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Thursday, February 24, 2011

What is PRA ?

Progressive Retinal Atrophy, known as PRA, is a genetic eye disease in dogs similar to retinitis pigmentosa in humans.
The condition was first discovered in Gordon Setters, but has been found in many breeds including Cockers, Poodles, Labradors, Schnauzers, Old English Sheepdogs and many others. It's a disease of the retina that usually starts out as night blindness where the animal has trouble seeing in low light conditions and progresses to total blindness.
 In most breeds the condition is  inherited as a recessive trait. Siberian Huskies and Bullmastiffs are exceptions, as it is dominantly inherited in those breeds. There is no treatment for the condition and blindness is the usual result.
The condition was discovered in Portuguese Water Dogs in the late 1970s. Veterinarians, scientists and the dog breeding community took action to find the cause and the offending gene was located.  There is now a test available from Optigen to determine if a dog carries the gene.
Dogs are rated as clear, carriers or affected. Dogs affected will become blind.  Carriers can safely be bred to a clear dog. The resulting puppies can be carriers, but will not develop the disease. It's important for breeders to test their breeding dogs and be careful when breeding in order to control the spread of the disease. Breeding dogs should also be checked by a canine opthalmologists yearly to be sure they are free of symptoms. The exam is painless. They are then certified by  CERF,  the  Canine Eye Registration Foundation.
When buying a purebred puppy, talk with the breeder about PRA in the breed. Ask questions about the breeders experience with the disease. Ask for the ratings of the parents and request copies of the CERF and Optigen certificates. Responsible breeders will be happy to give you the certificates and answer any questions. Breeders who care about their breed try to produce healthy puppies and eliminate health issues wherever possible.

In our pack, Samba is a PRA carrier. We had her tested when she was quite young and she saw an opthalmologist each year prior to breeding. Fudge is clear of the disease. It was safe to breed the pair and none of our pups will go blind from this heartbreaking disease.  I sent copies of their cetrtificates to any prospective buyers.

For additional information on PRA and to answer questions about PRA in your breed, here are some informative sites to check out. Also ask your vet if you would like to know more about the disease in your breed.
Animal Eye Care


  1. Clearly, I'm emotional today. Mist, mist, wipe, wipe. Thanks Sue. I'm glad your pups - er, Samba & Fudge's pups - are clear!

  2. We didn't know about all this stuff when Dakota and Phantom came along, but both Thunder and Ciara come from parents with good CERF readings. Not sure if that means they are clear of the PRA, but this post is very informative. Thanks.

  3. Thank you for the information. We will keep an eye on our dogs.

  4. Thanks for sharing the information. I will definitely watch Opie's eyes. I'm always gazing into them and now I know what to look for.
    Thank you so much especially since Opie has some schnauzer in him and that's evidently one of the target groups.

    Just hopping by.

    Opie's Mom

  5. Thanks for sharing the information. I will definitely watch Opie's eyes.

  6. That is great information! I really love how easy to understand it was. I was at Canada's largest dog show today and saw your breed <3 them!


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