- Genetic Health 101 -


Here at Starstruck Labradors, we have dedicated innumerable hours to studying and learning about the genetic component of breeding.

We ask ourselves; "What can we do, as breeders, to reduce inherent genetic weaknesses in the Labrador Retriever?"

Why don't all breeders do genetic health testing?

Bottom line: these tests cost a lot of money, and exclude a lot of dogs from breeding programs.



A GOOD breeder will know the genetic make up of EACH of their dogs. 

Genetic testing is the a crucial component of breeding healthier dogs!


Eyes *- Our breeding dogs receive veterinary eye exams. Almost all of them have received OFFA eye examinations, which are done by a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist who examines the eye for any heritable eye diseases.


Hearts *- Our breeding dogs also have cardiac testing, which means that our veterinarian has listened to the heart by auscultation, and makes note if there are murmurs/etc. If an issue were to arise, we can take the dog for further testing with a cardiologist. Thankfully, the heart has not been a major problem in labs, but we have begun testing for it regardless during our usual pre-breeding health screening.


* A note about the prevalence of eye/heart conditions in Labrador Retrievers.

Since we began raising Labs in 2008/09 we have only found one dog with a heart condition (mild murmur) and one dog with a genetic eye-condition (retinal folds). Neither were passed on to the following generation.

While it may seem impressive for a breeder to claim that their lines are free or clear of eye and heart disease, neither are common occurrences in our experience.

Therefore, when we are looking for dogs to purchase from other breeders, we focus heavily on the results of DNA testing (details below) and Hip/Elbow evaluations, because we believe these are the most pertinent inherited diseases that can be screened for in Labradors at present.

DNA - As a Starstruck Policy, we test all of our breeding dogs for several genetic diseases. These are simple recessive diseases in labrador retrievers, which means that both parents must carry a mutated gene in order to create offspring who are affected by the disease. It shouldn't be possible for any of our puppies to exhibit these problems, because we always ensure that one of the parents is Clear for all mutated genes of the diseases. The four following tests (Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), Centro-Nuclear Myopathy (CNM), Degenerative Myelopathy (DM), Exercise Induced Collapse (EIC)), are all tested via oral swabs and set to a laboratory for analysis. To test for all of these diseases, we use DDC Veterinary or Pawprint Genetics.
  • PRA- Progressive Retinal Atrophy, more commonly known as PRA, is a general term for a group of diseases causing degeneration of the retina, leading to a loss of vision. The most common form of this disorder in Labradors is PRA-prcd (Progressive Rod-Cone Degeneration). This leads first to the loss of night vision, and then to complete blindness of the dog, with the typical onset is between 3-5 years of age.
    Select the "Play" button on the video below to learn more about how PRA affects Labrador Retrievers. We guarantee all of our puppies against this disorder for LIFE!

  • CNM- Puppies are born apparently normal; however, it quickly becomes evident that there is a problem. The puppy will often not gain weight adequately, due to decreased muscle tone in the esophagus. Within 2 to 5 months, the disease has usually progressed to display the full range of symptoms, including a loss of muscle tone and control, an awkward gait, and extreme exercise intolerance. This condition is exacerbated in cold conditions. Unfortunately, there is no cure for CNM, as the dog will never develop properly functioning muscle tissue. The dog usually has a normal life span, however, he will always be plagued with the symptoms of Centronuclear Myopathy. Select the "Play" button on the videos below to learn more about how CNM effects Labrador Retrievers. We guarantee all of our puppies against this disorder for LIFE!

  • DM- Degenerative Myelopathy is a progressive disease, meaning that dogs get slowly weaker and weaker over a a period of time following the onset of symptoms. Degenerative myelopathy usually affects the hind legs first, but muscle weakness can spread to the front legs as well. Dogs with degenerative myelopathy may begin to stumble frequently as they become progressively weaker due to nerve damage. Eventually, dogs with degenerative myelopathy will lose control of their bladder and bowels. As the disease moves into its final stages, symptoms of weakness, trembling and stumbling will begin to affect the front legs as well. Click the "Play" button on the videos below to learn more about how DM affects Labrador Retrievers. We guarantee all of our puppies against this disorder for LIFE!

  •  EIC- Exercise-Induced Collapse is a devastating genetic disorder causing affected dogs to suffer from a loss of muscle control following periods of extreme exercise. This disorder is caused by a mutation in the Dyamin 1 gene. Because EIC is a recessive disorder, a dog must have two copies of the mutation (one from each parent) in order for the disease to manifest itself. Typically, an affected dog begins to show symptoms between 5 months and 3 years of age. The dog can live a happy life as a sedentary pet, but in severe cases, is sometimes euthanized for humane reasons. Select the "Play" button on the video below to learn more about how EIC effects Labrador Retrievers. We guarantee all of our puppies against this disorder for LIFE!

No one can guarantee a perfect dog. But we do feel confident enough in the quality

of our dogs to warranty any pup born to us if they ever do develop a genetic condition.

We hope you feel enlightened!

We have done our best in action and study to actively breed for a better Labrador! 

 Although there is no such thing as a "perfect" Lab, there is a possibility that the genetic strengths of a breeding pair can complement each other, making a foundation for a healthier future.

We hope you have enjoyed our summary of the genetic component to our breeding program. Please feel free to ask any questions that you may have in addition to this information!

  Please do not buy a puppy from a breeder who doesn't spend the time and money to test their breeding stock for the above conditions. 

If you can read this page, and understand the importance of a well-bred dog, then breeders can too! :)

Did you find a typo, or have a question, comment, or suggestion that can help us learn tooWe would love your feedback!

Or maybe, you just want to brag that you actually read all the way through this enormous page