This is a problem in newfy’s and IS a killer if left untreated or animals are bred from indiscriminately.
The Hip/elbow scheme is run jointly by the KC/BVA (kennel club & British Veterinary Association) and as such once you send your scores off the become public knowledge and are produced in the KC supplement with the world to see your scores. For some reason the Kennel Club does not feel that same about Heart testing (nor BAER in Dalmatians), what does this mean – apart from the flaws in the Kennel Club which is not a matter for this page, it means that it is up to the individual to send their results to the Newfoundland Club GB (www.thenewfoundlandclub.co.uk), they will then publish them in their database for all to look at free of charge.
This is a good system but the website does sometimes feel a little tired and out of date with its information, the heart testing page is fabulous but was written in 2000, in medical terms that was a long time ago and although diseases themselves haven’t changed our understanding of them has. The database itself however is very useful and also includes hip , elbow and cystinuria results.
So the heart test, again you only need to get your dog tested IF you are thinking of breeding. Firstly you must find a Canine Cardiologist – the hips and elbows can normally be done by your regular vet but the heart has to be done by a specialist. This is not cheap and most people will have to travel to find one, but it is vitally important that this test is done on potential breeding animals.
Firstly your cardiologist will listen to the heart checking for murmurs or anything glaringly obvious – heart testing is done at 1 year so by this stage in your dogs life he or she should have been listened to by a vet at least 3 or 4 times so there are not usually any nasty surprises, saying this cardiologists spend their days listening to and looking at hearts so they can sometimes hear things that your perfectly capable vet would not normally hear. Murmurs are graded from 0-6 – 0 being nothing, there has been some confusion over this system as one mans 2 is another mans 4 – this is obviously a bit of a problem and cardiologists and vets are working at making it less subjective and slightly more defined. For example our cardiologist has said that he can listen to a dog at 9am and think ‘holy catfish batman this dog is in trouble’, then at 11am when he gets someone else to listen they are looking at him like he has had one too many gins. This is why they like to scan and why they listen so much!
If your dog does have a murmur at the 1 year point then it is not a suitable candidate for breeding. We say at the 1 year point because some puppies can have mild murmurs that as they grow disappear entirely. (this is why you would rarely be sent to a cardiologist with a young puppy with a mild murmur).
So, if the heart sounds good, said cardiologist will then have the dog lifted onto a table ready for the scan – this is easier said than done, and goes without saying that your dog should be used to be handled and moved around as it is not fun or relaxing trying to pin a large anxious newf down. Your dog will lie on its side and the cardiologist may or may not clip some hair away – if you are showing you will have to ask nicely for them not to do it, but as we know some specialists are a species of their own so you will have to go with the flow.
The cardiologist is now performing an echo-doppler test on your dog, this will not hurt and is basically a scan of the heart and how it is working. For breed scheme purposes an echo-doppler should be carried out on dogs and bitches that are being considered for breeding in the future.
When performing the scan the cardiologist is looking at the general health and flow of the heart but with newfys 2 things in particular are being screened for:
DCM (Dilated CardioMyopathy) – Not usual to be associated with a murmur but not unheard of either. This particular problem is not something dogs tend to be born with but something that develops in later life. It is basically a disease of the heart muscle, where the walls become thin and dilated and leads to heart failure. This is a very common problem in Newfoundland’s and is why it is vitally important to screen all potential breeding stock. Of course as this is a problem that can develop in later life ongoing screening is suggested, this however is not done by most breeders because the cost is huge. However most breeding programmes have several generations of their lines so it is easy to assess any patterns and you can often see older retired stock which is a good sign that if they are still happy and healthy then so are their hearts.
Even vets acknowledge that because DCM is common in older Newfoundland’s it is hard to breed it out, if you can only breed from bitches between the ages of 2 and 7 and DCM usually presents at 6 yrs + then you already have stock on the ground and sometimes even grandchildren. This would also mean that the genetic pool would be so narrow that you would have bigger problems than DCM.
The sensible and logical way around this is to only breed from dogs which have passed their echo-doppler and only breed them to dogs with at least the same if not better hearts, and always keep in touch with any dogs you have bred.
This is not meant to scare you away or put you off Newfoundland’s, the chance that they MAY develop DCM at a later stage is still limited if you have done your homework and the breeder has carried out the checks needed.
