Health Clearance Guidelines

Recommended Guidelines for Genetic Testing of English Cocker Spaniels
by the ECSCA Heath Committee
ECSCA & ECSCA Health and Rescue Organization

The following is a guide for genetically identifiable breed related health concerns. The OFA database and our Health Survey are useful tools that allow us to follow incidence using statistical analysis for each trait specified. These screening tools insure effectiveness in maintaining a healthy breed pool. None of our current health screening tests are mandatory for breeding, but are considered highly effective in reducing the incidence of disease. Sound breeding practices show commitment to advancing better health, welfare, and longevity of our breed. We strongly recommend that all breeding stock be evaluated prior to breeding for genetic soundness.

The ECSCA Health & Rescue Organization and the ECSCA have enhanced our commitment to breeding soundness through participation in the OFA CHIC program. The Canine Health Information Center is a program created by OFA that partners with participating parent clubs to maintain information on specific health concerns that are more common within the breed. Parent clubs customize requirements to the specific needs of their breed. CHIC is an additional tool to monitor disease prevalence and measure progress in each chosen area. Permanent identification is required and may be in the form of microchip or tattoo. Health concerns that are more common are termed mandatory (3) to qualify for a CHIC certificate. In addition to the mandatory requirements, a number of other common concerns (2) are required. The concerns listed as ‘elective’ may be more common to a specific color/area of the breed – i.e. parti or solid, and field/working bred vs. bench/conformation bred. These electives are owner choices. Once a dog has reached the three mandatory and two (or more) electives a CHIC certificate is issued by OFA. The certificate is a consolidated listing of the tests performed, the age of the dog when the test was done, and the corresponding test result. The dog is then recognized with a CHIC number and certification. A dog doesn’t have to be genetically normal or have a normal result in any of the conditions listed. Sharing all information on a given dog is the goal. Clinical eye exams and thyroid testing are annual clearances which should be updated by owner re-submission if they were chosen as electives. Owner consent for public dissemination of each result is required at the time of application. The parent club can modify requirements at any time to reflect the current environment.

The following health screening tests are strongly recommended by the ECSCA HRO and ECSCA:

  1. DNA – Familial Nephropathy (FN) – any age for testing.
  2. DNA – Adult Onset Neuropathy (AON) – any age for testing.
  3. DNA – PRA/prcd-Progressive Rod/Cone Dystrophy – any age for testing.
  4. Hip Dysplasia – preliminary radiographs for screening potential breeding stock under 24 months are allowed, but for OFA certification hips are done at 24 months old and older.
  5. Patellar – OFA certifiable exams at 12 months and older.
  6. Thyroid – Autoimmune thyroiditis – OFA certifiable results at 12 months and older; however, dogs can develop this disease up to three years of age. Most dogs will show (90%+) a positive test before 3 years of age and most will start to show clinical signs by 2-3 years of age as their natural free T4 hormone is depleted by the immune system attacking the thyroid gland. During this time the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) will be stimulated by the lack of T3 and T4 causing the pituitary gland to produce more. This increases circulating TSH. Our recommended guidelines are as follows: Full thyroid panel at 12, 24 and 36 months of age(includes Free T4, T3, TSH, and TGAA). After this time if the dog is negative on all 4 tests a yearly Free T4 by Equilibrium Dialysis for detection of normal circulating T4 should be done. If FT4 by Equilibrium Dialysis is normal from age 4-6 years old and there are no clinical signs of hypothyroidism (weight gain, poor hair coat, skin infections, ear infections, low fertility, hypothermia, lethargy, behavioral changes etc.) After age 6 the level of confidence in the assumption that this dog will not develop the auto immune form of this disease is very high. Current testing protocols have few false positive results.
  7. OFA Companion Animal Eye Registry (CAER) – ACVO eye exam to evaluate for any ocular disease that may be present. Many ocular diseases and disorders are inherited. Some are congenital (present at birth) and some can occur at any age. DNA testing for prcd does not replace a clinical eye evaluation. This type of exam should be done annually and, at the very least, biennially.
  8. BAER Testing – This test is used to identify congenital heredity deafness. Puppies can be tested as early as 35 days old, but any dog can be tested at any age. Heredity deafness is found in parti-colored/roan cockers. The mutation is presumed to be attached to the white coat color/piebald genes.
  9. DNA – Acral Mutilation Syndrome/HSAN – a recessively inherited neurodegenerative sensory disorder that causes an insensitivity to pain and temperature. It is part of a group of sensory disorders called Hereditary Sensory Autonomic Neuropathy, or simply HSAN. Primarily seen in Field/Working Cockers.
  10. DNA – Exercised Induced Collapse – a recessively inherited disease that causes affected dogs to suffer from a loss of muscle control following periods of extreme exercise. Primarily seen in Field/Working Cockers.

These are the 10 areas of concern that can affect our breed. We strongly recommend these screening evaluations as basic practices for a sound and meaningful breeding program. Cardiac evaluations, Exercise Induced Collapse (EIC-DNA), and Acral Mutilation Syndrome (AMS-DNA) should also be incorporated when a family history is present. AMS is a recent concern due to DNA tested affected individuals and known carriers now being identified. Field breeders and owners are urged to use AMS DNA testing. We really don’t have any meaningful data on EIC. Prudent breeders should closely evaluate breeding stock utilizing all DNA tests to insure these diseases do not become serious issues.

The more deadly and life-threatening diseases currently being investigated in our breed include Addison’s Disease, ITP (Immune Thrombocytopenia), IMHA (Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia), and Anal Sac Carcinoma. These are certainly endemic and showing with variable occurrence. Hopefully in the near future we will have specific genetic tests to screen for these ailments.

Respectively submitted,
ECSCA Health Committee

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