Finnish Lapphund Club of America

Finnish Lapphund General HealthHealth

The Finnish Lapphund is generally a healthy breed although, as with all other breeds of dogs, they too, are subject to genetic disorders. They can develop hip and/or elbow dysplasia and several types of eye disorders. While the occurrence of these is relatively rare, they do occasionally happen.

By viewing the following information and visiting the links below, you may educate yourself to the testing and certifications available to breeders and owners of the Finnish Lapphund. By health testing, we are breeding responsibly, helping to prevent unwanted genetic health issues, and providing puppy buyers with a healthy puppy.

Health Menu

  1. Hip & Elbow Dysplasia
  2. Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
  3. Useful Links and Resources


Hip & Elbow Dysplasia


Hip Dysplasia

The hip joint is composed of the ball and the socket. The development of hip dysplasia is determined by an interaction of genetic and environmental factors, though there is a complicated pattern of inheritance for this disorder, with multiple genes involved. Hip dysplasia is the failure of the hip joints to develop normally (known as malformation), gradually deteriorating and leading to loss of function of the hip joints.

Hip dysplasia is one of the most common skeletal diseases seen in dogs. Gender does not seem to be a factor, but some breeds are more likely to have the genetic predisposition for hip dysplasia than other breeds.

Hip dysplasia often begins while a dog is still young and physically immature. Early onset usually develops after four months of age. There are also cases of later onset, where hip dysplasia develops later due to osteoarthritis, a form of joint inflammation (arthritis) that is characterized by chronic deterioration, or degeneration of the joint cartilage.

Symptoms depend on the degree of joint looseness or laxity, the degree of joint inflammation, and the duration of the disease.

Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is a condition caused by the abnormal growth of cells, tissue, or bone. The condition is characterized by a series of four developmental abnormalities that lead to malformation and degeneration of the elbow joint. It is the most common cause of elbow pain and lameness. The age for onset of clinical signs is typically four to ten months, with diagnosis generally being made around 4 to 18 months.

The causes are genetic, developmental, and nutritional.

One type of the condition is more likely to affect males than females: when the bone fragment is located at the inner surface of the upper ulna. The ulna is one of the bones of the foreleg, just below the elbow joint. Otherwise, there are no known gender differences.

Excessive intake of nutrients that promote rapid growth can have an influence on the development of elbow dysplasia; therefore, restricted weight gain and growth in young dogs that are at increased risk (due to breed, etc.) may decrease its incidence. Avoid breeding affected animals, since this is a genetic trait.

For more information on hip and elbow dysplasia please visit the OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals).


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Julie Gionfriddo, DVM
Diplomate ACVO
ACVO Genetics Committee/CERF Liaison

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is the name given to a group of hereditary retinal diseases in dogs. Although there are several classifications of the disease according to the age of onset of the disease and the types of retinal pathology which occur, almost all forms of PRA eventually lead to complete blindness.

The first sign of most types of PRA is night blindness. This is because the rods (the cells which allow vision in reduced light) degenerate before the cones (the cells which allow vision in the bright light). Often dogs will bump into objects in a dimly lighted room; a room in which a person can see well enough to avoid the object. Gradually dogs with PRA will lose their ability to see in lighted rooms and will go completely blind. They will frequently have dilated pupils. Sometimes owners will notice increased shininess or hyperreflectivity to the back of the eye.

The OptiGen prcd-PRA Test

The OptiGen prcd-PRA test is a DNA-based test that helps you avoid one form of Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). PRA refers to a group of diseases that cause the retina of the eye to degenerate slowly over time. The result is declining vision and eventual blindness. “prcd” stands for “progressive rod-cone degeneration” which is the type of PRA known in several breeds.

OptiGen PRA Test for Finnish Lapphund, Swedish Lapphund and Lapponian Herder

Initially, analysis of Finnish Lapphund and Swedish Lapphund samples found evidence for only one type of PRA in the breed - the prcd type of PRA. Now, after testing more Lapphunds with a diagnosis of clinical PRA, we have found a few that are not "affected" according to the genetic test for prcd-PRA. This means that, similar to Lapponian Herders, some dogs diagnosed with clinical PRA are "affected" according to the genetic test for prcd-PRA and some are not. A PRA-affected dog will get a result of "affected" with the OptiGen test only if the prcd gene mutation is the cause of its PRA disease. If the clinical condition has a different cause, the OptiGen test will not detect it. Other causes of PRA can be other mutations, other genes, or non-genetic factors that result in a disease that looks similar on eye exam.


Progressive Retinal Atrophy: A Genetically More Complex Disease than Meets the Eye
Cathryn Mellersh
Animal Health Trust, Lanwades Park, Kentford, Newmarket, Suffolk, UK
Progressive Retinal Atrophies and Cone-Rod Degenerations

Inherited forms of retinal disease are among the best clinically and genetically characterized inherited conditions in the dog. Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and cone-rod dystrophy (CRD) are collective terms for two broad forms of progressive, bilateral degenerative diseases that affect the retinal photoreceptor cells. Both conditions usually cause progressive vision loss that culminates in total blindness. There is no treatment for either PRA or CRD.

Advice For Breeders and Veterinarians

It is crucial that breeders do not become complacent once a DNA test becomes available for a form of PRA in their breed. It goes without saying that all dogs used for breeding should be DNA tested for all known mutations that are relevant to their breed, and sires and dams selected appropriately. But DNA tests typically assay for specific mutations only and therefore should never replace routine eye examinations, which will detect genetically distinct forms of the same disease as well as all manner of other ocular disorders. All breeding stock should have their eyes examined by a veterinary ophthalmologist prior to breeding, and also at regular intervals throughout their lives. Evidence from the Gordon and Irish Setters shows that some forms of PRA don't routinely develop until dogs are as old as 8 to 10 years old, and it is without doubt that many of these cases go undetected, or be mis-diagnosed as age-related, in the absence of routine eye examinations by a specialist.

Veterinarians should also remain aware that clinically similar, genetically different forms of disease can exist within a breed. The fact that a dog has DNA tested clear for a particular PRA mutation, for example, does not guarantee that same dog will not develop a different form of PRA during its lifetime. Both veterinarians and owners should also be prepared to inform the scientists if dogs that have tested clear of a known mutation go on to develop a clinically similar condition - such cases provide important information about newly emerging conditions in a breed.


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Useful Links & Resources



Dog Flu Symptoms You Need to Know

Other Ocular (Eye) Disorders

Hereditary Cataracts

Optigen PRA Screening

Canine Health Foundation

OFA - Orthopedic Foundation for Animals

What is CHIC?

Pompes Disease in Finnish Lapphunds PDF

More Lapphund Resources


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