Health Issues

You can view the Newfoundlan Club of Americas information on disorders known to affect the Newfoundland breed
Newfoundland's, just as any pure bred dog, can be prone to health issues. This page is intended only to share information regarding the most common to newfies. A breeder can not guarantee their puppies will be free of health troubles, just as a Physician can not guarantee that with a child. Pet Insurance should be a serious consideration for your puppy. A puppy may be predisposed to a particular issue and never develop any problem. However keeping them thin, growing slowly, no jumping, no slippery floors, no excessive exercise can all have an impact as to whether the problem is kept at bay or is exacerbated. Of course first step is to ensure you deal with a reputable breeder that does health testing on the parents prior to breeding (hip, elbow, heart and cystinuria).

Understanding bone growth for a pup

This is an X-ray of a 2 week old puppy. Look at how far the bones have to grow before they become a proper bony joint! This is why you should never let puppies jump, walk up/down stairs excessively, over exercise or over train. Doing to much impact activity at a young age will cause serious issues later in life, or even at a young age as hip dysplasia and other orthopaedic conditions are rising in puppies! Remember the puppy rule for every month increase activity by 5 minuets! For example an 8 week old puppy only needs 10 minuets physical activity a day - a 6 month old only needs 30 minuets a day of physical activity!! *physical activity includes - going for a walk, training, playing fetch, running, playing with other dogs etc.
They have just one chance to grow into a healthy, well built dog and this comes from BOTH good breeding and a proper upbringing NOT just one.

Heart Diseases

Subaortic Stenosis (SAS)
This is an inherited disease in Newfoundland's, although the mode of inheritance appears complicated and is not yet completely understood. A ring of tissue forms below the aortic valve in the heart, restricting the blood flow and increasing the pressure within the heart. The heart tissue overgrows in response to the increased pressure, outgrowing its own blood supply and causing scar tissue to develop that interferes with the electrical impulses in the heart. Puppies can develop a murmur throughout their first year of life, but usually those with significant disease develop murmurs within the first 9 weeks of life Please remember that even breeding stock that has been cleared for SAS can still produce it.

Below are two other heart diseases that may be more common in other breeds, but that may occur in Newfoundland's, sometimes in conjunction with SAS.

Pulmonic Stenosis (PS)
In this disease a ring of tissue forms below the pulmonic valve in the heart. It causes murmurs and may affect the dogs health and life span, depending on the severity and if it appears in conjunction with other defects.

Patent Ductus Arteriosis (PDA)
In this disease the passageway between the two sides of the heart that normally closes at birth fails to close and the dog has a murmur. This can be surgically repaired.

Puppy murmur screens
All Newfoundland puppies should have their hearts checked by a Cardiologist around 9 weeks of age or after, prior to leaving their breeder. Please realize this is only a murmur screen, not a heart clearance. So many, especially on social media, refer to it as puppy having their heart cleared- this is so very wrong. A Newfoundland can not have their heart cleared until they are over the age of 12 months! As pups, they simply have a murmur screen only! Depending on the Cardiologist or Vet and the breeders history with them (meaning are murmurs commonly found in their puppies), the pups may be checked at 9 weeks, 10 weeks or some not until 12 weeks. Mine are normally checked around 9 weeks of age.
You want to ensure your puppys heart has a minimum of 1 year guarantee, from pick up date not birth, against SAS on the pup. One heart check is NOT enough because SAS grows with a puppy their first year of life.

Just like in all jobs in life we find folks that are great, average and not so good. This the same in everything including Veterinarians/Doctors and Cardiologists (human or animal). You see a breeder can have their puppies hearts checked by a Cardiologist, claim they are clear of SAS, but this isn't the entire truth. SAS grows with the dog the first year of life. So while no murmur in a puppy makes it less likely that it will develop SAS, it in no way means they are cleared from having or developing SAS. If that was how it worked then OFA would not require a Newfoundland to be over 1 year of age for a heart clearance, now would they? Yes a mild murmur can be missed and at 1 year the dog can be found to have SAS, it has happened before and will continue to happen until there is a DNA test to know what we are putting together. So while all those on social media are saying, get a certificate regarding the heart, that is inaccurate information. No honest Vet nor Cardiologist would ever issue such a thing, cause it can NOT be done. The closest one may choose to call it is 'provisionally clear', that is NOT, by any stretch of the imagination, a cleared heart folks. So what you need to do is ensure the puppy has a guarantee against SAS the first year of life and also make sure you are ok with what their conditions are if in fact your puppy does develop SAS (how is it handled).

To share a personal experience, to help you understand this isn't just 1 check and done. Years back a Cardiologist diagnosed one of my pups with mild SAS at about 5 months of age. I said no way, called and spoke with Cardiologist, who is a well respected Dr. They told me there was no ring (of tissue) and didn't expect it to get worse but was definitely SAS. I disagreed, wanted it rechecked at 1 year because the values I was given (from echo) were not for certain indicative of SAS. However I was not the Cardiologist, she/he disagreed with me, so I took the diagnosis, no other choice. Meanwhile, much time later after the dog was over 1 year of age a Cardiologist at a University did an echo and certified the dogs heart clear, free of SAS. So I called back that original board certified Cardiologist and they told me, oh good the dog outgrew it. UGH, it is impossible to outgrow SAS, that can not ever happen. The board certified Cardiologist (who many many breeders use) misdiagnosed my dog. Ok that can happen, we are only human, but when we do not learn from our mistakes then we are not improving going forward nor are they helping the animal they are licensed to help.

