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Eradication of hip and elbow dysplasia a step closer

Visit the Animal Health Trust website

8 February 2011

Scientists launch study aiming to eradicate painful disease in Labrador Retrievers.

The eradication of hip and elbow dysplasia - a painful developmental disease - in Labrador Retrievers has taken a step forward with the launch of a new study to be carried out by scientists from the Animal Health Trust, The Roslin Institute and the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh.

The work is funded by BBSRC and uses genomics and genetics research to understand the basis of hip and elbow dysplasia, which affects up to one in five Labrador Retrievers and has no cure. The disease often causes pain, dislocation of the joints and can lead to lameness. But recent progress in this area of research, including the sequencing of the dog genome, provides an opportunity to tackle this problem through the development of a test for genetic risk in individual dogs.

Dr Sarah Blott, from the Animal Health Trust, said: "Currently the screening process for hip and elbow dysplasia is costly and requires dogs to undergo general anaesthetic (GA) so they can be x-rayed.

"Through our study we hope to create a non-invasive DNA-based test that will allow breeders to test much earlier than is currently possible and without the use of GA."

The Labrador Retriever is the most popular dog breed in the UK and worldwide. There were more than 40,000 puppies registered with The Kennel Club in 2010. The development of a DNA test will benefit dogs around the world by enabling breeders to make more informed breeding choices.

The introduction of a DNA test to identify genetic risk of hip and elbow dysplasia will:

  • improve welfare as it will not require dogs to undergo anaesthesia or be exposed to x-rays to test for the diseases
  • allow breeders to test dogs much earlier than is currently possible. Currently dogs cannot be tested until they are 12 months old (BVA/KC scheme)
  • improve the ability of breeders to select against these debilitating diseases
  • result in much quicker progress towards the goal of eradicating hip and elbow dysplasia

Dr Pam Wiener, from The Roslin Institute, said: "If we are able to gather enough information and samples there is a very real possibility that in the next few years we will be able to develop a DNA test that will make a major contribution towards eradicating hip and elbow dysplasia in Labrador Retrievers.

"It is also likely that we will be able to use what we learn from the Labrador Retriever study to benefit dogs of other breeds and to prevent other diseases."

To collect information for the study a simple questionnaire is being sent, through The Kennel Club, to owners of Kennel Club registered Hip Scored Labrador Retrievers who were born between 2004 and 2007. The study group is hoping to obtain questionnaires and samples from at least 2,000 Labrador Retrievers.

If you have a Kennel Club registered Hip Scored Labrador Retriever aged between four and seven years old and would like to participate in the study, please visit the AHT website ( or email

Once questionnaires have been received, the AHT will send each participant a DNA sampling kit to enable owners to provide a DNA sample from their dog through a simple mouth swab. Owners providing the first 1,500 analysed DNA samples will receive a free genetic profile for hip and elbow dysplasia on their dog.



Labrador Retriever photos are available on request from the AHT press office (see external contact below).

About The Animal Health Trust

The Animal Health Trust is an independent charity, employing over 200 scientists, vets and support workers. It aims to improve the health and welfare of horses, dogs and cats through research. It also provides specialist referral services and continuous education to vets. Visit the website at

About the Roslin Institute

The Roslin Institute (incorporated with the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh) undertakes top-class basic and translational science to tackle some of the most pressing issues in animal health and welfare, their implications for human health and for the role of animals in the food chain. Visit the website at


BBSRC is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £470M in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life in the UK and beyond and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders, including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.

BBSRC provides institute strategic research grants to the following:

  • The Babraham Institute
  • Institute for Animal Health
  • Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (Aberystwyth University)
  • Institute of Food Research
  • John Innes Centre
  • The Genome Analysis Centre
  • The Roslin Institute (University of Edinburgh)
  • Rothamsted Research

The Institutes conduct long-term, mission-oriented research using specialist facilities. They have strong interactions with industry, Government departments and other end-users of their research.

External contact

Farrah Stevens, Animal Health Trust press office

tel: 01638 555602

Tara Womersley, University of Edinburgh Press and PR Office

tel: 0131 650 9836