.

Annual hip score records are published in full, by the Club.

Copies of the Joan Macan Hip score books for 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001 are available by post from:

Mrs Ifa Mohamed, Latchmead, Port Lane, Little Hallingbury,


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