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Please - whether breeder or pet owner, read this. It is of the utmost importance. If you have a dog who suffers with eye "allergies", have a board certified veterinary ophthalmologist do a CERF exam - it could be something far more serious than "allergies".

Sylvia Donahey of Birnam Wood Golden Retrievers, has written this post (permission to cross post given). We've both been very busy contacting owners, taking all dogs in for testing and submission of blood/DNA samples, and agonizing over how to proceed. Unless EVERY breeder is honest, open and doing CERF testing - and sending the exam forms in - this will never end. I have contacted CERF with the first of what I imagine will be many requests to include PU on the reports and list it on the database.

Please read:



Several years ago I bred a dog, Birnam Wood’s No Trout About It, “Cody,”
that was later diagnosed with pigmentary uveitis (PU) at four years of age.
http://www.k9data.com/pedigree.asp?ID=186041
Dr. Wendy Townsend was just beginning her research into PU and blood samples were sent from the affected dog, his dam and several clear littermates along with pedigrees and eye reports. I also notified the sire’s owner and requested they submit blood and a DNA sample. The sire and dam were both reexamined and were clear of PU. I thought those actions were what any responsible breeder would do.

Over the last two years I have read the advisories from the Health &
Genetics Committee regarding pigmentary uveitis and thought other than this dog confirmed with PU, I was breeding healthy dogs for the last 40 years. Like other responsible breeders, I did the best I could with the information available regarding researching pedigrees for all known genetic issues. So, I was stunned to receive an e-mail from Laura Salvatore that at 8.5 years CH. Birnam Wood’s Expedia.com, “Zoom,” had just been diagnosed with PU.
Thankfully it was found “early” and considered mild.
http://www.k9data.com/pedigree.asp?ID=72069

Since Zoom and Cody share the same dam, that had my immediate attention. I contacted all of Zoom’s littermates and advised them to have their dogs checked immediately. On Saturday, at an eye clinic in Santa Rosa, three of her littermates were checked. Webb and Jeeves were clear, Monty was diagnosed with a mild case. Another owner in North Carolina wrote back that her dog Tucker has it in one eye. Unfortunately, her local vet had misdiagnosed it as allergies for several years and by the time she was referred to an ophthalmologist a month ago, it had progressed to blindness in one eye and glaucoma. Webb’s son, SugarRay, has a mild case in one eye. No breeder ever wants to hear this. And quite frankly no Golden Retriever should have to suffer this fate.

Zoom has produced several successful litters and is an Outstanding Dam.
Several of her children have also been bred. I am advising the owners of her offspring to delay any breeding plans until we have had an opportunity to obtain more information on this disease. Hopefully a DNA test and other genetic information will be available soon to help us make informed breeding decisions.

PU can severely affect the quality of life for our dogs. It robs their
owners of the enjoyment of their older dog because they are constantly
medicating it and worried about its eyes. It is expensive to treat, painful
to the dog and if surgery is required to remove the eye, the cost could
easily escalate over a thousand dollars.

Early screening is no guarantee, because PU strikes later in life when dogs are at the end of their breeding careers. Unlucky males may have been used upwards of 100 times by the time of diagnosis. Unlucky females may have five litters on the ground when diagnosed. Many could be great grandparents by the time they are diagnosed. Do the math: hundreds, maybe thousands of dogs could be involved in just one extended family.

What can we do to help the breed we all love? For starters, annual eye
examinations for the dog’s lifetime and faithful submittal of the results to
CERF – regardless of findings. Post the results to whatever databases are
out there that also collect information (k9data.com, offa.org). Stress to
our puppy buyers the importance of annual CERF examinations. While an unbred pet diagnosed with PU will not have a genetic impact on the breed, it needs to be diagnosed early enough to begin treatment and the breeder needs the information for their program. Contact Dr. Wendy Townsend if a dog is diagnosed with PU and provide her with blood/DNA/pedigree/eye exam information. [email protected] I admit I was lax in the past about sending in annual examination forms to CERF on our older dogs. I didn’t see the point if I wasn’t breeding that dog anymore. But I will never do that again because I would only be contributing to the lack of information.

