The Large Munsterlander is fortunate in being a working gun-dog breed without physical exaggerations, and therefore generally lives an active and healthy life into old age. Many happily reach 13 or 14 years plus, a point which should be taken into consideration when making a lifetime commitment to living with a ‘Munster’
All living species, whether plant or animal, are subject to conditions or diseases which can adversely affect health and well being. In this respect the canine is no different to any other creature.
Many conditions are known to be congenital [born with] and are due to faults in the conception and development processes in the womb, for example the puppy or child that is born with a ‘hole in the heart’ condition.
More diseases are due to interaction with, and the effect of, the environment that we all live in, and can be caused by factors such as inappropriate diet and rearing, contact with toxins, or infection by bacteria and viruses. All of these can cause long term damage and even be fatal.
It has been long researched and recognized that there are also many specific conditions that are wholly or partly hereditary in any species, which means that the condition or tendency to develop it, is carried from generation to generation in the genetic information passed to each individual by it’s parents. In a relatively simple life form such as a plant genetic information will dictate how tall the plant may grow, or how resistant it is to a mildew disease. These things are fairly obvious to see.
For a more complex animal the possible combinations of inherited genes and their effects are infinite, and far more
difficult to see with the ‘naked eye’.
However many conditions have been identified in dogs as being hereditary, and it is possible for responsible breeders to screen their animals under the British Veterinary Association [BVA] / Kennel Club [KC] Schemes for some conditions, to ascertain their health status. Tests for some other hereditary conditions are available but not yet through official schemes. Hopefully only breeding from dogs which achieve acceptable health screening results will minimize the risk of a problem occurring and over time reduce its incidence in the breed as a whole.
Not all breeds are are screened for all known hereditary conditions: the number of tests would be exhaustive, although to put it into perspective, nothing like as daunting as trying to compile a similar list for humans!
From research and information collated by veterinary specialists, it is recommended that health screening is carried out [where there is a recognized test available] for diseases which appear regularly enough within a breed to cause concern. For the Large Munsterlander these are Hereditary Cataract in the eye, Hip Dysplasia and more recently Elbow Dysplasia.
Hereditary Cataract [HC] was discovered in the Large Munsterlander in the UK, in the late 1970’s, in some of the pups from one litter of the early imports. The breeders of the time decided not to breed on from any of that litter, and commenced eye testing as many of the other Large Munsterlanders in the country as possible. When it appeared that no more affected dogs were occurring there seemed to be no further need to screen for HC, and many people tailed off their testing programme.
However in more recent years, further affected dogs came to light, and it is now recommended that as many Large Munsterlanders as possible are screened for HC, particularly those used for breeding. As there have been dogs which have tested unaffected as young adults then on retesting at a later age have been found to be affected, it would appear that the type of cataract seen in the Large Munsterlander can have a later onset than was originally thought. This poses great difficulty for breeders who may have already bred from animals that they believed to be ‘clear’ from their initial screening. It is generally accepted therefore, that Large Munsterlanders should continue to have their eyes tested annually to ensure that late onset affected dogs do not ‘slip through the net’.
Although it is estimated that the cataract in only one in twenty of affected dogs, will progress to blindness the condition is taken seriously, and responsible breeders take all steps that they can to avoid perpetuating it.
The way that HC is inherited is not known, as it can differ from breed to breed. At present the Animal Health Trust is researching the mode of inheritance in the Large Munsterlander and it is hoped that in the future a reliable DNA test will be developed to show which dogs carry HC. Breeders would then be able to find out which dogs are safe to mate together without producing the disease in any of their offspring. Until a DNA test is available to identify affected and carrier animals, responsible breeders will continue to have breeding stock eye tested regularly under the official BVA/KC scheme, and will only bred from dogs with a current [within 12 months] clear eye certificate.
Hip Dysplasia [HD] is a well known condition in dogs. The British Veterinary Association currently recognizes some degree of HD in 121 breeds including some of medium and small size. HD is not a disease confined to the larger fast growing dogs, as was once thought. Dogs are screened for HD by submitting x-ray plates of the hips to a panel of specialists who give each hip a score. The lower the score the better the dog’s hip status. Each hip is scored separately, the best possible being 0 and the worst 53 on each side. Thus a dog’s hip score can range between 0 and 106 [or 0-53 : 0-53]
Each breed has a published average score which is the total of all the hip scores ever done divided by the number of dogs tested. The current Large Munsterlander breed average score is 13. In reality the breed average is probably higher as this figure does not account for all the dogs in the breed who are never scored.
Out of the gundogs breeds with up to 999 individuals scored most of the breed averages fall between 9 and 16. Therefore Large Munsterlanders fare no better or worse than other gundogs in their overall hip status.
In my experience dogs with hip scores up to 20, generally do not show signs of hip problems and their hip dysplasia reflected by the hip score, does not have a negative effect on their lives. However HD can be a crippling, painful and debilitating condition and obviously the higher the individual’s score the more likely they are to pass it on to their progeny. This is why the BVA/Kennel Club Scheme recommends that breeders wishing to reduce the risk of HD should use breeding stock with scores below the breed average.
Elbow Dysplasia [ED] has only recently been recognized as a problem which may occur in the Large Munsterlander. There appear to be more cases than previously seen, of Large Munsterlanders which, having suffered pain and inflammation of the elbow joints, have been diagnosed by vets as being affected with ED. Some of these may have exhibited untypical front movement.
The Large Munsterlander is not cited by veterinary orthopedic specialists as a breed known to be prone to ED, and ,as yet, the breed club has not included elbow screening as a requirement to breeders in it’s guidelines. However some breeders have already started to use the BVA/KC Elbow Dysplasia Scheme to officially score their ‘Munsters’
The Elbow Scheme differs from the Hip Scheme in that although each elbow is scored separately from the lowest score 0, to the highest score 3, the result given is the score for the highest elbow. So a dog scoring 0:3 would rate as 3.
Of the few dogs scored the range of results varies from 0 to 3. Until many more are screened it is not possible to say how big the problem is, and it is not useful for people to speculate and gossip about the close relatives of dogs who have higher scores. At this early stage of investigation it is likely that results will be fairly random across all bloodlines as few breeders have specifically selected for ‘good elbows’ in the past.
Poor front movement does not automatically indicate ED, any more than good front movement excludes it. A dog may have bad conformation, another ‘front end’ condition, or an injury which affects its movement, conversely a dog with an elbow score of 2 or 3 may have been reared and managed in such a way that it’s movement is not affected, although it would be more likely to experience diminishing joint mobility in it’s middle and later years. Therefore the only way to obtain a true picture of the overall incidence of ED in the breed is to screen many more dogs.
The BVA are quite specific in the information given on their website regarding breeding from dogs who have ED. They recommend that it is acceptable to breed from individuals with a score of 0 or 1, but not from those who are 2 or 3.
For those of you who are interested in more information regarding Health Issues and the joint BVA/KC Schemes, we have put a link up to the British Veterinary Association website.