If you are thinking about getting (or have already got) a dachshund, you’re likely to be interested in anything to do with its health and wellness. You may have heard of Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) and started wondering what that is and how it might affect your dog – as well as what you may be able to do about it.
PRA is a term that covers a group of diseases that lead to the retina degenerating. This can cause loss of vision for the dog. One of the common diseases is cord1-PRA (cone-rod dystrophy-PRA) and this involves one of the genes in the eye mutating and miscoding one of the proteins. It is common in mini dachshunds, but not present in standards.
What Is PRA?
PRA can refer to many different diseases, but it is commonly cord1-PRA, and miniature dachshunds are vulnerable to this disease. It will sadly lead to blindness.
The cones in the retina are the first part of the eye to be affected by this disease. First, the photoreceptors that are responsible for responding to bright light become affected, and then the photoreceptors that are responsible for responding to low light are affected.
Other forms of PRA work the other way around, affecting the rods (low light detectors) in the eye before moving on to the cones (bright light detectors).
There is no current treatment for this disease, and it is something that dogs can experience at any age, although it usually begins at around five or older. It has occurred in dogs as young as six months old and occasionally doesn’t appear in dogs until they are around ten years old.
The gene is recessive, meaning that a dog can be a carrier without ever experiencing the disease, and may pass it on to its offspring. If two carrier dogs breed, there is about a twenty-five percent chance of the disease occurring in the puppies.
How Do I Know If My Dog Is A Carrier Of PRA?
Fortunately, PRA can be checked for by testing DNA. There are a few places that you can send a dog DNA test to, and they will check for certain diseases, including PRA. It is very important to do this if you are thinking about breeding your dog.
As there is no cure for PRA at present, you may not want to get a DNA test unless you are thinking of breeding your dog. If your dog is a carrier but not infected, this makes no difference until you consider breeding. If it is infected, there is sadly little that can be done about it.
You should also find out if the potential mate for your dog has been checked for PRA or other hereditary conditions. Do not allow your dog to breed without health checks being done on both parties, because the puppies may get any of several hereditary diseases, and pass them on to their own offspring in turn.
Always get your dachshund’s DNA checked before you consider breeding it, and require that any potential mate has had the same checks done to reduce the risk of passing on diseases.
Can Standard Dachshunds Get PRA?
Yes, any dachshund can get PRA, and the same goes for all the coat types and colors. Your dachshund could get PRA regardless of whether it is long-haired, short-haired, or wire-haired. No dachshunds are immune to the various forms of PRA.
Standard dachshunds, however, do not carry the cord1-PRA mutation and are not at risk of developing this specific kind of disease. However, they can still develop other forms of PRA and may be vulnerable to blindness as a result. Only the mini dachshund is known to get cord1-PRA.
What Should I Ask Before Adopting A Mini Dachshund From A Breeder?
You need to know that your new dog will be fit and well. Blindness is horrible for dogs, and it is important for breeders to make sure they are not breeding dogs that will be vulnerable to this.
To a degree, the onus falls upon buyers to make sure they are choosing reputable breeders, rather than supporting those who do not protect the dogs from such diseases. You should look for a breeder who is registered with the Kennel Club to make sure they are reputable.
Breeders who are registered with the Kennel Club must carry out a test for cord1-PRA before they are allowed to breed their dogs. The dogs must be marked as Clear, Carrier, or Affected (though Affected dogs are now rare).
Carriers should not be bred with other Carriers. If two Clear dogs are bred, the puppies do not need to be tested for cord1-PRA because they are known as Hereditary Clear. If one of the parents is a Carrier, the puppies must be marked and tested as Clear or Carrier to ensure you know going forward whether or not you can breed the dog.
If you are choosing a breeder who is not registered with the Kennel Club, you should insist on this test being carried out. If the breeder has not heard of PRA or is unwilling to carry out the test, you should not purchase a puppy from them, or have anything further to do with the breeder.
Disreputable breeders cause great suffering in dogs; it is crucial to go to a responsible one who will ensure the dogs are free from disease and healthy before they go to new homes. Do not adopt a dog from a breeder who won’t test for PRA.
Does It Matter If My Dachshund Is A Carrier?
It only matters if you want to breed the dachshund. A Carrier dog will never experience symptoms of the disease and will suffer no ill effects from it. However, if bred with another Carrier, it might pass the mutation on to its puppies.
PRA is an unpleasant disease that can affect all dachshunds, and cord1-PRA should be watched out for in mini dachshunds. Find out if your dog carries the disease before you consider breeding it.