Before breeding our bitches we need to do more homework on all sides of the pedigree. People complain that it is frustrating when researching pedigrees to read “eyes normal” on k9data where a valid CERF number should reside. Or the owner removes the year and age from the number and when you check on the CERF site, the dog has vanished from the database. Simply put, stud dog and brood bitch owners should provide current CERF examination certificates. Years ago it was not unusual to pass around the actual eye examination when exchanging genetic information for a proposed breeding. Back then I rarely CERF’d my brood bitches; just included their exam form with all paperwork. Boy, was that shortsighted – I should have done both! The examination form contained more detailed info than the CERF certificate at that time. This isn’t true anymore; the CERF certificate lists everything you may need to make an informed decision, including breeder options. If the dog or bitch’s owner feels something further is listed on the exam form that the other party needs to know, they can provide both. More information is better. But
there simply is no reason not to submit an examination form to CERF,
especially in the case of frequently used sires.

Many years ago when SAS came to our attention, responsible breeders took the disease very seriously and tested their breeding stock to avoid breeding affected dogs. They banded together to promote the health of the dogs. Recently when prcd-PRA became known, responsible breeders began testing their dogs with the new DNA marker test and it appears they have gotten a quick handle on it. They shared information on their dogs both affected and carriers because they realized it’s “us” as a breed that is going to suffer and not just one unlucky kennel here and there. This is progress and for the betterment of the breed. It is what we need to do to come to grips with PU – share information openly, take away the stigma of having produced a defect. We all produce defects no matter how hard we try not to.

My personal philosophy regarding pigmentary uveitis and how widespread it may be in the breed is fairly simple. From looking at pedigrees in k9data it is pandemic. I know it is common belief but never confirmed that the early Gold-Rush dogs that many of us have in commonality were affected, but I have viewed other pedigrees without those bloodlines and they have produced it as well. Thank you to the owners/breeders who have listed a diagnosis of PU on your dog’s page on k9data. I know how painful that was as I just listed my affected dogs.

Where to go from here? I’m not sure at the moment, and I know I’m preaching to the choir – but please consider:
• if you are breeding your Goldens and not examining them annually for their lifetime, stop breeding; you are contributing to the problem.
• if you are breeding your dogs and not submitting the annual examination
forms to CERF, stop breeding; you are contributing to the problem.
• if you are not encouraging all your buyers to have their dog’s eyes
examined annually and submitted to CERF, stop breeding; you are contributing to the problem.
• if your dog is diagnosed with PU and you continue to breed it, stop
breeding; you are the problem.

Permission is granted to share this message with every Golden owner and
breeder that you know. I will post it to my blog at
www.sylviadonaheygolden.com as well. We are all in this together and should fully disclose and share information so that others may make candid and informed breeding decisions. It is all about the dogs. They deserve our very best effort.
 

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Kate
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Laura... is this something I should be concerned about now while my dog is young and with eye allergies (we live in a wooded/fieldy area and it seems like all our dogs develop eye allergies, especially in summer)?

Everything I've read about Uveitis (I was extremely worried about it last summer when Jacks started developing eye allergies and staining that made his eyes look bulgey though they weren't) says it developes later in a dog's life, as you indicate here?
 

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This is heartbreaking Laura. For breeders like you who try so hard to make sure you are breeding healthy dogs, then find out something you didn't know may have such a huge impact...how do you even process this?

I hope it is not as large a problem as it appears it may be.
 

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Thanks for sharing this. My vet had warned me about this when I talked to her to buy a golden.

She and the another vet in the practice had littermates from a litter where at least 4 of the dogs ended up blind from it in their senior years.

It took her quite a lot of fighting with the breeder to stop breeding her lines.
 

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Missing Selka So Much
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As many here know, our Gunner was diagnosed with GRPU three years ago. He is being treated by a veterinary opthamologist for the PU and glaucoma. He also has a small cataract. My breeder had her female spayed at this news. When I notified Gunner's sire's owner Ginny Gray at Woodwalks Goldens I heard nothing back and they continued to use Frosty at stud. They say on their site that Frosty has been CERF tested but not if every year. (They have not updated their site in a few years so I have no idea if Frosty is still living) I had also notified them at the same time that Gunner was diagnosed as hypothyroid.

