Known to be a relatively healthy breed, the Finnish Lapphund can be affected by a few health concerns including eye diseases and hip dysplasia. Fortunately there are now health checks and tests for some of these conditions and ethical breeders worldwide are doing everything they can to limit their appearance and impact on bloodlines and future generations.
In essence, when looking for a puppy of any breed you should ask to see copies of both parents health results.
Typical Health testing done for Finnish Lapphunds include:
- Hip X-rays - Scores are represented as single or double figures or letters. 0/0 or A (best) - 53/53, 106 or E (worst).
- Elbow X-rays - not always performed (especially overseas) scored as figure/figure 0/0 (best) - 3/3 (worst)
- prcd-PRA Status: Either 'Clear' or 'Normal', 'Carrier', 'Affected', 'Untested'. There are no known 'Affected' dogs in Australia.
- Pompe's Disease. (GSD-II): Either 'Clear' or 'Normal', 'Carrier', 'Affected', 'Untested'. There are no known 'Affected' dogs in Australia.
Other diseases currently being screened in Finnish Lapphunds but not necessarily proven to have a significant effect in our breed include
- Degenerative Myelopathy - this is a complicated one as the test screens for a protein marker to indicate an increased risk of becoming afflicted with the disease and different testing approaches are yielding different results. It is also believed to either involve multiple other genes or be modified by other genes which as yet haven't been found. The gene tested is the SOD1 gene which is responsible for scavenging free radicals in the body. As it has such an important function. one would assume that a mutation here could contribute to more than just DM. There are cases of 'Clear' and 'Carrier dogs being symptomatic and 'at risk' dogs not being symptomatic so it's not a clear and straightforward sick/not sick rule. Please independently research this if you wish to understand more.
- Canine Multifocal Retinopathy 3 - has been screened for in Lapponian Herders for several years and given the close relationship between the breeds, is now included on full panel screening by labs worldwide. As this is the most cost effective way to screen for diseases, results will also be included for some Finnish Lapphunds moving forward (2018).
Remember to ask any questions you can think of. A puppy is a long term investment and you want to be sure you understand the health of both parents as well as the upbringing of a puppy to ensure your puppy is off to the best start.
Below you'll find greater detail regarding the known health concerns in Finnish Lapphunds.
Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
In Australia this testing is known as CHEDS (Canine Hip and Elbow Dysplasia Scheme). The X-rays are usually taken between 12 months - 2 years, looking for signs of Hip and Elbow disease. Whilst the focus for Finnish Lapphunds is on detecting and ultimately avoiding Hip Dysplasia, in Australia, dogs are under general anaesthetic for this X-ray and therefore most breeders also get Elbows scored at the same time. Overseas, elbows are not always scored.
There should be a nice, neat and snug fit between the ball and the socket of the hip joint. Hip Dysplasia is a poor formation of the hip joint, causing premature wear and tear, sometimes resulting in pain and discomfort. It can affect many species, including humans. As a medium sized breed, Lappies are less susceptible to the crippling effects of severe Hip Dysplasia. Of course, environment will play a part, and this is why Lappie owners are cautioned to monitor their companion to maintain a healthly weight and avoid slippery surfaces throughout their life, and discouraged from taking their Lappie on long distance runs or allowing them to do a lot of jumping before they are fully developed. All of these are believed to contribute to hip joint formation. This is all in an effort to avoid pain or arthritis for your companion in later life.
Note: International schemes have different names and abbreviations. (i.e. OFA in the US. PennHip is an alternate method of measurement)
Available through a national scheme known as ACES (Australian Canine Eye Scheme) and available throughout Australia, though limited in some areas. It is performed by a specialist opthalmologist vet. Screening can be done on a litter of puppies prior to 8 weeks and is then followed up with regular testing to check for changes to the eye that may indicate an eye disease. These include Hereditary Cataracts (HC), Retinal Dysplasia (RD), Persistent Hyperplastic Tunica Vasculosa Lentis (PHTVL), Persistent Hyperplastic Primary Vitreous (PHPV), Persistent Pupillary Membrane (PPM) and Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). The national scheme is endorsed by the ANKC in collaboration with the AVA. You can read more about ACES on the Australian Veterinary Associations page or the Australian National Kennel Councils' page. Where an endorsed panelist is unavailable, breeders may still find an opthalmologist to perform the screening, the data just doesn't make it into the national statistic reports.
