PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy) refers to a group of inheritable eye diseases which affect the retina,there is no cure available at the present time and affected dogs will suffer progressive loss of vision eventually leading to total blindness. Many breeds of dog are predisposed to this condition, but the age of onset can vary, some breeds will become affected at a very early age whereas others may not develop symptoms until middle age or sometimes even older. The cause of PRA is an autosomal recessive mutation, therefore a dog must acquire two copies of the mutation, one from its sire and one from its dam to become AFFECTED. If a dog has only one copy of the mutation and one normal copy of DNA it will be a CARRIER, which means that although the dog itself won’t develop PRA during its lifetime, it will pass the mutation to approximately 50% of its offspring. A dog with two normal copies of DNA is CLEAR and will not develop PRA nor pass it on to its offspring.
Tragically late onset PRA has recently been discovered in Gordon Setters in the U.K. and the U.S.A., but the Animal Health Trust in the U.K. has identified the mutation (which they have named rcd4) involved in most cases of PRA in the breed and is now offering a DNA test. The test involves a mouth swab and can be purchased from their website http://www.aht.org.uk/ at a cost of 40GBP.A number of carriers have been identified in Australia and the Gordon Setter Club Of Victoria strongly recommends that all breeding stock be tested for this disease prior to mating. Because of the seriousness of the disease and its potential to spread throughout the breed here in Australia, with effect from the 1st September, the Club will not endorse any litter or agree to advertise any litter on its website or via its newletter unless both parents have been DNA tested (dogs proven clear by parentage excepted). This is in addition to the current requirements that both parents be xrayed for hip dysplasia.
What should you do if you just own a Gordon as a companion dog? If your dog has imported lines on either side of its pedigree and you wish to know if it is affected by the disease you should apply for a testing kit. If you require further information regarding your dog’s lines or any other questions we recommend that you contact your dog’s breeder.