Gunner has been doing well, he sees the opthamologist every few months. His uveitis is clear now but his eye pressures have been up a little. he goes back in Oct and my regular vet checks him more often.
 

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Thank you for sharing this!
 

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Mandy's Mom
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Thank you for posting about PU in our Goldens. Flirt was diagnosed at age 4.5 years. She has a mild case in both eyes and is treated twice daily with NSAID drops and we see the veterinary opthamologist every six months now. We are participating in Dr. Townsend's study. Didn't cost me anything - my vet drew the blood and mouth swab for no charge.

Yes the visits and drops are very expensive but to me it is a small price to pay for her eyes. My regular vet admitted that he knew very little about PU and fortunately I have a wonderful opthamologist in my area.

Those of you whose vet diagnosed "allergies" PLEASE take your furkid to a veterinary opthamologist PRONTO for an accurate diagnosis.

PointGold, interesting that you mention Gold-Rush because they appear way back in Flirt's bloodlines.

And kudos to Doolin Goldens for being honest about Flirt's PU.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
This is heartbreaking Laura. For breeders like you who try so hard to make sure you are breeding healthy dogs, then find out something you didn't know may have such a huge impact...how do you even process this?

I hope it is not as large a problem as it appears it may be.
Unfortunately, it is much larger. :(
 

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Thanks Laura for posting this. I know it wasn't easy.
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
Thank you for posting about PU in our Goldens. Flirt was diagnosed at age 4.5 years. She has a mild case in both eyes and is treated twice daily with NSAID drops and we see the veterinary opthamologist every six months now. We are participating in Dr. Townsend's study. Didn't cost me anything - my vet drew the blood and mouth swab for no charge.

Yes the visits and drops are very expensive but to me it is a small price to pay for her eyes. My regular vet admitted that he knew very little about PU and fortunately I have a wonderful opthamologist in my area.

Those of you whose vet diagnosed "allergies" PLEASE take your furkid to a veterinary opthamologist PRONTO for an accurate diagnosis.

PointGold, interesting that you mention Gold-Rush because they appear way back in Flirt's bloodlines.

And kudos to Doolin Goldens for being honest about Flirt's PU.

My feeling, as is Sylvia's, is that show dog or pet, annual eye exams by a board certified opthalmologist, should be done. Period.
As for the age, I believe that the earlier you start checking, the earlier you will see any problems if they exist. This includes tiny iris cysts - which may or may not be innocuous, but you will have a baseline from which to guage their progression - hopefully NOT into the cysts seen with PU.

I'm not sure how many of you realize how huge this is. I pray that Sylvia, a highly respected, successful, long time breeder, is able to give others the courage to do the right thing with their dogs, as well.

Now, Marie and I have a litter of 2 week old babies, sired by Ch Nitelite's WHo's On Deck? Crew is a Zoom son. He has cleared every eye exam, as we have a son from his only other breeding - he cleared, and blood/dna was submitted. We are working on getting the other owners of that litter to have CERF exams done, and I will pay for them if need be. We are telling all potential buyers of the Mandy ex Crew litter about this, and will encourage them to have annual exams done, as well. The breeding was done prior to Zoom's diagnosis, or else I'd have held off on doing it. I love the litter, they are beautiful and healthy, and I pray will not be affected. We'll watch them like hawks. We are committed to finding the cause/a marker/ a CURE. Not breeding these dogs right now is a serious decision.

We also had a 9 week old daughter of Nitelite's Are We There Yet? (littermate to Crew) examined. Maybe cleared, Her daughter looked fine. Blood and DNA were submitted from them all. Ditto Tommy. Tommy cleared. Most important to me, is that Zoom's case was deemed "extremely mild", and caught very early. We immediately started the drops, and she will be on them the rest of her life. I cannot bear the thought of her suffering. and pray that by starting now we can head off anything that might be debilitating. I'm so upset to think of Tucker having been misdiagnosed as having "allergies" and so much time lost in correctly treating PU.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE - have your dogs eyes done. It's the only way for us to stop this from becoming even more of a problem than it already is.

Thanks.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Laura... is this something I should be concerned about now while my dog is young and with eye allergies (we live in a wooded/fieldy area and it seems like all our dogs develop eye allergies, especially in summer)?