The next thing screened for in the echo-doppler is SAS (Sub-aortic Stenosis), this is the biggy with Newfy’s and if they have it, it is normally detected at a very young age – if they are still with the breeder and it is detected and is severe then euthanasia is often an option – this is a very common problem in German Shepherds and although Newfy’s are at high risk of it, breeders who scan before breeding from their animals are massively reducing the occurrences, sadly those cases that do occur are often seen from animals whose parents had no health test or the unlucky few who simply had bad luck.
SAS is normally associated with a murmur and involves a disruption of the flow of blow going through the heart.
This is a killer and it is vitally important that people only breed from or purchase dogs that are from echo-doppler tested parents.
So now that you are all paying attention you need to know what is an acceptable heart test result to breed from.
This is a bit tricky so I will try and make it simple. The cardiologist will score a dog NORMAL, EQUIVOCAL, or ABNORMAL.
The first thing is that NO abnormal dog should be bred from, full stop end of case regardless of how good the other tests are or how good looking the dog – this is definitely not a case of bigger picture!
Now normal is exactly as it says on the tin, no murmurs, healthy heart all doing what it should, this is perfectly acceptable to breed from.
Equivocal, this is basically borderline, and normally means that the flow may be a little faster than is desired but by no means is indicative of anything more sinister. This is acceptable to breed from provided that the dog or bitch it is mated to has a better heart. It is that simple!
Now the tricky part. Our cardiologist measures as follows:
Normal as anything up to and including 1.7m/s
Abnormal 2m/s +
Now if you look on the numerous newfy databases on the web you will see that some cardiologists would mark a 1.71m/s as normal and some would mark it as equivocal, this close to the line is not such a problem but there are dogs out there recorded as normal with a 1.8m/s where as others have been marked down – this is clearly a problem with their recording system and is exacerbated by the fact that the Kennel Club are not interested in heart results so can’t tie down a universal system like in the hips and elbows.
Now common sense would say that if a dog is 1.73m/s and you want to breed it to a dog that is 1.71m/s, this can be done provided (you know what I’m going to say here!), you look at the bigger picture – are you genuinely improving upon the dog and bitch my carrying out this mating? – That after all is the point of breeding to improve what you have.
If you see that the potential parents of your puppy has an equivocal heart ask to see the report and find out what the flow was – again most breeders will have several generations of stock so you can see the family picture as well.
There are other heart diseases and problems out there that affect newfys but these two are the most common, but by echo-doppler screening you are ruling out numerous other heart problems and defects as well so it is common sense to ensure that this test is done.
The final test that newfys are screened for is Cystinuria (CU). This is a kidney problem that involves a defect that reduces the kidneys ability to absorb cystine, this can lead to chronic urine problems and cystine stones, and is one of the easier ones to screen for – if both parents have been tested CLEAR then your pup is clear of the problem.
Here at Inkomo we only breed from CU clear dogs so all of your puppies will be CU clear. Some kennels (and there is nothing wrong with this) will breed from carriers.
If you breed a carrier to a clear then your pups will either be carrier or clear – again if you are not breeding from your puppy you do not need to do this test as your dog will not get it.
If there is still anyone out there that hasn’t got the memo, buying your puppy from unlicensed and un-health tested parents could be a problem, this is a bigger problem in Newfy’s with American breeding, but with the wonder that is air travel and the ease with which dogs can be transported it is still at least something to be aware of in the UK. Below is an chart to give you an idea.
Again don’t panic as long as you are not breeding from your dog then clear or carrier is not a problem. CU is treatable in many cases, although some dogs may die as a result of kidney or urine complications this is rare and with modern veterinary medicine it is not common.
affected x carrier > 50% carriers + 50% affected affected x affected >100% affected
The good thing about CU is that it is notifyable to the Kennel Club – this means that when we as breeders test our dogs the lab that has done the test also sends the results to the KC, there is no negotiation on this matter it is simply done, so you as a breeder can see the status of your puppy by looking at the KC papers and it will say CU clear. As an aside the KC does not recognise foreign KC CU results, this means that if for example your puppies sire was from Germany and is CU clear it will not show on the UK KC papers – at Inkomo we screen our dogs to make it simpler for puppy buyers and future breeders but not all kennels do, sometimes you will just have to ask your breeder about the CU status and ask to see the certificate saying it is clear. If in doubt or they refuse to show you, walk away, no puppy or breeder is above showing this information.