Please read up and learn so you understand one puppy heart murmur screen is no guarantee that it will not develop SAS. Yes it is unlikely, but please know, people are being taken advantage of that way because the breeder gives no guarantee against SAS, says not needed heart is clear. If one says that, run away fast because no heart can be cleared until over 1 year of age. Please don't listen to 'get a certified puppy heart check', cause there is no such thing and I sick of seeing people taken advantage of.

Somehting very important regarding hearts that you will not find much information on is echocardiograms. The normal heart clearance is called an auscultation, which is the herat being checked by stethoscope. An echocardiogram allows the Cardiologist to see inside the heart and draw on a wealth of important information. Finally in Oct 2020, OFA requires the heart to have an echocardiogram for advanced cardiac clearance. There have been and still are cases where an adult Newfoundlands heart is cleared by a Cardioligist via auscultation, yet the dog produces puppies with SAS. When this dogs heart is checked by echocardiogram it is usually found to have a higher velocity limit of the LVOT, which places them in the 'gray zone' if no subvalular ring of tissue is identified (If a ring of tissue is identified the dog will be daignosed with SAS). The dogs listed in the 'gray zone' may or may not produced SAS affected puppies. Even a Cardiologist will advise not to rule these dogs out of breeding because we can limit the gene pool and thus have more of other genetic defects crop up. However we really have no idea what we are doing if none of the dogs we use for breeding have echocardiograms done. Whats really sad is, even when they're done, the important levels are not posted on OFA, it simply states echo. In my opinion this needs to drastically change. We need to start educating both breeders and the public about these things. One way is to do echocardigrams and get those velocities posted (which as of today we have no way in the USA to post velocities) so we have more information going forward. No, we won't remove everyhting, but for goodness sakes we can much improve the rate of SAS affected puppies with echocardiograms on breeding dogs.

The absolute most important thing you can do to help ensure a healthy puppy heart is view both parents advanced cardiac clearance, with echo, on OFA. You want to see on OFA it is reported as an echo or at very minimum advanced cardiac by cardiologist. Do NOT accept a parent heart screening by a practioner. You must start with the parents in order to get a healthy puppy so verify parent clearance before even asking if they check puppy hearts.

Bloat / Gastric Dilatation Volvus (GDV)

This is an emergency, life threatening condition in which the stomach fills with gas and may twist back on itself cutting off the blood supply. A dog with bloat may act distressed and may try, unsuccessfully, to vomit. This disease requires immediate veterinary attention in order to save the dogs life. Outcome of the surgery is dependent on the dog’s general condition and the damage done to the stomach and other internal organs during the bloat.
Symptoms The earlier this is recognized and veterinary help obtained, the better. First the dog will be restless. It may attempt to vomit every 10-15 minutes, with no relief, or a white frothy saliva may be seen. The stomach may be distended. The dog will then start salivating ,panting and shock will develop. This is a MEDICAL EMERGENCY and should be treated now.

Allergies

Newfoundland's, as well as most other breeds of dogs may have allergies to food, fleas, pollen or other environmental allergens. Typically allergies cause skin problems, recurring ear infections or digestive problems. Medications, proper parasite control, and sometimes diet changes can effectively manage many allergies.

Ruptured Cruciate Ligament


Chances are any dog that suddenly has rear leg lameness has a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament; the most common knee injury of dogs. This ligament stabilizes the dogs knee or stifle joint. A rupture of the ligament causes sudden lameness in the rear (i.e. holding up one rear leg or a severe limp) while a partial tear may be subtle, with only mild lameness. This problem may have some genetic basis, but is also a common twisting injury. There are several clinical pictures seen with ruptured cruciate ligaments. One is a young athletic dog playing roughly who takes a bad step and injures the knee while playing. This is usually a very sudden lameness in a young large breed dog. Strains and partial tears may respond to rest, medication and rehab while more severe damage will likely require surgical repair.

***Cruciate troubles, not just in our Newfoundlands Preventing Canine Crucite Ligament Damage Dr. James L. Cook, DVM, PhD, DACVS, DACVSMR developed the Tightrope Procedure to fix cranial-cruciate-ligament, or CCL, deficiencies in dogs. Back in 2008 Dr Cook estimated approx 1 million dogs undergo surgery for ligaent rupture/damage in their knees every year.
Dr Cook recommends not allowing a dog to go from crate (rest) to activity without warming up, stretching muscles, just as humans need to do. A dog who lays around while you work all day then suddenly gets wound up excited and running around when you come home, is a prime candidate for injury. He also goes on to state: "Warming a dog up can help prevent CCL damage, which has been on the rise for several decades. The reason for this increase is somewhat unknown. Scientists are exploring genetic links, conformation differences in lines, possible bacteria in the ligament sheath and more. However, there are undeniable steps you can take to help reduce the chance of CCL damage, and thats to not only warm your dog up prior to exercise, but to keep it lean and muscular.
Keeping your dog lean will greatly reduce its chance of injuring a CCL, and a dog with good muscular development can recover from an injury faster – and, with good muscle support, can actually get along quite well without the CCL."