Hereditary Cataracts (HC)
The lens of an eye is usually clear and focuses light on to the retina. A cataract is an opacity (cloudiness) in the lens, usually white, which scatters the light. The level of impact on vision can vary according to the size of the cataract (varying from a pinhead to the total lens) and its location on the lens. There are many forms of cataracts with a variety of causes, some of these have been determined to be hereditary. In the Finnish Lapphund, there are two main types of cataracts deemed to be hereditary, the posterior polar cataract and the cortical cataract.
Retinal Dysplasia (RD)
There are three forms of retinal dysplasia, which are all types of abnormal development of the eye's retina, present at birth. There are two layers in the retina and if these do not form or gel together properly, damage to the inner surface of the retina results.
Retinal dysplasia (RD) is divided into three forms. In the mildest, multifocal RD (mRD), the changes are small, single, or numerous folds in the retina. The changes usually remain the same and have very little significance for the dog. mRD dogs can be used for breeding with a healthy partner.
In geographic RD (gRD), the change is broader and usually quite in the middle of the fundus, which can have an effect on vision. The change is also associated with local retinal thinning and sometimes detachment. According to ECVO recommendations, gRD dogs may be used for breeding with a healthy mating partner.
Fortunately, the most serious form (so-called total RD, tRD) is the rarest. In it, retinal development has been significantly interrupted and is not attached to its normal place. The eye is blind and often has other developmental disorders. tRD dogs should not be used for breeding.
The various forms (mRD, gRD and tRD) have so far not been shown to have a genetic link
They report the 3 forms (mRD, gRD and tRD) have so far not been shown to have a genetic link but still recommend against breeding from dogs with tRD.
Persistent Hyperplastic Tunica Vasculosa Lentis (PHTVL) and Persistent Hyperplastic Primary Vitreous (PHPV)
PHTVL and PHPV are congenital eye anomalies, which affect the lens of the eye. When the eye is developing in utero, a system of blood vessels coats the lens, feeding the eye structure during its development. In normal development, these blood vessels break down prior to birth and disappear without a trace, but in these conditions the blood vessels remain beyond birth and can interfere with the dog’s sight. The severity of the condition is graded from 1 to 6. The more severe forms (Grade 2-6) usually occur bilaterally and may lead to visual problems and cataracts tend to follow. As a matter of caution, the Lapphund Club of Finland advises that only dogs with a Grade 1 should be bred from. The condition is presumed to be hereditary.
Persistent Pupillary Membrane (PPM)
The pupillary membrane covers the puppy’s pupil during its foetal development. Normally, this membrane completely dissolves before the puppy is born, but sometimes small strands of the membrane can still persist. They can disappear over time, but if they don’t, the puppy is said to have PPM (Persistent Pupillary Membrane). It is not known if this condition is hereditary in Lappies.
Recessive Inheritance means a disease gene must be inherited from each parent in order to cause disease in an offspring. Each Parent would need to be either a “carrier” of, or "affected" by the disease. A carrier has one disease gene and one normal gene, and is termed “heterozygous” for the disease. A normal dog has no disease gene and is termed “homozygous normal” – both copies of the gene are the same. And a dog with two disease genes is termed “homozygous affected” – both copies of the gene are abnormal.
Because these diseases are inherited this way, they can be avoided in future generations by conducting a DNA test on dogs before breeding. In terms of genotype (gene pattern), there are three possible pairings of genes that a Lappie could carry and that are revealed by the DNA test:
Normal/Normal, known as Normal or Clear
Normal/Abnormal, known as a Carrier
Abnormal/Abnormal, known as Affected
Each parent contributes one of their pair of genes to their offspring, making up a pair in their puppies. As you can see from the above, as long as a puppy inherits at least one Normal gene from either of their parents, they will never suffer from a recessively inherited disease. The intent of identifying these diseases is to allow breeders to make the most informed decisions. Not to limit their breeding options, and thereby the gene pool, but to manage it carefully and allow bloodline diversity to continue in pedigrees.
An obvious visual example of recessive inheritance is the expression of colour. Cream is inherited recessively. Mischa is an examples of this.
Both of her parents are Black and Tan dogs. Obviously these parents are not 'Affected' by the Cream gene mutation being that they are not Cream themselves, but they each are 'Carriers' of a copy of the mutation and both imparted this copy to Mischa.
In this visual example you can now appreciate that being a 'Carrier' for a recessively inherited condition will not make a dog 'sick' or 'Affected' with that condition.
There are many ways to inherit genes, however, in the Finnish Lapphund there are currently only two diseases of significance; both are known to be inherited through a recessive gene mutation, and the gene mutation for each disease has been identified and a test is now available. These are prcd-PRA and GSD-II (Pompe's disease). These are described further below.