Everything I've read about Uveitis (I was extremely worried about it last summer when Jacks started developing eye allergies and staining that made his eyes look bulgey though they weren't) says it developes later in a dog's life, as you indicate here?
Well, as Sylvia posted, it's been diagnosed in a dog as young as 4. And because there are people who are not being upfront about it, there could be even younger dogs. Who knows... I'd take no chances, and have an opthalmologist examine Jack. Better safe than sorry.
 

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I think you both are setting a great example for other breeders. It takes a lot of integrity and courage to do what you're doing - it's putting the bad and the good out there for people to see. But it's for the betterment of the breed and I think you deserve a lot of praise for "going public" with this issue. I will be getting Jack's eyes checked asap. We were planning on doing it in a couple of months anyway.
 

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Bless you. Submit the forms to CERF. Let his breeder know the results.
We will. He has some Birnam Woods dogs back in his pedigree but not in the most recent generations. Jack's sire's breeder/owner has at least 1 girl out of Jeeves though. I'm sure she was on Sylvia's initial email but I'll make sure she knows about it.
 

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I am glad that I get Katie's eyes tested annually - she developed ectopic cillia and distachia bilaterally at the age of 1.5 and we work with an amazing veterinary opthamologist that is very thorough. Katie is not breeding stock, but regardless I would never want her to suffer.
This is definitely wonderful infomation to have.

I am concerned about the process here in Canada - for instance, I had to have a veterinary referral before I could even see the eye specialist. My vet fought me on it, and thought he could treat her in-house. I ultimately prevailed, and Katie had to undergo laser surgery twice to remove unwanted hairs that were causing ulceration (it was heartbreaking!) We need to have more ready access to these types of specialists in order for people to go. Right now, we seem to have evolved to the point of understanding the value of proper oral care for our pets, but this has to extend to eye health as well. There is just not enough emphasis on it until the time a dog begins to develop issues. Rarely if ever do vets look at eyes when they are doing an examination - they listen to the heart, check the ears, check the gums and teeth - but never once have I had someone look at the eyes.

I know I digress, but it just frustrates me.

What a great blog post to read, and a very good reminder that eye health is every bit as important as yearly wellness bloodwork!

Kim
 

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where the tails wag
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Thank you for posting this. And I am sorry Zoom was diagnosed, but sincerely hope the treatment keep her eyes from becoming worse.
 

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Just to add another point, when both Katie and Paddy developed distachias I called our breeder to have them inform the other dogs, and she literally shrugged me off. It was so distressing to me. And irresponsible.
PU is a much more serious eye disease and here are brave breeders going public about it and acting responsibly for the wellness of the breed.
It boggles the mind.

I get very upset and emotionally charged when talking about eyes, as I saw my beautiful little Katie suffer so much.

Kim
 

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Tracer, Rumor & Cady
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A CERF exam at a hosted clinic is not an expensive exam ....
Here in the middle of Maine, $30-$35.00 is typical and it is pretty easy to find a club that is hosting a clinic. An eye exam with the same specialist in his/her office would be much more.
 

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Kate
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Well, as Sylvia posted, it's been diagnosed in a dog as young as 4. And because there are people who are not being upfront about it, there could be even younger dogs. Who knows... I'd take no chances, and have an opthalmologist examine Jack. Better safe than sorry.
Okay... I'll discuss with my vet and see if I can get a reference. It can't hurt getting his eyes looked at anyway if it's just allergies. I'm scared to death of any of my dogs developing glaucoma, especially since I know somebody who has three eyeless dogs because of the disease. And of course our collie has eye problems.

I appreciate you and those other breeders for coming out and discussing/pursuing this issue. I hope it can somehow fixed...
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Thank you for posting this. And I am sorry Zoom was diagnosed, but sincerely hope the treatment keep her eyes from becoming worse.
Thank you. She is doing wonderfully. She'll be nine in November, and still has the eyes of an eagle. She loves having the drops put in - she gets a hug, a smooch, and a cookie, and I keep them in the fridge, so I'm guessing that they are soothing. Dr. Ramsey said that it is truly a very mild, very early case. We are hopeful that the drops will keep it that way.
She rules her universe, and is a very happy, and otherwise healthy girl. She's in great shape and keeps the other dogs on their toes!
 
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