Dr James Cook and Dr James Stannard, in my opinion, are two of the top Orthopedic Institute Doctors in the USA. Did you know that Missouri University is the only place veterinary patients can receive total biological joint replacement? If your dog has ruptured their cruciate, be sure to check into the Tightrope procedure developed by Dr Cook!

Here's additional information reagrding cruciate tears at Veterinary Partner also excellent paper on cruciates from NCA
Please note- some dogs may have cruciate tears no matter what you do, but please stack the odds in their favor by keeping them very thin while growing!

Orthopedic

Hip Dysplasia
Causes of hip dysplasia are considered to be multifactored: including both hereditary and environmental factors. Rapid weight gain and growth through excessive nutritional intake may encourage the development of hip dysplasia. Mild repeated trauma causing joint lining inflammation may also be important. The clinical signs of hip dysplasia are lameness, reluctance to rise or jump, shifting the weight to the forelimbs, loss of muscle mass on the rear limbs, and pain when the hips are manipulated. Dogs may show clinical signs at any stage of development of the disease, although many dogs with hip dysplasia do not show overt clinical signs. Some dogs are painful at 6 to 8 months of age but recover as they mature. As the osteoarthritis progresses with age, some dogs may show clinical signs similar to people with arthritis such as lameness after unaccustomed exercise, lameness after prolonged confinement, and worse problems if they are overweight.

Elbow Dysplasia
Elbow dysplasia is a multifactorial, polygenetic developmental condition affecting many large breeds including newfoundlands. The term elbow dysplasia refers to several conditions that affect the elbow joint: osteochondrosis of the medial humeral condyle, fragmented medial coronoid process, unnoted anconeal process, and incongruent elbow. More than one of these conditions may be present, and this disease often affects both front legs. An affected dog may show forelimb lameness and elbow pain. These conditions may actually be different manifestations of a single disease process, osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) . While this in an inherited defect, environmental factors such as diet, activity, and trauma also have a role in the development and progression of the disease. Incongruent Elbow- The bones which form the elbow joint grow at different rates and do not fit together properly.
Lameness usually starts insidiously at 7 to 10 months of age. It is present every day, and may be most obvious when your dog first gets up, or starts to walk or run. The likely outcome depends on how far the disease has progressed when treatment begins. Good clinical results (ie. your dog will not be in pain) are usually seen if treatment starts early, before osteoarthritis (degenerative changes in the joint) has developed. If left untreated, your dogs pain and lameness will gradually get worse.

Forelimb Anomaly
Originally called Newfoundland Forelimb Anomaly, it has been diagnosed in multiple breeds, not just our newfoundlands. It has been defined as a generalized chrondropathy of joint cartilage leading to deformity of the elbow joints . Basically to ulna and radius do not grow Asynchronous as they should. This is a devastating problem for the dog, owners and also breeder. We have no idea where this comes from, no test is available for breeding dogs either. It is somehting we all must be open to learn about together by being open and honest with eachother.

Luxating Patella
A luxating patella is a condition in which the patella, or kneecap, dislocates or moves out of its natural position

Panosteitis
Is a self-limiting, painful condition characterized by limping and lameness. It is also known as growing pains and affects the long bones in the legs of young dogs.

Osteochondritis dissecans(OCD)
Merck Veterinary Manual states- osteochondritis dissecans(OCD)The most common sites of OCD, which usually is seen in young animals, are the femoropatellar joint, tibiotarsal (tarsocrural) joint, fetlock (metacarpophalangeal and metatarsophalangeal) joints, and the shoulder. The exact cause is unknown but is assumed to be multifactorial. Factors include genetic predisposition, fast growth, high caloric intake, low copper and high zinc levels, and endocrine factors.

Cystinuria

Affected dogs have an abnormal absorption of cystine (an amino acid) by the kidney that results in the formation of crystals and/or stones in the urine. This can lead to recurrent or frequent urinary tract infections and causes painful urination especially in males. Males, because of the anatomy of their urinary tracts, are at risk for a blockage by a stone. This is an emergency that often requires surgery to remove the stones. Some cases may be managed by restrictive diet. This is an inherited disease in Newfs and is caused when a puppy inherits two copies of a recessive gene, one from each parent. Dogs that carry only one copy of the defective gene are called “carriers” and do not have the disease or show any symptoms of the disease. However, if two carrier dogs are bred together, approximately 25% of their offspring will have the disease. DNA testing is available to determine the clear (no copies of the gene) or carrier (one copy of the gene) status of unaffected animals. Additionally, a dog may be determined clear by pedigree since it must be clear if both its parents are clear.

These are only a few of the conditions you should be aware of. Therefore, it is very wise to invest in pet Insurance, so that your pet is covered should it require a costly procedure.

Last Updated:12/20/2014
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