Or skip ahead to read the summary of how this affects the average pet owner.
Progressive rod-cone degeneration - Progressive Retinal Atrophy (prcd-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” is a form of PRA known to be found in Finnish Lapphunds. Background information is here.
Prcd-PRA is inherited as a recessive trait (See Recessive Inheritance above) and dogs are known as either 'Normal / Clear', 'Carrier', 'Affected' or 'Untested'.
The same autosomal recessive mutation for the prcd form of progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is found in at least 25 breeds and this list continues to grow as more breeds are discovered with the same defective gene. The question is not, "Which breeds carried this defective gene during their development", but "Which breeds did not lose this defective gene during ancestral development."
Please Note: There are other forms of PRA besides prcd and Lapponian Herders and Lapphunds overseas have been clinically diagnosed (as opposed to genetically screened/tested) as 'PRA Affected' without testing 'Affected' through the DNA test for the prcd type of PRA. There have been several cases in Australia and overseas of a previously 'unknown' PRA type affecting several dogs. This suggests that another gene or mutation for PRA is also carried by the Finnish Lapphund, though it's certainly not as frequent and therefore harder to trace. Optigen Laboratories own the patent for the prcd-PRA test and continue to research for all forms of PRA. They have samples of the affected Australian dogs and are doing their best to isolate the mutation. Read more here
GSD-II or Pompe's Disease
Recently (2012) Hannes Lohi's research group at Helsinki University and Folkhälsan identified the mutation causing Glycogen Storage Disease type II.
The disease shows autosomal recessive inheritance similar to prcd-PRA which is detailed above. This mutation is not believed to be widespread, however more shall become known of this condition and its appearance in bloodlines as Finland and the rest of Europe start systematically testing the bloodlines. Australia's foundation breeders undertook to test the earliest dogs here in order to clear most of the country instantly.
Glycogen Storage Disease type II (GSD II), also known as acid maltase deficiency or generalized glycogenosis type II and more commonly called Pompe's disease is a disorder of glycogen metabolism that affects Finnish Lapphund, Swedish Lapphunds and Lapponian herders. The disease can manifest as poor growth, recurrent vomiting and regurgitation due a dilated esophagus (food pipe), progressive muscle weakness leading to exercise intolerance, frequent panting, and heart abnormalities. First symptoms are typically observable at 7 month of age, and affected dogs usually die or are euthanased before 2 years of age as long-term management of the disease is currently ineffective.
Purchasing a Pet?
If you are purchasing a Finnish Lapphund pup to be a desexed pet, the possibility of your pup being a prcd-PRA or GSD II Carrier should not cause any alarm whatsoever. It is totally irrelevant, because it will never develop the disease, (as it also carries the Normal gene). The only time Carrier status is a factor is if the dog in question is being considered for breeding. In that case, a 'Carrier' must be mated only to a Clear dog to avoid producing Affected puppies. It is easy to let one bad allele that we can test for become much bigger in our decision making than all the unknowns that we can't test for. It's also easy to highlight that one bad allele, for which a test is available and to forget that every dog carries a multitude of bad alleles that we can't test for.
If you ask the questions and receive assurances that the breeding of your puppy took considerable, time, research and consultation, you can then rest easier knowing that every consideration has been made to provide you with the very best companion. For your part, and to assist the future of the breed, you may or may not be asked to have health screening done on your pet at some point in its life by your breeder. It may be in a contract of sale or they may become aware of an issue and want to contribute to research and testing to investigate any problems. You should give serious thought to assisting in this research as it benefits Finnish Lapphunds (and in some cases all dog breeds) worldwide.
If it were not for the assistance of Pet Owners, a lot of the research would not get off the ground, as the numbers just arent definitive without you.
If your vet ever identifies a health issue in your Finnish Lapphund puppy, you should make every effort to contact your breeder to let them know. Responsible breeders don't just want the good news (though that is desired too) but telling your breeder allows them to make informed decisions, to notify other puppy owners who may need to have their pet tested and can in some cases, be the catalyst to commence research into testing for, and isolating these conditions in Lappies. Again this research assists Lappies worldwide. Its an important responsibility and whilst we all hope it never occurs, if it does, you should be prepared to do your part to help.
The Information above was sourced from several sites including: The Lapphund Club of Finland,
The Finnish Lapphund Club of Victoria, The Australian Veterinary Asssociation, Optigen and Genoscope.